Why do pumpkin pies weep?

For the same reason cheesecakes weep: because they over-bake and the custard curdles. In other words, the egg proteins in the filling get too hot and start to tighten up into clumps. As they tighten they squeeze out moisture, causing the pie to weep. The filling takes on a grainy texture, and if the process goes on too long, it starts to shrink. Wherever the firmer overcooked spots meet the softer medium-cooked spots, cracks can appear.

The solution is to watch the pie careful as it bakes to make sure you only bake it to the point that it’s done. It’s also a good idea to calibrating your oven before you set out to bake a custard to make sure it isn’t running hot. Granted pumpkin pies are much sturdier custards than either traditional custards or cheesecakes — that’s why they can bake at higher temperatures — but they can definitely be curdled if that high heat goes on for too long.

Jiggling the pie is usually good enough to determine how the baking is proceeding. The truly obsessed can take their pie’s temperature. About ten minutes before the baking is done, insert a quick-read thermometer in the very center. You want the center to be at least 140, no more than 150.

This entry was posted in Pastry. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Why do pumpkin pies weep?

  1. Ann P. says:

    Is this why the meringue on one of my pies started to weep, too (egg white protein over-baked)?

    • joepastry says:

      Yes indeed. Same problem. It’s not an easy thing to cook a thick meringue layer all the way through without causing the meringue to break and weep some of their syrup. Most meringue pies weep at least a little bit.

      - Joe

  2. Henry says:

    But the thing is that the filling doesn’t really jiggle even at the beginning! I guess the pumpkin puree makes the custard much stiffer than it otherwise would be? I couldn’t tell whether it was baked enough or not, cos it just never jiggled… the finished cooled custard was so liquidy that one had to eat it with a spoon…

  3. Henry says:

    Oh sorry I didn’t mean your recipe!! I was just referring to my past experiences with other pumpkin pie recipes… sorry for the confusion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>