To make a good pie a great one, getting creative with the crust is an absolute must. Whether it’s by fashioning your favorite pie dough recipe into a timeless lattice or crimping a criss-crossed pattern onto a single-crust, the extra TLC will render you a cover-worthy pie that looks as good as it tastes. And as you can see above, in a sneek peek from my new book Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude (out March 18, 2014), the options are truly endless.
Listed here are nine favorite crust concepts and our simple directions on how to achieve them. Oh, and don’t be afraid to make a pretty mess of things— the rustic imperfections of pie is one of the aspects that make them so incredibly alluring.
Crimping tips before you begin:
- The key to a good decorative crust is trimming your dough to a 1/2-inch overhang and rolling the overhang underneath itself to give yourself a thicker edge to work with. It’s always better to prepare too much pie dough rather than too little.
- Be sure to refrigerate your dough after you have crimped the edges for 30 minutes to an hour before baking. Doing this will help the dough keep its shape.
- Brush an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water) overtop your crust and/or pie top to create a lovely golden-brown and slightly glossy crust.
Single Crust Crimps
Cesar’s Crown Crust
Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip the edge of the dough at a 45 degree angle every 3/4-inch all around the pie. Lightly pull apart each segment in opposite directions and give a little pinch to the ends.
Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip the edge of the dough at a 90 degree angle every 1-inch around the entire pie, and then lift up every other piece.
Criss Cross Crust
Work your way around the edge of the pie, pressing into the dough with the tines of a fork at a 45 degree angle and then pressing in again with the tines, crossing in the opposite direction.
This crimp reminds me of the pattern in the old wrought-iron furniture my grandmother used to keep in her side garden. In the summer months, if you sat too long on any piece of it, the back of your legs would get this wonderful pattern imprinted on them.
How many layers does your rainbow have? With this crimp, you can have one, two or three! Using a teaspoon with a bit of a point, work your way around the pie, pressing into the crust with the inside of the spoon. Make another rainbow layer by pressing the spoon tip again into the dough just below the first.
Sailor’s Rope Crust
There are two ways to do a Sailor’s Rope Crimp. One is by working from the inside of the pie and pressing the side of your thumb into the dough at a 45 degree angle every 3/4-inch until you have worked your way around the dough. The second is working from the inside of the pie and pinching the dough between your thumb (that is at a 45 degree angle) and your forefinger. Continue pinching the dough every inch until you have worked your way around the dough.
Working your way around the pie, form a curve with the index finger on one hand on the inside of the pie, then press your thumb and forefinger around your curved index finger on the outside of the pie, forming a scalloped edge.
Double Crust Crimps:
Prepare your first dough as usual, turning the overhang edges underneath to give a good edge to work with. Roll out your second dough into a long rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into strips that are 1/4-inch wide. Working with three strips at a time, pinch the tops together and weave the strips in and out of each other in a simple hair braid pattern. When you reach the end of the strips, press three more strips onto ends and continue braiding. Brush the edge of the pie with the egg wash mixture (this will act as a glue for your braid) and lay the braid around the dough. Cut the ends where they meet, and press together with your fingers.
Cut-out Top Crust
After you’ve place the first pie dough in your pie pan and added the filling, roll out your second dough to be 1-inch larger than your pie pan. Using a decorative cookie cutter of your choice (¾ to 1-inch in diameter) cut a hole in the center of your dough. Work out from there cutting holes every 2 to 3-inches. Drape the dough over your pie, lining up the center cut-out with the center of the pie. Trim your edges, turn under and crimp however you like.
Lattice Top Crust
Since this beauty requires a bit more concentration, I’ve broken the process down into the following steps:
- Roll out your first dough and drape in your pie pan. Allow the excess to hang over the edges. Add your filling. Roll out the second pie crust slightly larger than your pie pan and use a sharp knife to cut into equal width strips. (I like to use a ¾ to 1-inch wide strip).
- Using every other strip, lay the strips vertically over the pie leaving a little space between each one. All the strips should overhang the pie a bit.
- Fold every other strip back on itself without creasing them.
- Take the shortest strip remaining from Step 1 and lay it horizontally so it snugs up against the folded strips.
- Unfold the strips that have been flipped over themselves and lay down on the pie.
- Fold back the strips that weren’t folded back in Step 3.
- Lay next strip remaining from Step 1 horizontally so it snugs up against the folded strips. Unfold the strips that have been flipped over themselves and lay down on the pie. Continue the lattice process until all of your strips have been used. Trim your edges, turn under and crimp however you like.
Ready to make your pie? Try one of the Relish kitchen-tested recipes below.
Libbie Summers and Chia Chong are the creative minds behind the blog, Salted and Styled. Their commercial and editorial food-inspired work has been featured in publications north and south of the equator. The two were honored recently in San Francisco by the IACP with the award for the Best Food Blog of 2013. Although from different parts of the world, Libbie and Chia come together in Savannah, GA to create, work and play.