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Help me beautify my pie crust edges

I have been doing well in terms of taste with my pie crusts, but in the aesthetic department, let's just say I have the more rustic look mastered.

If I want that sophisticated look particularly for a single crust pie, what do I do? I can't seem to roll pie crust out in a circle (I can roll other doughs in a circle) and the edges come out dry, craggly, and uneven, making it a tough place to start. What can I do when rolling it out to make the whole thing stay in a circle and keep the edges well-behaved?

I'd appreciate suggestions.

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  1. Don't roll it. I don't roll out a one crust pie, I pat it in the pan. Assuming you have enough crust and it is pliable enough (got enough water?), extend it to the very edge of the pie dish and flute with two thumbs. Piece of cake, or pie, to master.

    1. I don't know if you'd consider my crusts "sophisticated" but I think they aren't bad looking. (see picture attached...unbaked crust) But I don't try to get the entire crust into a circle. My crust recipe is generously sized, so I just roll it out until I have the middle area bigger than my pie tin, plop the whole thing in there and after I have it smoothed down into the tin I just trim the ragged edges off. So none of the dry cracked edges end up on my pie at all. Does that make sense?

      1. We each have our own methods. I find that pie crust is easier to roll out if it is put between two pieces of wax paper. I slightly dampen the bottom of the bottom sheet to keep it from slipping on the board. When fitting the bottom crust in the pie plate, I let it hang over the top of the pan a bit. If neccessary, trim to about 1/2 " and fold that under itself. Then I flute by pushing/pinching the dough between two fingers on one hand with one finger of the other.

        1. I bought a small-tiny sized cookie cutter (leaf shaped) and cut out a few dozen leaves then attach with water all around the edges of my pie- even if it is a 2 crust pie- place them ontop of the crimped portion of crust. You just have to make sure once they start to cook cover them with foil so they don't burn. Your pies will look very professional. If your a real perfectionist like I tend to be- buy a little larger version of the same cookie cutter and place the larger leave(s) on the top of pie. Your pie looks like you have appliqued on top of it.

          1. When you wrap your dough to refrigerate it, make sure it is in the nearest to perfectly round disk you can manage. Don't try to roll out the dough straight from the fridge. That's a recipe for hopelessly cracked edges. If you're too impatient to let the dough warm up some (like me) try giving it a few really good whacks with your rolling pin to make the dough pliant.

            Flour your surface evenly, roll from the center outwards and - most importantly - give the dough a quarter turn after each roll. A little tiresome but it helps you catch any spots that are going out of round. You can stop turning when the dough gets too awkward to move easily.

            You're on your own for fluting, though. After years of trying I still always manage to put my thumb through the dough when pinching.

            1. I never try to roll my pie crust out in a circle, as it isn't going to happen. Roll it out oversize and trim it, making sure that you leave 1" margin after it is in the baking dish. Fold the cut edges under, and crimp them with your thumb and finger. Keeping the dough chilled will solve many of the problems associated with making fruit pies.

              If I am feeling artistic, I do as Wawajb does and uses the excess pastry to make appliqués.

              If I am feeling masochistic, I try to make a true lattice crust, but that is quite rare, as they are a PITA to weave, and usually end up breaking. Very few people understand the effort that went into making the true lattice crust.

              Brushing with a egg wash, and then applying bakers sugar gives a nice finish. You can also apply a glaze of warm apricot jam after baking for a glossier European finish.

              1. I roll my chilled crust larger than the pan it will bake in. Flour, roll and quarter turn techniques work for me. Though, I have used wide layers of either wax paper or plastic wrap if my surface is questionable, such as tile with wide grout seams or if my dough is unusually dry or too gummy. I roll the dough onto my pin and unroll it on top of the pie pan, gently pushing (though not stretching it) into the bottom of the pan.

                I take my kitchen shears to trim off excess dough leaving about 1/2 inch overhang which I roll/tuck under itself and to press to seal and make a "neat/clean" raised edge. I roll the scraps into a disk in plastic wrap and place into the freezer while I make the pie shell.

                To make the decorative "twisted rope" kind of border I take my two thumbs, angled 40 degrees?, I pinch with my thumbnails facing each other with the dough between. My right thumb pushes down and stays stationary, my left thumb pushes down the on the "neat" edge and against the stationary thumb. I then lift up my right thumb and place it against the last groove & push again with the left thumb on the “clean” edge. It’s really fast and easy once you have the movement down, it take less than a minute to crimp a whole pie edge.

                When I'm done with forming the pie shell, I place that in the freezer while take out the dough scraps, roll it out thinly and hand cut out leaves with a paring knife. I take the leaves and press a dinner knife (with a slight serrated edge) on the edges of the leaves, score the center of the leaves with veins and place that leaf on a chilled dinner plate while I make the other leaves, vines, berries, etc.

                If I've made my leaves & such thin enough I can float it on top of my pumpkin pies before they head into the oven, but if they're heavy I let the pie "set" for about 15 minutes in the oven then lay the leaves on the pie in mid-bake.

