How to make bakery-worthy pie crust designs

Beautiful pie, right this way!

By Erin Jeanne McDowell
Published October 3, 2021 1:30PM (EDT)
 (Ren Fuller / Food52)
(Ren Fuller / Food52)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

One of the first articles I wrote for Food52 many moons ago was about my favorite subject: making pies — and making them pretty, to boot. I covered a few decorative edges in that post, but I figured it was about time for a second go-around. There are so many ways to crimp the edge of your beautiful pie crust — calling that index finger! — and with strawberry season nearly behind us, and stone fruit, berry, and pumpkin pie ahead, I wanted to give step-by-step guides for 9 pretty edges.

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How to make beautiful pie crust designs 

Use a pie recipe you love.

This All Buttah Pie Dough is a classic. It'll turn out expertly flaky, so long as you let it chill well before rolling. Which brings me to the next point . . .

Make sure your pastry is well-chilled.

Start with cold dough, then chill it after you've rolled it out and lined the pan. I'll even chill it with the excess hanging all about before I trim it, which helps the dough relax and prevents shrinking! I'm a fan of chilling it in the freezer, but be warned: If your dough is too cold, it will be difficult to work with and may be likely to crack.

Give yourself some excess. 

This is one of my favorite pie tips, and it's specifically helpful for beautiful edges. When you go to trim away the excess dough, leave yourself about 1 inch of excess from the edge of the pie plate. Fold this excess under itself, then press gently all the way around to seal it and make it flush with the edge of the pie plate.

This excess serves a few purposes. First, it creates a thicker "wall" of dough at the edge, which is less likely to fall or shrink in the oven, especially if properly adhered to the pie plate with a well-sealed crimp. Second, it makes it easier to apply decorative edges. Thicker dough gives you more to work with, and it's more likely to hold its shape in the oven. Last but not least, it gives you more crunchy, flaky pie dough at the end of each slice — and that's seriously delicious. I pity the fool who tries to cheat me out of as much crust as I can possibly get on my pie, so I like to build in a little extra right from the get-go.

Rotate the pie plate while you work. 

As you crimp, rotate the pie plate occasionally rather than stretching your arms or adjusting your body to work around the edge. You'll get more even crimps if you stay in the same spot!

After you've got your edge, get it even colder. 

Once you've applied your decorative edge, go all out with the chilling — the freezer included. The colder the pie dough is when it hits the oven, the more likely it will be to retain its shape.

Use a pie plate with a wider edge. 

This is a trouble-shooting tip for those who just can't seem to keep their edges from sloping down once they hit the oven. A lot of pie plates have almost no edge at all, and that means there's a higher margin for error. If your dough isn't sealed strongly, crimped tightly, or chilled thoroughly, it may slide down in the heat of the oven. But if you use a pie plate with an edge (at least a 1/2-inch wide), you've given yourself a (literal) support system! Once you get the hang of it, you can make a gorgeous pie with any plate you wish, but it's a great place to start if you've had trouble!

* * *

Classic Finger Crimp/Tiny Crimp


Photo by Linda Xiao 

This crimp is my go-to, and the one you see on many a beautiful pie. It's made by using your fingers to make a V-shaped crimped edge all around the pie. The wider you hold your fingers, the larger the crimp will be; the more narrow your fingers, the smaller the crimps. I normally hold my fingers about 1/2 inch apart for the classic look, but recently, I've been loving the polished look of an even smaller crimp, holding my fingers as close together as I can to make a really teeny (cute!) crimp. Whatever you choose, the process is the same:


Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. Your dominant hand will be doing the bulk of the action, and your non-dominant hand will be providing the shape. Use the index finger of your dominant hand, and use the index finger and thumb of your non dominant hand to form a V shape.
  2. Start anywhere on the pie. Push down and slightly outward from the inside of the pie with your dominant index finger, and let the V shape of your non-dominant hand form the crimp shape from the outside edge of the dough as you push. I press inward with the V shape, but only slightly; the main action should be coming from your dominant hand. The wider your fingers are, the larger the shape will be.
  3. Start the next crimp where the first one ended, and work your way around the pie. When you're finished, you can go back around and adjust any misshapen crimps as needed.

* * *

Rope Crimp


Photo by Linda Xiao 

I love, love, love the look of this edge. People who are super-skilled can do this look with one hand, using their thumb and index finger to make the shape all the way around. But I find it's easier to get a uniform look using the index fingers of both hands.


Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. To make this crimp, you'll use your two index fingers held parallel next to each other at a slight angle. Squeeze the dough between the inner edges of your fingers, raising it up in the center and flattening it a bit on both sides.
  2. Rotate the pie, then repeat the process, being sure to hold your fingers at the same angle as you did the first time. Start the next crimp where the first one ends, and work all the way around the pie. When you're finished, you can go back around and adjust any misshapen crimps as needed.

