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6 Tricks to Jazz Up Your Holiday Pies (No Pastry Chef Certification Needed)

A holiday table set with many different kinds of pies.
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

It’s officially time to start thinking about the holidays, and with that comes a whole lot of pie. Learn these six decorative tricks and tips to turn your plain-Jane pies into pretty pastries.

We’ll teach you how to transform your basic dessert pies into beautiful festive treats using tools you likely have around the house. Once you’ve measured all your ingredients and created your fillings, the beautification part comes into play. And no, you don’t have to be a pastry chef.

A Basic Lattice

A basic lattice pie crust is standard, and you’ve likely eaten many pies with this decorative feature. It’s pretty common in the pie world, but taking the extra few minutes to prepare it this way makes a big difference.

Using a pizza cutter or a pastry wheel, just cut the pie dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips and set aside. Once you add the bottom half and the fillings, lay about five to seven parallel pieces down. Be sure that each strip has about a 1/2-inch of space between them.

Fold back every other strip, and then place one long piece of dough perpendicular to the others. Place the folded strips back down and continue this process with the opposite parallel strips. Continue until your pie has a lattice topping, and then trim the excess strips and fold in the edge of your pie crust.

For a more textured appearance, use a fluted pastry wheel to cut out your long lattice pieces. This simple modification makes for a new and exciting look. Another great trick is to vary the width of your lattice pieces, some thick and some thin.

Take a look at any of the great tutorial videos out there to be guided through each step.

A Braided Lattice

A beautiful apple pie with a braided lattice piecrust.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

If you can braid hair, you can braid pie dough! And the gorgeous appearance it’ll give your freshly baked pie is so worth the time. Braided lattice looks beautiful even if you only do a few pieces, as shown above.

When preparing this style, cut one wide piece, and then, using your pastry wheel, divide your strip into three separate ones. You’ll then use these three pieces to create your braid. Follow the steps above to create a lattice crust, and then place your braided lattice pieces.

Using Cookie Cutters

Mini cookie cutters are a great way to add lovely textures to any holiday pie. Mini leaf cutters work wonders, and some even come with stamps that will embed a vine into your leaves.

After you make your pie and add a lattice or traditional top layer, just add a few leaf cutouts. To secure them, brush a small amount of water onto your pie dough, and then press down on each leaf.

You can also use cutters to cut shapes out of your top layer of pie dough. This creates a fresh, modern look, but try to stick with simple shapes—the more detailed or fussy the cutout, the more likely the shape will appear blob-like as the crust cooks.

Making Roses

Three separate images demonstrating how to create a rose using leftover pie dough.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

This trick certainly takes a bit more work and time, but if you’re willing, it’s worth it! Roll out your dough, and then, using a small, round cookie cutter, cut multiple circles.

Have a small bowl with a clean and new paintbrush ready. Using a small amount of dough, form a pointed piece that resembles a teardrop. Take your first petal and roll around your teardrop piece of dough.

Continue adding petals with a very small amount of water. You want to add a new petal that overlaps the previous one halfway. Add about five petals to each rose.

These make a lovely decorative addition, but again, they do take some time and practice. They also look spectacular on unbaked pie dough, but might lose a bit of crispness after baking.

Making a Special Crust Edge

Crimping or fluting the edge of your pie crust is a great way to secure the top and bottom crusts together, while also creating a lovely appearance. You should never skip this step, as it’s a way to contain the filling of your pie. Nobody wants an oven mess!

You can crimp the edge with a fork or press down with your thumb at an angle to create a rope-like appearance.

Add an Egg Wash and Some Sparkling Sugar

Brushing an egg wash onto a prepared pie crust.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

There’s also something beautiful about keeping things simple. If you choose to make a standard pie crust topping and flute your edge with a rope crust or fork crimp, that’s completely fine, too.

However, always be sure to add an egg wash to the pie crust before baking. Skipping this step can leave your crust looking rather stark. Just beat one egg with one or two tablespoons of water. Then, use a pastry brush to lightly spread your egg wash onto the dough.

For some extra glimmer, sprinkle some sparkling or decorator sugar over your egg-washed dough. This will give your pie a golden appearance and a sweet, crunchy mouthfeel.

It’s the perfect finish to many fresh pastries!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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