Decorative Pie Crust Tips: Pastry Lattice, Braids, and More

Elaborately decorated pies might seem like an impossible feat for the home baker, but today we’re showing you just how to create them. Creating a stunning decorative pie crust is easier than you think, and requires a few simple techniques. Once you practice and master each method, like the lattice, braid, or leaf, you can mix and match them in any combination to make edible works of art.

Decorative pie crust via @kingarthurflour

We turned to expert Toronto baker, Samantha Chiu (of Instagram fame!), for inspiration and her best tips on pie crust perfection. She shows us her techniques for making three different decorative pie crust patterns, plus ideas for how to put them all together, just in time for your Thanksgiving pie baking. Let’s get started!

Decorative pie crust via @kingarthurflour

The prettiest pies are simple to bake at home with these three methods. Click To Tweet

Pie crust basics

To create the perfect pie, start with the right recipe. You can use your favorite pie crust recipe to create these designs, or use one of our best-loved and most reliable recipes for a Classic Double Pie  Crust or an All-Butter Pie Crust. Always be sure to start with very cold dough before rolling it out and making your designs.

For maximum flakiness in your crust, refrigerate your pie for 30 minutes before baking, after having created your decorative top crust.

Decorative pie crust via @kingarthurflour

1. The diagonal lattice pie

Start with very cold, refrigerated dough. Your pie should be prepped up until the step of adding the top crust. Roll out dough for the top crust to about an 11″ circle. Use a knife and ruler (optional, but it will help keep your strips straight and even) to cut out 18 strips that are 1/2″-wide each.

Lay out three parallel strips of pie dough on top of the filling, leaving about 2 to 3 millimeters of space between each strip. Fold back each strip. Place three strips of dough diagonal to the parallel strips, creating an “X” in the center of the pie.

Continue placing strips of dough, three at a time, onto your pie, folding back and forth until all strips have been used up. To make the pie look fancier, apply an egg wash using a pastry brush to the surface of the pie and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Decorative pie crust via @kingarthurflour

2. The braided pie

Start with very cold, refrigerated dough. Your pie should be prepped up until the step of adding the top crust. Roll dough for the top crust into a thin rectangle. Cut out thin, 1/2-centimeter wide strips (you’ll need to cut about 33 to 36 strips).

To start the braid, take three strips and pinch the ends together. Start bringing the side strips into the center and continue until you reach the bottom. Secure the braid by pinching it once more at the base.

Continue making the same braids with the dough until you run out of dough. Place the braids on top of the pie as close or as far apart as you like. To make the pie look fancier, apply an egg wash using a pastry brush to the surface of the pie and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Decorative pie crust via @kingarthurflour

3. The leaf pie

Start with very cold, refrigerated dough. Your pie should be prepped up until the step of adding the top crust. Roll dough for the top crust into a thin circle. Use pastry stamps or cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes. If you want a more elaborate, intricate look to your leaves, use a knife or toothpick to lightly trace the veins of each leaf.

If you don’t have pastry stamps or cookie cutters, you can create your own leaf templates by drawing your desired shape onto cardboard or heavy, thick paper, then cutting the shape out and using it as a template to trace your dough, cutting around it with a sharp knife.

Once all shapes are cut out, start placing them on top of the pie in whatever pattern you like. You can cover the entire pie with the leaf cutouts, or simply place them around the edge. To make the pie look fancier, apply an egg wash using a pastry brush to the surface of the pie and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Decorative pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Combine all three decorative pie crust techniques for your prettiest pie ever!

Once you’ve practiced all three techniques, you’re ready to put them together. Divide the dough for your top crust into thirds. With one third, cut out simple strips of dough as you would for the lattice technique. Roll one third into a rectangle, cut out long, thin strips, and make a few braids. Roll the remaining third into a thin circle and cut out some leaf shapes.

Begin by placing the lattice strips and braids in a diagonal pattern, following the instructions for the diagonal lattice pie crust but substituting the braids for some of the plain strips.

Place the leaf shapes around the edges of the pie, pressing down gently on each.

Decorative pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Now you have it! The most beautiful pie ever to grace your table. We love this technique with a simple apple pie (try our November #bakealong recipe for a foolproof version), but it works just as nicely with any pie recipe that calls for a double crust.

Try it yourself: Use our Pie Crust Guide for helpful hints and recipes (our Complete Guide to Pie Baking and How To: Pie playlist have even more inspiration!), and then share your results with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #kingarthurflour.

Happy pie-baking season!

comments

    1. Tina

      Pat, You can find them almost anywhere right now. Target, Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Michaels… I found a brand new, still in the unopened package, mini set at a thrift shop for 50 cents! Good luck!

  1. Sarah Lichtenstein

    The problem I have is when I use an all butter. crust (and I choose not to use shortening), it “melts” more when baking and even a simple crimp softens and loses its shape. Any solutions?