* * *

Scalloped Edge


Photo by Linda Xiao 

This edge looks rather delicate, I think — and I first learned it as the traditional edging style for the classic pithier pastry. But like many décor techniques, it totally works for pie too! The key to this edge is well-chilled pastry. Warm pastry won't hold its shape at all! The size of the edge is pretty much determined by the size of your finger, so it's not one you can make wider or smaller as desired.


Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. Your dominant hand will form the initial shape. Use the index finger of your dominant hand to press imprints into the edge of the dough. Start the next imprint where the first one ends, and go all the way around the pie.
  2. Hold a paring knife in your non-dominant hand. Pick one of the indentations, and put your finger back inside one of the indentations and press again, but this time, hold the blade of the paring knife in between the indentation you're working on and the one next to it. Pull the sharp knife gently towards the center of the pie, while pushing outward with your finger. This will help define the rounded part of the scalloped edge. Repeat all the way around the pie!

* * *

Crimp 'N Fork


Photo by Linda Xiao 

I love this one, too. It combines the looks of two classics: a finger crimp and a forked edge. In order for this look to work properly, you need to set the crimps a little further apart, giving yourself plenty of room to apply the fork marks later. I also find it's especially helpful to use a smaller fork, with tines that are a little closer together — but you can use whatever you've got!


Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. This edge starts a lot like a classic crimp, but in reverse. Your dominant hand will be doing the bulk of the action, and your non-dominant hand will be providing the shape. Use the index finger of your dominant hand, and use the index finger and thumb of your non-dominant hand to form a V shape.
  2. Start anywhere on the pie. Your index finger will work from the outside of the pie and push inward, and the V will form the shape from the inside edge of the dough. Push down and slightly inward with your dominant index finger, and let the V shape of your non-dominant hand form the crimp shape as you push. I press outward with the V shape, but only slightly; the main action should be coming from your dominant hand. Leave some space between the finger crimps (I usually opt for about 1/2 inch between each crimp), so you've got room for the fork crimps.
  3. Once you've crimped the pie all the way around, use your index finger to press the excess dough in between crimps flat to the edge of the pie plate. This makes it easier to make the fork crimps in a few moments!
  4. Press floured fork tines onto the dough you just flattened in between each crimp. Press firmly, but not so hard you hit the pie plate. Continue all the way around the pie!

* * *

Foldover


Photo by Linda Xiao 

This easy, breezy look is how many galettes are finished — but why should they get to have all the fun? This look is perfect for a traditional pie, too, and gives a little extra crust-to-filling action for all my fellow crust-lovers out there.


Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. When you line the pie plate, be sure you leave at least 1 inch (and up to 1 1/2 inches) of excess dough all the way around the plate. If you want a more precise look, trim the rough edges away with scissors; otherwise, leave it as it is!
  2. Add filling to the pie, ideally filling it so it's flush with the edge of the pie plate. Once the filling is inside, fold one piece of the dough over onto the filling. Fold the next piece over, allowing it to overlap on the first fold as needed. Repeat all the way around the pie!

 

* * *

Crosshatch


Photo by Linda Xiao 

This is a nice rustic look for pies. It's as easy as the traditional fork crimp, with a little something extra. I like this look on double-crust pies, too! Different forks have different widths of tines (and spaces between those tines); you might find that you like the look from certain forks better than others.


Crimp first vertically, then horizontally. (Like the crosshatch on top of peanut butter cookies!) Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. Start by making a traditional fork crimp all around the pie, holding the fork tines vertically along the dough (i.e. as though making a cross with the tines and the crust). Press floured fork tines into the pie firmly, but not so hard you mash the dough down and hit the pie plate.
  2. Press around the pie again, this time holding the fork tines horizontally (i.e. opposite the last crimp, following the crust all the way around). Press with just the edges of the fork, then start the next press where the last one ended. You'll end up with little boxes of crosshatched dough.
  3. Sometimes, pressing with a fork can cause the dough to become a bit uneven at the edges of the pie. If this happens, chill the crust after you do the crosshatch, then use a paring knife to cut the excess dough away, holding it flush to the edge while you cut.

* * *

Fork Chevron


Photo by Linda Xiao 

This is my favorite fork crimp because it looks so snazzy but it's insanely easy. Same rules about the size of the fork go as above with the crosshatch!