                I use just random placement and a bamboo skewer to help place the vines & “berries” which I make with drinking straws by dipping the straw in flour, and punching out a tiny circle in the dough, blowing on the end of the straw to pop out the “berry” dough.

                Maybe I should just make a youtube video because my description even sounds confusing to me.

                In the photo, I made this year’s batch of pumpkin pies sorta rushed, the heat was too high and my pie “cracked” (boo!) and I didn’t have the time to build a foil guard for the edges that browned a little more than the center. Oh, and I know they sell foil guards for pies too!

                p.s. The leaf technique looks great on double crust pies also, with an egg wash. I cut out leaves and apple shapes for my apple pies.

                I agree with the other poster that if you can find the fall leaves cookie cutters (Sur La Table usually carries them), they look great and are easier that hand cutting.

                9 Replies
                1. re: rilkeanheart

                  I was watching Martha last week (I know, but the woman knows a lot) and she used a larger pot lid to cut her pastry in a perfect shape. Unfortunately, I missed the part that said how to decide on the pan lid radius.

                  1. re: rilkeanheart

                    Gorgeous! Where did you get the cookie cutters? I don't recall seeing such nice ones?

                    1. re: JoanN

                      Thank you! I don't actually own the cookie cutters shown. I had to "free-hand" my leaves with a knife but you can find those cutters at Sur La Table stores or online. I did quick search and found them here http://www.sugarcraft.com/catalog/coo... for you.

                      1. re: rilkeanheart

                        I think I bought some leaf ones at Williams Sonoma but I don't see them in the online catalog.

                        They now have these pop out sort:

                        They tend to have cutters like this intermittently at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods type stores or kitchen store outlets.

                        1. re: brittle peanut

                          Another place to get leaf cutters of every size and description is at Sweet Celebrations. (Used to be Maid of Scandinavia.) You need to get their paper catalog, as it is extensive (everything imaginable for baking, candymaking, etc.) and very little of it is on-line.

                          Quesiton for you rilkeanheart -- I see you baked your pie on a baking stone. Is that for more even baking or for more heat? Do you do that just with custard pies or with everything?

                          I was hearing at a class the other day that the baking stones can promote more even baking because the temperature in the oven doesn't fluctuate as much when the oven door is opened.

                          1. re: karykat

                            I can't answer for rilkeanheart, but I bake mine directly on a baking stone to get the bottom crust more crisp and less soggy. I use a Pyrex glass pie plate, so I put it in the oven first on a low rack for about 15 minutes, then move it directly onto the stone--that way the hot stone won't crack the cold glass pie plate.

                            1. re: MsMaryMc

                              That makes a lot of sense, especially with a custard pie like pumpkin. Good to know that works.

                              I've taken my baking stone out of retirement to make the 5-minute bread that is the rage now, and it's great to know of these other uses for it.

                    2. re: rilkeanheart

                      That pie is truly beautiful and I'm terribly impressed that you did it free form. My mother and I make little tarts for Christmas filled w/ different jams, and use mini cookie cutters to cut out a piece of dough to put on top of each of them - different shape for different jams - but doesn't look nearly as great as yours ;-).

                      1. re: rilkeanheart

                        Hi--Great pumpkin pie! I'm all obsessed with making great pies. I've always thought that taking a pie to someone's house is so caring...Over the years, I've read every recipe on crust making--with no good results. then I took a one night class at adult school on pie crust making! Finally, I can do it...it really is something I had to watch rather than read. You need to see what "pea-sized" crumbs even look like! Except for now I'm wanting to make your rope crust and I don't know what your explanation looks like...did you ever make that U-tube? Thanks, Laurette Fox

                        1. These ideas are great!

                          I have tons of little cookie cutters and have put them to all sorts of good uses, but I was looking to learn how to actually do it. I would love to roll it extra big and just trim back but I always seem to run out of dough! Yikes.

                          One tip I saw from Martha -- forget lattice, just cut out little squares from the dough! Genius!

                          1. For years I made my crusts too big. Then they would flop over the edge, or break when I lifted the pie out of the oven with mitts. So be sure to form the crust just to the edge of the pie plate, no further.

                            As for crimping, I use two fingers to create a big S-shaped up-and-down fluting. Then put the pie in the refrigerator so the crust can rest and the shape can chill into place. It will hold better (not droop or melt) when it goes into the very hot oven.

                            1. Roll out your pie crust to about 13 inches for a 9 inch pie plate. Make sure the rolled dough is pressed into your pie plate and cut off any uneven excess so that you have about an inch overhang all the way around.
                              Tuck the overhang under so you have a double thickness of dough resting on the rim of the pie plate. This should create a good, sturdy edge for you to crimp, twist or do whatever you'd like to do to it.

                              1. I have found pie crust way easier to do since I got a silicone rolling pin and a silicone pastry sheet to roll out on. Both were gifts I would not have bought myself and man do I love them. I also do the autumn leaves trick sometimes. What I haven't tried is the cutter that makes a faux lattice - anybody ever try that? It looks cool in the pictures but I'm suspicious.