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Sarah, try using a crust that has some shortening in it, like the one in this apple pie recipe. You will likely find it to be somewhat sturdier and easier to work with! You can also always sub in shortening for some of the butter in your favorite all-butter crust. Enjoy! Posie

  2. Jeff Parker

    Very impressive – never thought of the braiding nor the leaf, but will certainly try that for the upcoming holidays. Would work well anytime you want to make an impressive looking pie!

    Reply
  3. Amy

    Is it possible to assemble this pie ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it until ready to bake? It will take an amateur hours to perfect that crust the way you did! Amazing work!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Amy, you sure can make this pie ahead of time and freeze it for later. We’ve written a full article on our blog that includes details about how to be the most successful — check it out here, and let us know if you have any questions. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Irene

    In a word “WOW” . Beautiful work with all 3. On a holiday when I am only baking a pie ( it has happened once, I think) I will give it a shot. Will save, thanks !

    Reply
  5. Dami

    These are stunning crusts. With the braids and multiple layers of leaves, do you need to bake the pie longer to make sure the heavier areas get fully baked?

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      The layers aren’t so thick that you’d need extra baking time, but keep an eye on them as they bake as you would with any pie! Enjoy! Posie

  6. Walter Williamson

    What do you mean “fold back every other strip”:?
    “Lay out three parallel strips of pie dough on top of the filling, leaving about 2 to 3 millimeters of space between each strip. Fold back every other strip. Place three strips of dough diagonal to the parallel strips, creating an “X” in the center of the pie”.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Walter, we’ve taken step-by-step photos demonstrating what we mean here in our Apple Pie Bakealong blog article. We think this will help illuminate this process. Let us know if you have any other questions after you check it out. Kye@KAF

  7. sandy

    How beautiful! Truly works of art. I especially like the cutouts of leaves for Fall. I would love to see some pictures of these pies after they are baked. With the exception of the pumpkin pie I am assuming these are pictures before the pies are baked. Does the egg wash and sugar give the beautiful golden shine the leaves on the pumpkin pie have?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sandy, check out a photo of the baked pie on our Instagram. It sure did turn out beautifully! An egg wash helps add shine and a nice golden brown color, like what’s shown on the pumpkin pie. Kye@KAF

  8. Sarah

    I have pork lard. Can I use this to replace the vegetable shortening? Thanks I look forward to making this crust.
    Sarah

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Feel free to use lard instead of shortening if you like, Sarah. Some kinds of lard tend to have a slightly porky flavor, so it might be best to use it in a savory recipe like quiche. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Jeff, it’s probably wise with more delicate decorative crusts to cover the edges with a pie shield or foil to prevent them from browning too quickly. I’d suggest that you start baking without anything and just keep a close eye on the crust. If you notice it’s starting to brown too quickly, then you can add the foil/pie shield. Good luck! Posie

  9. Diane

    These pie crusts are amazing and almost too pretty to slice! I’ve decorated pies with leaves before but never thought to try something like a braid. Was an egg wash or even a bit of water used to adhere the braid around the edge of the crust to the bottom crust (I’m looking at the photo second from the top)? I’m curious because that particular braid does not get folded under the bottom crust anywhere.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Diane, if your dough feels particularly dry, it can help keep it in place if you brush the edge of the crust and/or the strips with a bit of egg wash. Adding a bit of pressure and pressing down on the places where the braid meets the edges can also help create a more stable design. We hope you give it a shot! Kye@KAF

  10. Linda Harry

    I love to use decorative leaves, etc…however, they sink right into the pumpkin filling. Also, they seem to burn more than the regular crust. My question is how do I keep them from sinking into the pumpkin and how do I keep them from burning? I have a metal rim I put over the crust, but it doesn’t seem to help much to keep it all from burning? Therefore, I always have a burnt crust/trim.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Linda, I bake my pastry decorations separate form the pie. Just put them on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven with the pie. When they’re brown, take them out (watch closely, they can go from golden to burned pretty fast). When the pie is done, carefully lay your beautiful golden brown leaves and decorations on top of the hot filling, where they’ll just sit looking gorgeous until it’s time to serve. Enjoy — PJH

    2. sandy

      When you go to the recipe section of KAF for the baked pumpkin pie pictured in this post it looks like the leaves are actually Light Spice Cookies baked and added to the top of the pie at serving time. At least that is how the recipe reads to me.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Sandy, the leaves are actually made from pie crust, believe it or not. They’re brushed with a bit of egg wash to help develop the deep color and shine. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  11. Katharine

    Really lovely! I wish you could include photos of these pies after baking, though. The one photo of leafy pumpkin pie gives a little glimpse, but what does the lattice look like after baking? It’s just contributing to the gap between aspiration and reality (helped by instagram) to show only sharp-edged, unbaked crusts in perfect (and non-juicy) geometry. I value the “real talk” about the charms and surprises of baking at the KAF blog–don’t stop showing reality!

