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This weekend I learned all about blind baking a pie crust on the Cooking SE site. They were stumped on why, exactly, it's called "blind baking", however.

For the uninitiated — the highlights of the Cooking answer:

Blind baking is indeed just baking without a filling — it can be fully or partially. Typically you do this because your filling will either need to bake for a shorter time than your crust (a quiche for example) or not at all (a pie filled with some kind of pre cooked/set custard). It can also be done to help 'set' a crust against a filling that will make it rather soggy.

I have no idea why it's called blind baking, but the English.SE site is notoriously good at word origins.

Anyone have any theories or ideas?

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Most people will say the defining characteristic of "blind-baking" is that you haven't put the pie-filling in when you cook the pastry. You may fill it with small stones, dried peas, etc. to stop the pastry from buckling up, but that's not inherent to the method.

But my source (an experienced "semi-professional" chef) tells me it's highly relevant to note that you don't normally use either elapsed time or sight to decide when it's "done". You use your nose.

Thus "blind" relates to the means of determining baking time.

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    Interesting theory, but good chefs use their nose for every stage of cooking and baking. I think there must be more to it than this. – Callithumpian May 24 '12 at 4:48
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I've found an early use of the phrase in A Concise Encyclopaedia of Gastronomy by André Simon, 1952:

enter image description here

Simon was French and I assume wrote this book in French. The clip above includes the following note from the translator (presumably):

N.B.—'Blind' means pricking paste well and filling with tissue paper and beans to stop crust rising

The French phrase for blind baking is cuire à blanc—literally to bake white. My guess is that the English blind resulted simply from its similarity in sound to the French blanc. Perhaps there's even some funny story of mistranslation between a great French pastry chef and his English-speaking protégé.

  • Given the "see below" in the sentence that uses "blind", I don't think the note is from the translator. – Marthaª May 24 '12 at 13:44
  • @Marthaª: Good point. The note is followed by the initials D.L.T. which appear elsewhere in the book, along with similar notes followed by different initials. So these are probably just comments from various contributors to the book. – Callithumpian May 24 '12 at 15:23
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    Why do you think that's the origin? Here is a reference from 1951, a year earlier. – Peter Shor May 24 '12 at 19:25
  • And here is another from 1951. – Peter Shor May 24 '12 at 19:40
  • @PeterShor: Good finds. I was obviously overly eager. I've edited my answer. I've done a little more looking and one listing that keeps popping up is the 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking. Looks like the text may be available here, but I can't access it. Anyone have a copy? My edition from the 60s doesn't seem to use the phrase. – Callithumpian May 25 '12 at 3:33
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Blind has a seondary or figurative meaning of empty or closed-up, both of which apply to a pie crust that does not have its filling in it, or is covered up with paper and beans. From http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/blind?view=uk :

3 concealed or closed, in particular:

...

(of a door or window) walled up: fresco paintings on the blind windows

closed at one end: a blind pipe

...

5 (of a plant) without buds, eyes, or terminal flowers: planting too shallowly is the most common cause of bulbs coming up blind

If you imagine someone who has lost an eye due to injury (as opposed to someone whose eyes just don't work) you can see where this meaning comes from.

  • Very interesting image. I don't quite get the empty definition from your link and a pre-baked pie crust is certainly not closed, but the pie-shell=socket could be a lead. – Callithumpian May 24 '12 at 15:35
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    Similarly in engineering , a "blind hole" is one that doesn't go all the way through a part but has a bottom to it. – mgb May 24 '12 at 19:10
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I asked myself this same question when I was doing my first "blind bake" until I realized that I could not SEE the bottom of the crust to tell when it was done because it will either be covered by parchment or parchment AND baking beads, etc. This is not essential, but it is the heart of blind baking from hundreds of years. (Before ceramic baking beads, it was rice or whole beans like pintos)

So, Yes, you have to smell like in all stages of baking, but the word blind literally means that you won't be able to see the pastry itself while it's baking... (at least to me, that is not confirmed anywhere! LOL) I hope this answer makes enough sense to answer for anyone else wondering!

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Theory: It was normally delegated to an underling (sous-chef? sous-croûtier?) who did not need to know what the filling would be...so the underling was "blind baking" the crust.

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    I think that any pie maker will tell you that the secret to a good pie is in the crust. You do no delegate the most important part of the pie to your help. – Chad Aug 23 '11 at 16:39
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    I did not know that, but I would have suggested it anyway just to make up a term like "sous-crustier", which I will update to "sous-croûtier", come to think of it. – JeffSahol Aug 23 '11 at 17:03
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    I dont think croutier means what you think it does. – Chad Aug 23 '11 at 17:17
  • Ha! That's why he's only a *sous-*croutier? – JeffSahol Aug 23 '11 at 17:55
  • This option makes more sense than most of the others to me. At least in the wider sense that it is baked without reference to what the filling will be. – Schroedingers Cat May 24 '12 at 14:22

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