The expert pie makers who competed in The World-Herald pie making contest say weather can require them to adjust their recipes.
Laura Neece-Baltaro adds extra liquid in the winter because indoor air becomes drier. She adds the water sparingly, and if she overdoes it she sprinkles in a little flour, she said.
Neece-Baltaro also adds extra water to bread-making recipes during the winter.
There's a flip side to dry indoor air. Pies stay fresher longer in the winter because the crust doesn't get soggy as quickly.
The keys to good crusts are cold ingredients and quick work.
This is especially true in the summer when the air is humid, said Janet Mar, baking pastry instructor at Metropolitan Community College. She advises chilling the water and fat before starting.
She also said butter contains more moisture than shortening, which is why some people use half shortening and half butter. Because the shortening is drier, it produces a flakier crust, she said. Another advantage of shortening is that it is less expensive than butter.
Mar recommends refrigerating shortening and whole wheat flour in the summer, because they can turn rancid if they're not used quickly. Unlike white flour, whole wheat flour contains oil, Mar said. White flour can remain on a shelf for four to five months.
Pie baker Lisa Simons recommends fresh fruit over canned fillings, which means freezing batches of apples, peaches and other fruit in the fall. Simons blanches, peels and freezes fresh fruit.
Bakers commonly avoid lemon meringue pie during humid weather because the humidity makes the meringue weepy.
Some bakers use vodka in place of water when making crust. The vodka evaporates during baking, leaving a flakier crust in its absence.
Neece-Baltaro offers this twist on that tip. She prefers using lemon liqueur, something she learned during a decade in Italy.
The liqueur evaporates, too, but it imparts a lemony flavor to the crust. It also sweetens the crust because the liqueur contains sugar. She uses limoncello.