Welcome back to Sally’s Baking Challenge! November’s baking challenge is pie. I mean… were you really surprised?! But instead of a specific pie recipe, I’m challenging you to get a little creative: decorate a pie, any pie, with fun and festive pie crust designs. Terrified of pie crust? Good. This is the time to face your fear. You CAN do this. You CAN create pies like this.
I love making pie. You know this. But up until a few years ago, it terrified me. Obviously a piece of pie didn’t give me the creeps, but the actual *thought of making pie* definitely scared me to pieces. Far too complicated. Let’s leave it to the pros. But guess what? The hardest part is finding the courage to start. And once you do, you’ll wonder why you didn’t begin sooner. Nothing is more satisfying than making a pie completely from scratch. Until, of course, you eat a slice.
Before I show you my own pie crust designs and walk you through some simple techniques, here are 5 tips that will help you pick up that rolling pin.
5 Tips for Pie-fection
1. The hardest part is finding the courage to start.
Like I mentioned above, the hardest part about working with homemade pie dough is actually mustering up the courage to work with homemade pie dough. Starting is, without a doubt, the biggest hurdle. It’s easy to resist something if it intimidates you, but something (anything!) has to start somewhere, right? Such is the case with nearly any goal or dream we have. I didn’t wake up one day and have confidence with pie dough, lattice toppings, and artful crust designs. You’ll practice, it will feel daunting, you’ll improve, you’ll succeed.
2. Use a quality pie crust.
You’re ready to begin making pies from scratch, so don’t sabotage your efforts with a lackluster pie crust. Pie crust is essentially 3 things: flour, fat, liquid. It’s the types of each and the ratios that make a real difference. My beloved pie crust recipe is the only one I use when I make pie. I mix both butter and shortening together for the best flavor and texture. Don’t add too much water or your dough will be flimsy and fragile. Not enough water and your dough will crack and crumble when rolled out.
3. Keep everything COLD.
Now that you have a solid pie crust recipe, let’s… um, keep things solid! Keeping your pie dough as cold as possible is imperative because it helps prevent the fat from melting. If the butter melts inside the dough before baking, your pie crust will lose shape in the oven. The sides will shrink down and, even worse, the crust will taste greasy instead of tender and flaky. Basically any design you arranged on top of the pie will shrivel up. Remember this: the colder the pie is before going into the oven, the better your pie will taste and the more your pie crust will hold its shape.
4. Use an egg wash. And some sparkle!
Do you know why we use an egg wash? It’s to help develop a golden brown crust. Without it, the pie crust will brown but will look extremely dull. An egg wash, a mix of milk and egg, creates that golden sheen we see on bakery pies AND it even gives the crust a little extra crisp flavor. For a little sparkle, I always sprinkle pies with coarse sugar prior to baking. Gives the top a lovely crunch and looks pretty, too.
5. Take your time and have fun.
Always take your time when working with pie dough. It’s not a race! Treat the dough with a little TLC. You are not angry at the pie dough. Don’t roll it out too forcefully or rush through a decorative topping. Set aside enough time in the day to really concentrate on it, invite some friends or family in the kitchen, and enjoy the process. If it feels like a chore, this might not be the best monthly baking challenge for you. But I promise it’s worth it!
That’s beloved pie crust! ↑ ↑ It’s my one and only.
Did You Know?
See all those chunks of butter in the dough? That’s a very good thing. I’ve had readers ask if the butter should be completely mixed in. No no no! You see, as the crust bakes, the butter’s water converts to steam. And steam creates flakes in the dough. If the butter is over-mixed in the dough, you won’t have as many steam pockets. And, therefore, not as much delicious flakiness.
So visible butter in dough = flakiness. Yum.
My pie crust recipe is enough dough for 2 pie crusts. It’s plenty for a bottom crust (essential, of course) and a decorative crust on top. Most of my decoration skills revolve around a lattice top, which is the typical woven pie topping you see. I admit it looks pretty intimidating, but it’s surprisingly simple if you use a quality pie crust and take your time.
See more pie crust designs below this lattice tutorial.Print
Get inspired with these easy and beautiful pie crust designs! Homemade pie has never looked so stunning on the dessert table.
- Homemade pie crust (my recipe makes 2 crusts; 1 for bottom 1 for lattice top)
- Roll out the bottom crust: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9-inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth. Spoon the filling into the crust and place in the refrigerator while you work on the lattice.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the second half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle. Pie dough is easiest to work with when it’s cold, so if the dough has softened too much as you work– place any rolled-out pieces on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for a couple minutes.
- Design the lattice: Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into strips– the width is up to you. I usually cut them 1/2-inch – 1-inch wide for a traditional lattice top. Remove the pie from the refrigerator. Lay out 6-8 parallel strips of pie dough (depending how thick you cut them) on top of the filling with about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch space between them. Fold back every other strip, then place another strip perpendicular to the strips. Unfold the folded strips over the perpendicular strip. This is the start of your woven lattice.
- Fold the parallel strips that are underneath the perpendicular strip back over the perpendicular strip. Place a 2nd perpendicular strip down. Unfold the parallel strips over the 2nd strip. Continue this process, weaving the strips over and under.
- Trim the edges of the strips around the pie dish, leaving about 1/2 inch over the sides. Crimp the edges to secure the strips with the bottom pie crust.
- The next step is written out in all of my pie recipes, but here it is to remind you. Brush the unbaked pie (the crust) with an egg wash, sprinkle with coarse sugar, and chill in the refrigerator as the oven preheats. Remember, keep everything cold prior to baking. Have fun!
This month, put your personalized touch on pie crust and make it stand out on the Thanksgiving table. Let your imagination run wild and create some edible art. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. As long as you try it.
Here’s some more pie inspiration for you!
Above: I created a simple lattice with 1-inch strips of dough and added two strips of braids on the edges. Braids are three 1/4-inch strips of dough. Here’s how to braid pie crust. I also added some acorns on top using a cookie cutter.
Above: Also a lattice top, though I used 1-inch strips. I cut 4 of the 1-inch strips in half to create those thinner strips.
Above: This is my cranberry almond apple pie. A lattice top created with 1/2-inch strips grouped into three’s. I also added leaf cut-outs all over the top.
Above: This is my apple cranberry pie. It’s a lattice top with a braided edge and two apple cut-outs. The lattice strips have a pretty ruffle edge. I cut 18 1/2-inch strips with a fondant ribbon cutter. For the braid: with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut six 14 inch long, 1/4-inch wide strips. Gently braid three strips. Brush edge of crust with egg wash, the carefully place braid around half of the pie and press lightly to secure. Repeat with remaining strips, then attach the two braids by pressing one into the other.
Above: This is my homemade cherry pie. Another lattice top using four strips 2-inches wide and four strips 1-inch wide.
Below: This is my American flag pie. I included a video in that post for how I created the flag topping.
Below: This is my great pumpkin pie recipe. Nothing complicated here! See the notes in the recipe for how to make and add the shapes to the baked pie.
If you’re not into pie crust designs, here is the alternate November Baking Challenge:
After you make the baking challenge recipe or alternative, share your photos throughout this month using #sallysbakingchallenge on Instagram or email me, tweet me, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page or Facebook group.
You can do this! I’m cheering for you.