I grew up in the sticks, in a small town in New England where the annual country fair was the biggest event of the year. At this fair, the pie contest was taken very seriously by bakers from all over the state, and pies were judged by both taste and presentation. As a fledgling baker, I remember seeing those blue ribbon beauty crusts on display to the public and feeling humbled. The pie tent was magnificent; overflowing with evenly crimped edges, beautiful cutout patterns, perfectly sectioned squares formed by a carefully placed lattice. It was no place for my early attempts at pie crust design.
As I improved as a baker, I discovered the unavoidable connection between proper pie dough technique and getting beautiful crusts. By following all the best practices for making pie dough, I discovered that I was able to get much better results when shaping and baking (If you are unsure about these best practices, take a moment to check out Kenji's The Food Lab: The Science of Pie Dough).
No matter what design you're shooting for, once you've rolled out your dough it is imperative that it be keep cold as you cut it and shape it. This can mean making multiple return trips to the fridge and cranking the AC if necessary. The colder the dough, the better it will hold its shape when introduced to the heat of the oven. All the fuss is definitely worth it when you get a crust with a texture as beautiful as the design itself.
For some inspiration and step-by-step instructions for ways to make any pie look beautiful, click through the slideshow.
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