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. Chris K

    A technique I learned from Alton Brown for rolled cookies may work well here. Roll out your dough. Put plastic wrap over your dough to protect it. Then place a cookie sheet on top of the dough/wrap and place a few cups of ice cubes on the cookie sheet. Wait about 10-12 minutes. This will chill your dough and you do not have to move it into the fridge (which I never have room for anyway). Then you could continue with making your lattice or decorations.

    Reply
  2. Margie Yansura

    The change in saturated fat content in shortening makes my pie crust fall apart. It was a great recipe for three generations. Out local good editor suggested I get some sort of lard from a butcher. Are any brands of shortening better than others?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      HI Margie! We use Crisco in our Test Kitchen anytime a recipe calls for vegetable shortening. We have butter-flavored and non-flavored and usually go with the non-flavored version. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Jo

    I found the all butter pie crust too difficult to handle. My strips kept breaking. Even when chilling them first. If too hard breaks, if too soft breaks. Plus I am not that adept of handling them swiftly….

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Jo! Despite its lovely flavor, we know butter crusts are harder to work with. Feel free to use shortening in place of some or all of the butter for a more easily manageable pie dough. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  4. Aaron Olson

    What suggestions do you have for a pie crust that holds fluting well? I’ve made your classic pie crust and other good flaky crusts, but any fluting I do winds up looking pretty “rustic” during the bake. The shape never holds. It’s flaky and delicious, but not so pretty.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great question, Aaron. The two most effective ways to make your design shine is to use shortening instead of or in addition to butter and to chill your pie dough after you’ve cut/made your designs and before baking. The shortening has a higher melting temperature than butter so the pie crust has a bit more time to set before it begins to melt, leaving your design crisper. Chilling the pie for at least 20 minutes in the fridge before baking will also help any patterns stand out. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  5. Lynda Minor

    How do you keep the nice shape on cutout pastry pieces? They look great when I cut them out but the act of removing them from the surface I’ve rolled them out on always stretches and distorts them a bit. They never look beautiful like yours! Is there a trick to keeping their shape when you pick them up?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Lynda. Temperature is a big part of it. If you roll out your dough on parchment (don’t be shy about flouring the dough underneath before you cut), after cutting the pieces and before moving them, put the whole sheet in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to firm the dough back up. That will allow you to get under the pieces (I like a small, offset spatula for this) to move them around without them becoming distorted. Hope this helps. Susan

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