Pie Crust Decorating Basics: Easy Ways to Make Fancier Pies

Let’s face it: Pie tastes good regardless of how pretty it looks. But learning some pie crust decorating basics can take an already delicious pie up a notch, adding a visually enticing element. Plus, it’s fun to practice!

Whatever your comfort level with pie crust, there’s a technique here for you. You can start with something simple, like crimping. Then move on to perfecting the lattice crust, then learn to make a braided crust.

We’ll also show you some creative ways to top your pie with cutouts and shapes. This technique is easy to adapt for any holiday or occasion (leaves for fall, hearts for Valentine’s Day, you get the idea!).

These decorating techniques work with any pie crust, but an excellent place to start is our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe. Now let’s get fancy.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

1. Crimped pie crust

First, place your pie crust in the pan. Trim the edges of the crust so there’s only about 1″ of overhang. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath the rest of the crust, so that your crust fits the pie plate exactly.

Using the thumb and forefinger of one hand and the thumb of the other hand, press to form evenly shaped crimps around the entire crust. Use light pressure as you crimp.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

Practice the crimp on our Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie recipe.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

2. Fork-crimped pie crust

This is a simpler way of crimping that creates a neatly decorated crust. Prepare your crust as you would for the regular crimp. Using the tines of a fork, press gently down on the edge of the crust. Continue pressing around the entire edge to form evenly spaced lines.

This technique is often used to seal the edge of hand pies. Try it out in our Toffee Apple Hand Pies recipe or our Presidential Cherry Pie recipe.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

3. Lattice crust with variation

Classic and pretty, the lattice crust is the most recognizable way to decorate a pie. To make it, prepare a double-crust recipe. Line the pie plate with your bottom crust and fill the pie.

Roll out the other half of your pie dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a knife, slice strips of dough into even widths. Place strips vertically across your pie, making sure to space them evenly. Now, peel back every other vertical strip. Starting at the top of your pie, place a strip of dough horizontally. Fold the vertical strips down to just cover the horizontal strips.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

Peel back every other vertical strip, alternating from the ones you peeled back in the first step. Place another strip horizontally, fold back the vertical strips, and continue in this fashion until your pie is covered.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

Once you’ve mastered the basic lattice (practice it with our Best Apple Pie recipe), you can think outside the box. Try a miniature, tightly woven lattice by making your strips very thin and placing them quite close to one another. Or make the strips extra wide to create a “fat” lattice effect.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

4. Snipped crust

This foolproof technique requires no special pressing or folding, just a pair of kitchen scissors! Prepare your pie crust, and fold any overhang underneath the edge of the pie place. Using a pair of scissors, make a series of small diagonal cuts around the entire edge of the pie.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

5. Cutout Crust

Now for the creative part! Cutout crusts are so simple but they have a stunning effect when baked. You’re treating your dough (make sure to make a double-crust recipe) like a rollout cookie, so pull out your favorite cookie cutters for this technique. You’ll want to use smaller shapes, in the 1″ to 2″ range.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

Place your bottom crust in the pie pan. Roll out the second piece of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a small cookie cutter (or, if you want to do circles, the top of any jar or bottle in your pantry), cut out shapes. Press the shapes gently to adhere around the edge of the entire pie crust.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflourYou can also leave the edge of the pie crust plain and place your cutouts over the top of the entire pie.

Try it out for yourself with our Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie recipe.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

6. Braided crust

A braided pie crust looks complex, but don’t be intimidated! You likely know how to braid ribbon, and it’s exactly the same (it just requires a gentler touch).

Prepare your bottom crust. Roll the top crust out on a lightly floured surface and cut three long thin strips out with a knife. Press the top of all three strips together gently. Using a light touch, braid the three strands together.

Transfer the braid to the edge of the pie plate and press gently to adhere. It’s easier to make the braided crust in a few separate sections, rather than try and make one long braid to fit the entire crust.

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

 

Pie crust basics via @kingarthurflour

Now that you have all the tips you need, go forth and decorate!

comments

  1. Kathleen Bridges

    I’m just learning how to bake a pie. I made my first pie this weekend. It was a Buttermilk pie. I thought the crust on the bottom was a little moist and not dry. Do bottom crusts get moist? Is there a way to prevent a moist bottom crust?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Kathleen. There are a couple of tricks to keeping bottom crusts from getting soggy. You can brush the bottom with a beaten egg and prebake the crust, unfilled, for 5 minutes in a hot (425°F) oven. This will make a barrier between crust and filling that will slow down the absorption of the liquid by the crust; after a few days, though, all bets are off. Susan

    2. Christina

      Generally to prevent a bottom crust from becoming soggy, brush the crust with an egg white wash prior to filling it.

    3. Dee Rupp

      I was told by my grandmother to sprinkle a little flour in bottom of unbaked crust before you put in your filling. It works every time , no more moist crust.