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Katharine, thanks for the comment! Take a look now and you can see how beautifully the final pie turned out. Happy baking! Posie

  12. Kendra

    I’ve tried to find the leaf cutters but all you have is pumpkins, acorn, etc. Not the three styles of leaves. Where do we find them?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kendra, we only have the maple leaf shape in stock right now as part of our Fall Pop-Out Cutters. You might be able to find leaf-shaped cookie cutters that could work for the other shapes. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  13. Catherine Morris

    Dear KAF,

    Could you talk a little about egg wash? I’ve used a whole beaten egg mixed with a little water, but I’ve read about just using the beaten white. But when I try this the white gets all bubbly (Highly technical term) and doesn’t brush on well. I’ve also used milk but that tends to burn… any advise or sage words of wisdom, dear masters bakers?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Catherine, your wish is our command! Check back next Friday, 11/25, for a blog post that completely details top-crust finishes. In the meantime, I like to use milk or cream for a brown crust without shine; and egg white beaten with a bit of water for a crust with a bit more shine. A whole egg beaten with water yields a crust that’s both dark golden brown and shiny. PJH

  14. Donna L Samuels

    These look amazing! Talented folks and I enjoy the blogs were SMEs actually get involved and help us to recreate items and learn new skills!

    Reply
  15. Susan

    Hi,
    I think Walter was correct to ask about the instructions to “fold back every other strip” for the diagonal lattice. That’s correct if you’re doing a simple lattice, but with the diagonal lattice made of 3 strips each, the instructions will be more complicated. If you look at the picture and walk through the procedure in your head, you’ll get it.

    I think maybe you could describe it like doing a simple diagonal lattice, but treating each set of 3 strips as if they were one big strip?

    In any case, the final product is gorgeous. My daughter & I are already planning to do the full up lattice + braid + leaves for Thanksgiving.

    Thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Thanks again Susan! I’ve clarified the instructions regarding the lattice. Happy baking! -Posie

  16. Jess

    How would you expect a pie crust that uses butter & cream cheese to fare after baking? Will it likely behave like an all-butter crust (and “melt” away the decoration details)? Or like one with shortening?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      I think it’ll more likely melt away the crimp, since cream cheese is less pure fat than shortening and will act more like butter. However, I wonder if the milk proteins will help set the crust’s structure? Interesting test — let us know how it goes! And anyway, it’ll taste great. PJH

  17. Isabel Hansen

    While folding back every other strip is the way to make a standard lattice, what you’ve done here is fold back all three strips (2 flat, 1 braided) at once, and laid another set of 3 strips down. Each set of 3 strips, not every other strip, is woven into the lattice pattern, and it looks beautiful that way, but you might want to tweak the directions to reflect the finished photo.

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Thanks Isabel! The instructions have been clarified so hopefully that helps you follow along. -Posie

  18. Tim JS

    I just purchased leaf cutters. Will the leaves just stay on if pressed into place, or is there a “glue” to hold them on, like egg, water, etc?

    Reply
  19. Susan McIntosh

    Hi all,
    You deleted my post, but scout’s honor, your directions for the diagonal lattice top pie are wrong.

    Your directions say: Lay out three parallel strips of pie dough on top of the filling, leaving about 2 to 3 millimeters of space between each strip. Fold back every other strip. Place three strips of dough diagonal to the parallel strips, creating an “X” in the center of the pie.

    That says to fold back every other strip, talking about the three parallel strips. Please look at the picture. There is no place that every other strip in your three parallel strips is folded back. At one point ALL of your three strips are folded back so you can weave the lattice. Not every other strip.

    Thanks for checking it out –
    Susan

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Hi Susan, thanks for pointing that out! You’re correct — in this case, each grouping of 3 strips is treated as a “strip” in and of itself, so you’re weaving the lattice using groupings of three strips. Whenever you fold back the strips, you should always fold all three in each grouping together. I’ve updated that in the post slightly. Hope that clarifies! It’s always tricky to explain in writing so I recommend following along with the photo as best you can! -Posie

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ll be happy to pass along your request. While we don’t have a video for making this crust, we do have one for weaving a more simple lattice that can be a good place to start: http://bit.ly/2fbr7DK Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  20. Dana Siegel

    how do the leaves stick to the edge of the pumpkin pie? I’ve baked leaves for decoration before, but always baked them separately, and placed them on the baked pie. Won’t the leaves fall off if they aren’t stuck down?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      To make the leaves stick, you can brush the crust with a bit of water or egg wash before baking. If you place them on the pie after baking, you can try giving them a gentle press to secure them, or you can always use a bit of melted white chocolate as your edible “glue.” Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  21. nikki

    Years ago I would crumple aluminum foil and drape the unbaked leaves on it, and par bake. Cool a bit and add to the pie about halfway through baking, gluing them on with a bit of egg white. It’s fiddly to be sure, but the 3 D effect makes beautiful pies.

    Reply

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