Tips for a Better Pi Day
Words Amalia Safran
Ornate lattice crusts and patterns aren’t necessarily a new trend, but these are the pies that are stopping us in our tracks.
In honor of Pi Day, we spoke to Benat, our resident baking expert and product manager on the Baking Team to get a step-by-step guide and tips for making better lattice pies.
1. Get the Right Dough
Although Benat swears by homemade pie crust in most cases (see below for a recipe), shebelieves store-bought pie dough is easier to fold and cut into shapes for complex pie toppings. Store-bought pie dough tends to be very well mixed and this allows it to hold up to the manipulation you need for lattice toppings. If you do want to make the dough, make sure you’re accurately measuring all of the ingredients – especially the water. Too little water will make the dough hard to work with, but too much water might create a tough, leathery crust.
2. Keep the Dough Cool
One of the most important things to remember when making pie is to keep the dough cold. As soon as the dough warms up, the strips will be much harder to manipulate. If at any point the dough starts getting too soft, stick it in the fridge for a few minutes.
Good tip: Place a bag of ice on your work surface for a minute or two. This will chill the counter and keep your dough cooler while it’s being rolled out.
3. Even (or Uneven) Strips
With a 9” Pie Plate, Benat recommends rolling both the bottom crust and top into 14-inch circles that are about ⅛-inch thick. This will leave enough room to cut off the edges of the lattice and crimp them.
Use the Pastry Mat measurement markings to cut consistently even strips of dough. If you’re going for a random lattice, cut strips into varied sizes between 1/8-inch to 1 1/2 inches. And, always use a straight edge (like a bench scraper) next to the pastry wheel as you cut the lattice strips.
4. Start Simple
If you’re new to lattice pies, start with a simple weave. A good one to try uses only six strips that are cut 4-inches wide and is tightly woven – practically no room for filling to bubble out. It’s faster to make and the dough stays easy to handle, but still looks impressive.
Once your strips are cut, you can start weaving. Lay half of the strips across the pie. Then, pull every other strip back halfway. Place another lattice strip perpendicular to the strips that are down and in the center of the pie. The vertical strip will be over half of the strips and under half of the strips.
Keep repeating this by pulling back the strips that were previously down . Once you’ve made your way across one half of the pie, start the same process for the other half.
Use a pair of scissors to snip excess pie dough that is draping over the pie plate edge.
6. Add Some Flair
If you’re looking to do intricate designs, we like to use cookie cutters. Benat recommends sticking the cookie cutters in the freezer for a few minutes before using. You can also toss some flour on them to prevent the dough from sticking to the cutters.
Good tip: Use the backside of a knife to create leaf veins.
7. Up Your Edge Game + Protect Them
While it’s fun to experiment with different lattice designs, Benat doesn’t stop there. She uses tines of a fork to crimp the pie edges. Sometimes, she’ll go a step further and crisscross the fork tines for an added decoration.
It’s also important to protect your edges when baking. Pre-cut aluminum foil the size of the diameter of the pie and cover the edges once they start to turn golden brown. The edges are at risk of burning before the inside of the pie is fully cooked, so it’s important to keep them covered.
8. Go Beyond Traditional Pies
Everyone loves a really good apple or cherry pie – but what about adding some cute decorations to a chocolate pudding pie? Or cutting dough into little lime shapes for a key lime pie? Benat encourages experimenting with pies – she’s planning to do cutouts on a quiche this year to celebrate Pi Day.
9. Freeze-and-Bake Pie Crust
Fruit pies freeze and bake very well. The long baking time allows for a crisp-bottomed crust. This method works with any store-bought pie crust, but our favorite recipe is below.
Freeze-and-Bake Pie Crust
12 tablespoons butter, cold (1 1/2 sticks of butter)
2 1/2 cups (10.2 oz) pastry flour (we’ve used cake flour as well)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cups cream cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- Cut butter into small (half-inch) cubes and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Place flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add cream cheese and rub the mixture between fingers to blend the cream cheese into flour until it resembles a coarse meal.
- Add the butter and use fingers again to flatten the butter into thin flakes while tossing pieces together with flour. Sprinkle mixture with cream and vinegar, and use a spatula to combine until the dough comes together. Don’t worry about overmixing/overworking, this recipe needs some handling to come together. Feel free to do this by hand if it is easier.
- By the time you’re done mixing, the dough should hold together in one piece and feel a little stretchy. Divide the dough into two and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 2 days.
- When ready to bake, roll dough out into a 14 inch circle to use for either a top or bottom crust.