    4. Dillan

      Kathleen Pies are a marvelous thing to bake! Tasty and easy to do. Preventing a soggy bottom is simple. You can either brush the bottom with beaten egg as Susan has said and blind bake at 425. Or you can sprinkle flour on the bottom crust and bake for 10-15 minutes at 425. Both are great; easy solutions, but depending upon how long your pie must bake; if you choose to use the flour method; either cover the crust of your blind bake with tin foil to prevent too much browning from occurring, or lower the time. Happy Baking!!

  2. DavidK

    I learned a trick that keeps the edges of the pie or a pie shell from shrinking or sliding back down into the pan. Make your usual crimped lower crust using the 2 fingers and thumb technique. Take one of the crimps between your thumb and index finger, squeeze it gently and pull it down so that lower portion hooks onto and just a tad under the lower edge of the pie pan. Make sure the very bottom of this crimp is under the very edge of the pan. Do this on every 10-12 crimps until you go all the way around the pan. Spacing is really not all that important, but, make sure the pinched crimp does hook under the edge of the pie pan. Nothing is more disappointing than having your lovely looking pie come out of the oven with one side of the bottom crust drooping down and the filling overflowing into the oven! This works wonderfully well when baking a pie shell!

    Reply
    1. Christina

      Thanks David – I’ll have to try this the next time I decide to bake a single crust pie!

  3. Maureen Johnson

    I use small maple leaf cutouts to edge my pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving time and float a few leaves on the top of the pie filling. It really looks great.

    Reply
    1. RobL

      Not clear if you float them on top of the raw filling before baking.

      I often do the same, but bake the leaf-shaped pie crust ‘cookies’ on a separate smaller cookie sheet while the pie is baking, remove them when they are the right color, even if the pie is not yet finished baking, then when the pie cools, just place the finished leaf shapes on top. I will even sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on top of the leaves.

    2. Anjali

      Thanks Rob L!! That’s a great tip. I’m making my first decorative leaves on a pumpkin pie. On my test pie it sunk, so I’m using your technique on the others!

  4. Christine Bruhn

    For the lattice crust, how do you finish the edges? Do you fold the lower crust over the strips or pinch strips and lower crust together, turning under the excess? What pie is pictured in the braided recipe. Looks so yummy!

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Christine, I trim the edges so that the lattice strips don’t have extra overhang. Then I pinch the strips and lower crust together and crimp them firmly. The braided photo is actually a caramelized garlic and spinach quiche — we don’t have the recipe for it currently on the site, but the technique would work with any of our quiche recipes!

  5. Nicole

    These are all beautiful, but they never seem to work out for me. My crust, which always gets rave reviews for taste and flakey texture, has relatively large (visible) globs of fat and an almost-crumbly texture. It is more likely to fall apart than allow itself to be braided. The crusts above look more like sugar cookie dough. Will I have to compromise the flakiness of my crust to get a pretty pie?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You will have to handle the dough more to make these pretty designs, which can make the dough slightly more homogeneous rather than flaky. However, it is not an either-or-trade off with pretty crust designs and great flavor. Try adding a bit more moisture to your dough next time to prevent it from being super crumbly, and be sure to chill the dough between mixing and shaping. You can also consider leaving the base as a flaky, shaggy dough and mixing the fat into a small portion a bit more, which can then be used for garnish. Great flavor and great looks! Kye@KAF

    2. Marie Pietila

      You can get a crust that can be “handled” more and not compromise the tenderness of the crust by making your dough with half water and half vodka! The reason it works is vodka cuts the gluten strands that make a pie crust tough. You can roll and re-roll the crust with hardly any loss of tenderness. Vodka also is flavorless so it is the perfect alcohol to use and cooking will evaporate the alcohol.

  6. Kalisa

    Love that braided crust! I would never have thought of that. Will have to give it a shot. I like the cut out method a lot, it’s a great way to add some visual appeal.

    I tried to do the crimped edge this summer from memory… it didn’t work out so well. The pie was still tasty, though!

    Reply
  7. Deb

    The tip of a teaspoon crimped all around a pie makes a pretty design also. Done like the fork crimping but using the tip of the spoon instead 🙂

    Reply
  8. mlaiuppa

    My favorite is to pinch the crust between my thumb and bent forefinger sideways. It results in a twist that looks like a rope. Much faster and more forgiving than the crimp.

    I use the rope for apple pies and the crimp for my lattice cherry pie.

    Reply
  9. Polly H

    To all the wonderful newbies at pie baking: As you roll up your sleeves with your jaw set to once again tackle the crust mystery, know that all of us began the same way. Some of your crusts will be not so hot. Remember, the ingredients didn’t cost a fortune, yet the experience is invaluable. When you begin to achieve the results you want, pat your self on the back and enjoy the lovely compliments you so richly deserve from those lucky to enjoy your wonderful pies. DON’T BE AFRAID is truly the first commandment.