Angle right, angle left. Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. Hold a floured fork at a 45-degree angle toward the right, to make diagonal lines on the pie. The tine furthest to the left will make a long line and the tine furthest to the right will make a short line. Press firmly into the dough, but not so hard that you mash the dough and hit the pie plate.
  2. Rotate the fork to hold it at a 45-degree angle, this time toward the left. This time, you'll make diagonal lines the other way. In theory, the lines will line up to make a triangular or chevron-like pattern (but even if they don't line up exactly, it still looks cool)! Press firmly into the dough.
  3. Repeat this process all the way around the pie, first by angling right then again by angling left. If the dough becomes a bit uneven at the edges of the pie, chill the crust after you do the chevron, then use a sharp knife to cut the excess dough away, holding it flush to the edge while you cut.

* * *

Spoon Scallop


Photo by Linda Xiao 

Forks aren't the only utensil that can help make a pretty edge. This simple scallop is so easy, and looks great on hand pies, too! Different spoons will have different looks when pressed into the pie: Rounder-edged spoons will leave a swoopier look, while pointier-edged spoons will give a sharper look.

Spoon me.
Spoon me. Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. Coming from the outside of the pie, press the edge of a floured spoon into the dough, close to the inner edge of the pie plate's edge. Repeat all the way around the pie.
  2. Press the spoon into the dough again, this time just below the impressions you made the first time, making two little scallop shapes.
  3. If the dough becomes a bit uneven at the edges of the pie, chill the crust, then use a paring knife to cut the excess dough away, holding it flush to the edge while you cut.

* * *

Checkerboard


Photo by Linda Xiao 

This is a fun old-school edge that's commonly used for chess and other custard pies, though looks great on all kinds. You'll want a trusty pair of scissors (one of my favorite tools for all pies!) on hand to help you achieve the look. You can successfully do the edge before you fill the pie, but I personally find it easier to fill the pie first, then finish the edge.


Photo by Linda Xiao 
  1. When you line the pie plate, leave 1 inch of excess all the way around, then thoroughly chill the pie. Once the dough is nice and cold, use scissors to trim the dough flush with the edge of the pie plate.
  2. Pick a place to start, gently lift up the edge of the dough, and use scissors to cut anywhere between 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the dough. Make another cut of the same size 1/2 to 1 inch in either direction from the first cut, making a square shape. Repeat this all the way around the pie, making sure you have an even number of squares when you're finished.
  3. Fill the pie, then begin to finish the edge. Fold one of the squares over the filling. Skip the next square, leaving it sitting on the edge of the pie plate. Then fold the next square over the filling — and continue, folding alternating squares over the filling all around the pie.

* * *

10 pretty pie crust designs

1. Black Bottom Cherry "Sunflower" Pie

Take a walk through a sunflower field in the form of this blooming fruit pie recipe. Use a leaf cookie cutter to create small and large pie petals and arrange them atop the chocolate-cherry filling.

2. Fresh Blueberry Pie

Sometimes we're all about over-the-top pie crust designs that totally wow. But simple can be appealing too! This "open-faced" blueberry pie recipe has a single crust shell that features a classic finger-crimped edge.

3. Deep-Dish Cherry Pie

This beautiful pie crust design is nothing too fussy or fancy, but it's elevated based on the fact that it's formed in a springform pan rather than a regular pie dish, resulting in more filling than ever before.

4. Peach, Cherry, and Mint Pie

A lattice topping can do no wrong. Not only does it look beautiful, but it provides plenty of coverage for crust lovers. And yet, the peach and cherry filling bursts beneath the seams, giving readers a peek at what's on the inside.

5. Triple Berry "Rose" Pie

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet as this berry pie filled with strawberriesblueberries, and raspberries. Use Erin's single-crust pie dough recipe to form a beautiful flower crust on top. The key, she says, is keeping the pie dough as cold as possible so that it's easy to shape exactly how you please.

6. Concord Grape Galette

Slab pies and galettes are rustic and free form, but that doesn't mean they're ugly. In fact, leave it to Erin Jeanne McDowell to make a simply stunning one using diagonal strips of dough.

7. Peach Butter Slab "Hydrangea" Pie

"Clusters of baked tiny 'flowers' made from pie crust make it pretty, but also add a nice crunch without the fuss of a double crust," writes recipe developer Erin Jeanne McDowell.

8. Cranberry Pithivier

Use a paring knife to score the puff pastry with a decorative pattern of your choosing. The pattern will be more subtle and the pastry will be evenly golden brown.

9. Epic Single Crust Apple Pie

There's only a single layer bottom crust for this all-American apple pie, but that's because the filling is unlike any apple pie we've met before. Erin arranges cinnamon-sugar apple slices in the form of a rose and bakes it for a show-stopping dessert.

10. Honey Pistachio Pie with Saffron Meringue Dahlia

"This pie isn't baked in a pie plate; it's a freeform pie that uses puff pastry as the base. The filling is easy to make and is not too sweet, which makes a saffron meringue the perfect finishing touch," writes Erin.


Erin Jeanne McDowell

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