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. Sabrina

    Id like to know what is the exact pie crust recipe used here? You suggest a couple but it isn’t clear which one exactly. I love how much detail the crust has after being baked.

    Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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

    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

  4. 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

  5. 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
  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

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