The Best Pie Crust Decoration Is Also the Easiest

published Nov 16, 2020
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Credit: Brittany Conerly

Thanksgiving Food Fest is a virtual food festival full of turkey, pie, games, and fun, starring many of our favorite cooks, ready to share the secrets of a most delicious Thanksgiving. Watch the event live at @thekitchn on Instagram from November 14-15 (or check back here after if you miss it).

Making pie — and especially pie crust — can be an intimidating prospect for some home cooks. Maybe you go the store-bought, pre-made route every Thanksgiving (and that’s totally fine!), but if you want to try your hand at making pie dough from scratch this year, I’m here to tell you you don’t have to worry about decorating it with a fancy lattice or complicated edge on top of nailing a perfectly baked crust.

During Kitchn’s virtual Thanksgiving Food Fest this past weekend, food stylist and recipe developer Judy Kim shared a super-fun tip in her live demonstration of her blood orange chess pie: She used a fluted pastry wheel to cut out squares of pie dough, made of dough scraps, to tile along the edge of her crust. The result was a super-impressive-looking decoration with hardly any extra effort.

The Key to an Easy, Impressive Pie Decoration? Dough Scraps!

Once you place your rolled-out pie dough on your pie plate, you’ll have some overhang. This overhang gets trimmed before baking and, typically, tossed. But why waste that precious dough you worked so hard on? Judy’s technique helps avoid food waste and gives a beautiful decoration for your pie. Win-win!

Here’s how to do it: Trim that overhang with a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife, and set it aside. When you’re ready to cut, toss some flour on the scraps and make sure they’re rolled out not too thick. Using your pastry wheel, cut the scraps into roughly one-inch strips first, then cut those strips up into roughly one-inch squares. A ruler helps facilitate this, but you can also eyeball it!

When it’s time to place the tiles on the edge, grab a pastry brush or small artist’s paint brush (that hasn’t been used to paint) and dunk it in some egg wash. Use the brushed egg wash as a glue as you tile the dough squares on top of each other — in a shingled pattern — all around the edge of the pan. When you come to the last square, just nestle it under the first square to create a seamless loop, where no one can tell where the design begins or ends. Judy then says to freeze the entire pie shell. When you’re ready to par-bake the shell, just double check to ensure those tiles are pressed on securely before baking.

One important note: This design works best with a pie plate with a rim. (You need that edge to affix the tiled pattern onto.) If you don’t have a pie dish with a rim, fear not! You can still put those scrap squares to good use. Simply bake them off on a sheet pan and enjoy those pie scrap “cookies” as a little cook’s treat.

Ready to give it a try? Check out Judy’s recipe for blood orange chess pie.

And make sure to follow Judy Kim on Instagram and on the web for more gorgeous food-styling inspiration.