    Reply
  10. Karen T

    Some new ideas I can’t wait to try. As a kid, my mom always used any leftover crust dough to make a quick goodie to hold us until pie was cool. She rolled it out on parchment about 1/8-1/4″ thick (perfect shape not required), sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, cut squares with a crimped cutter, and baked for a few minutes with the pie. A flaky appetizer!

    Reply
  11. Phyllis Trier

    A couple of tricks I’ve learned for fruit pies. To prevent a soggy bottom, take about 2 Tbls. of your sugar/starch/spice mixture and sprinkle it over the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Then mix the rest into your fruit. Always, always top the filling with about 1 Tbls. of butter cut into little chunks, then put your top crust on. I like to brush the top with heavy cream, sprinkle with sugar, regular granulated or KA white crystal sugar, then cut your steam vents. If you bake it in a hot oven to start, 425 about 20-25 min. then reduce heat to 350 for another 30-35 min. you will have a beautiful golden crust and no soggy bottom. Remember to always cool the pie fully on a rack so the bottom doesn’t steam.

    Reply
    1. Phyllis Trier

      One more thing. Always bake a fruit pie until you see the juices bubbling. That means the filling is boiling and the starch will be fully cooked. If the starch isn’t fully cooked the filling will be runny, starchy tasting, and you will get a soggy bottom. It’s better to have a pie that is a little over browned than under baked. And remember, practice makes perfect. I’m almost 70 years old and have been baking pies most of my life and I’m still learning new tricks.

  12. Mary L Landismary

    I love to bake pies! First time user of your flour. It’s great. Everyone always asks for Shoo Fly or Apple. They seem to be the favorites.M

    Reply
  13. Sharon

    You can always preheat a pizza stone and cook your pie on the stone and the bottom crust is nice and brown and not soggy when it is filled with a filling.

    Reply
  14. Ginger Peeler

    I used to cut shapes out of my pie dough scraps and place them on my top crust prior to cutting the vents. My older sister loved dragons and apple pie. For her birthday, I usually made a large apple shape with a twig. Sometimes I’d paint the apple with red food coloring and the twig with green. My best was a dragon shape with flame coming out of his mouth.

    Reply
  15. Dollymat

    I tried and it worked to prevent a bottom crust from being soggy by heating my tray for a few minutes before putting the pie on it and into the oven. While it heats, I place a 2″ strip of foil around the crimped edge of the pie to prevent it from over browning. Then place the pie plate on the hot tray on the bottom rack for the first portion of baking time, usually at 425 degrees. Raise to the middle of the oven (when you take off the foil from the outer rim) and lower temp to 375 degrees. With a Pyrex plate, you can (very carefully) see that the pie is completely baked and lightly browned. Additionally, a small round of foil can be put on the middle of the pie if it seems to be browning too much; this can prevent overbrowning while the juices of the pie have time to thicken. Lots of compliments!

    Reply
  16. Handmade

    I have been baking pies for forty-five years, have learned a few tricks along the way, and am still trying to bake the perfect pie. To prevent a soggy bottom crust, I spread a sparse dusting of dry egg white powder or beaten egg white on the bottom crust before adding the filling. Also, I preheat a pizza stone covered with nonstick aluminum foil ( nonstick-side up) to 425-450 degrees as the oven is preheating and place the aluminum pie pan on this stone for baking. It helps transmit heat immediately to the bottom crust which is somewhat cooler because of the mass of the filling. I have never used glass pie pans. This covered pizza stone also catches any filling spills/overbakes and wipes off easily once cool. I bake double-crust pies at 425-450 degrees for 15 minutes with the crust edges covered with an aluminum pie crust shield ( a piece of aluminum foil with a central hole the size of the filling diameter also works). After 15 minutes, the pie crust shield is removed and the pie is baked at 350 degrees for another 45-50 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling juices are thick and gently burping through the steam vents. It is important to cool the pie on a rack so that the bottom crust doesn’t steam as it cools.

    Reply
  17. Andrea Johnson

    Also to prevent soggy crust on fruit pies, drain some of the liquid before putting the fruit on the bottom crust. Also, chill the whole pie while your oven preheats.

    Reply
  18. Susan

    I want to put decorative leaves from the pie crust dough on my pumpkin pie. Do I need to bake them separately so they don’t sink into the pie? Thank you

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Susan, if you plan to put the cut outs around the edge, we’d recommend following step #5 in this article and pressing them on before filling your crust. If you want them to rest decoratively across top, you may want to follow the directions in this post instead: http://bit.ly/2ggxTcD to prevent them from sinking. Hope this helps and happy baking! Mollie@KAF

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