Ain't she purrrrrty.
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Setting aside a couple hours to make an intricately-designed pie is a great thing to do. Before you dismiss this preposterous notion as a gargantuan waste of time and energy and head to the bakery section of your nearest grocery store for a pie that requires no effort, hear me out. There are certain culinary creations that provide a sense of fulfillment that I cannot even begin to describe, and a decorated, warm pie falls in the center of that category.

It looks super intimidating, I know—the braiding, the leaf cut-outs, the crimped crust. It’s pretty easy to look at an intensely-decorated pie and deem it a Pinterest fluke, convincing yourself that there’s no way any creation that you laid your hands on would come out anything like that. First of all, cut yourself some slack. Sure, your first go-around might not be ready for the cover of a magazine, but it’s not going to be a tragic mishap, either. If you’re nervous about taking that leap of faith and testing out your pie dough skills, here are a couple tips to ease your worries and ensure a beautiful, party-worthy dessert. If there is one thing that I can promise you about this pastry adventure, it is that your pie will most definitely be perfectly imperfect.

Watch Now: How to Make a Lattice Pie

Always Work With Chilled Dough

Everyone likes to get uptight about temperature when it comes to pastry, but if you’re going to be fussing with pie dough, it’s really important to keep it chilly. If it’s too warm, the butter will start to melt, and it will be extremely cumbersome to get your dough to cooperate with the shapes you are asking it to become. If you step away for a moment or you’re not working with it at that very second, put the pie dough in the fridge to keep it cold. This is also an opportune time to mention that store-bought pie dough is typically much easier to work with, so if that’s a shortcut that speaks to you, then go ahead and do what you gotta do.

It’s Not Just About the Braid

mr-Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie Image
Credit: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Pam Lolley; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Sure, a braided lattice is pretty dang impressive, but there’s more to beautiful pies than braids. If the 3-strand weave gives you anxiety just thinking about it, then opt for a simpler twist like we did for the Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie pictured above (it looks just as stunning and requires way less precision) or crimp the edges of the crust. Both add an exciting element of texture and depth, without making you break a sweat over a perfect braid.

Play Around With Different Shapes and Sizes

When it comes to the lattice, there are no rules! Atop your filling, lay a mix of lattice strips that are thick and thin, straight or diagonal, spaced out or tightly woven. It makes for an altogether more exciting, less predictable, and undeniably unique creation.

Use Decorative Pie Cutters

mr-Cheddar Apple-Pear Pie Image
Credit: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Pam Lolley; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Pssstttt...we’re going to let you in a little secret—those picture-perfect pies on Instagram outfitted with leaves, pumpkins, and flowers (such as the Cheddar Apple-Pear Pie above) are not as impressive as you are set up to believe. Those jaw-dropping embellishments are simply the product of these easy-to-use pie cutters. Not only can these adorable shapes add a pop of fun, but they can also hide any blemishes on top of a lattice gone wrong (we’ve all been there…).

Use an Egg Wash to Connect Your Decorations

Once you’ve got your dough cut-outs and braided embellishments all set to go, make sure to secure them onto the crust or lattice topping with an egg wash. This way, your decorations will stay secure while the pie bakes, and you don’t have to deal with parts of the crust breaking loose in the oven.*

Take Your Time

This should go without saying, but this is not a project for a busy weeknight. In fact, this is one of those kitchen products that if you’re working under any sort of time constraint, it probably won’t be super enjoyable. Etch out a block of hours, invite a friend over (or don’t—I can get down with some pie-making in solitude), put on some music, and enjoy it!

Remember That It is a Pie

Like anything in life, you are always going to be your own worst critic. I can promise that if you show up to a potluck with a lattice-topped pie, your friends are going to be impressed and very thankful no matter what. If you missed a weave or your braids are a little loose, don’t sweat it. No one is going to notice, and when they bite into it and taste rich, buttery, flaky goodness, they sure as hell aren’t going to care.

*Regardless, it’s always a good idea to send your pie in the oven atop a rimmed baking sheet for any casualties or overflowing juices that are bound to occur while it cooks.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane