After a holiday meal so gigantic that only stretchy pants will do, there remains one dish that everyone looks forward to: pie. There’s pumpkin pie and pecan pie but, oh, that fruit pie. Apple, Cherry, Blueberry, Cran-apple?! Nothing is more impressive than a sugar-studded, perfectly woven lattice crust, but you balk every time because, well…you’ve also mucked it up every time. I’m here to tell you two things: You’re not alone, and you can nail a real lattice crust for the rest of your pie-bakin’ life.
Every first-time lattice ends up a mess. Even mine was hot trash. This is a fact of life. You line your pie plate with your grandma’s flaky recipe for crust, pile high the gooey fruit filling and then start coyly placing strips of the remaining crust on top of the filling. Let the weaving begin!
But before you know it, you’ve missed an “over-under” weave and have to unravel half of your work. Suddenly, your hands and crust strips are covered with fruit goo, you’ve ripped one strip, and you can’t remember where you missed the weaving pattern you went back for. At this point, many forgo weaving altogether and simple lay down a crosshatch pattern, while others pick it all off and throw it out completely. Not you. Not anymore.
To prevent lattice crust problems, you should be aware of the pie crust’s enemies: liquid and heat. The ideal crust is delicate and buttery, and typical crusts are made primarily of two components: flour and saturated fat. If you weave your lattice crust on top of warm, wet pie filling you are introducing your delicate, highly meltable crust to its greatest adversaries. The liquid in your filling will coat the lattice on contact, making it impossible to make any adjustments, let alone weave the pastry. If you’re working with a colourful filling like cherry or blueberry, you should be prepared for that colour to be all over the place. The wet filling will also make the strips extremely slippery. Again, any weaving will be impossible to do neatly under these conditions. If your filling happens to be warm — or worse, hot — the heat will quickly melt your fat, leading to floppy strips, and fast. What’s a baker to do?
How to make a perfect latticed pie crust
Build and weave your lattice off the pie. Far, far away from the pie. Build it in advance even. Then, when the pie is lined and filled and your oven is preheated, take your pre-woven lattice crust and simply slide it on top. No mess, no rushing as your crust strips start to dissolve, no trash. This method gives you the chance to fix mistakes and make adjustments. Beyond simply creating a tidy-looking pie, weaving your lattice separately allows you to take your time. Explore what kind of lattice you want: Maybe you want an open weave with plenty of air vents, or maybe you want to try that close weave with the big, wide strips you saw in that Pinterest board you totally don’t follow.
What you’ll need:
- Pie crust for lattice top, cut into strips
- Flat, rigid board (cake circle or cardboard circle)
What you’ll do:
So, you’re ready to weave a lattice. You have your top pie crust rolled out and strips are cut. The next thing you’ll grab is a cardboard cake circle of the same size or a little bigger than the diameter of the top of the pie dish you’re using. Don’t have a cake circle? Make your own! Cut a circle out of a piece of cardboard that’s roughly the size you need. The point is to have something flat, thin and stiff. A thin cutting board or the false bottom of a tart pan could work also. Dinner plates are slightly concave, and that curve tends to make the sliding process a little trickier. It can be done, but my recommendation is always a cardboard circle.
After lightly dusting some flour onto the cardboard circle, lay out your first side of pastry strips. With your remaining strips, begin weaving across. Once you’ve woven all of your strips to your satisfaction, you’ll transfer the lattice crust, still on the cardboard or whichever surface you chose, to the fridge to chill.
The high fat content in the pastry will solidify in the fridge making the lattice like a single rigid pastry raft, allowing you to slide it around in one piece. Don’t trim off any excess from your lattice yet; you might need the extra length. At this point, you can leave it in the fridge, covered, overnight — or even freeze it for a week or two if you love to plan ahead. Minimally, you’ll want to chill it for 10-20 minutes to stiffen up — the perfect amount of time to preheat the oven and pour your definitely not hot filling into your pie shell.
Once my pie is ready for the lattice top, I usually egg wash the outer edge of the bottom crust first to ensure a good seal once the top slides on. Take your lattice out of the fridge. It should be firm by now but a little flexible. The idea is to hold one side of the cardboard (not the pastry), tilt it and slide the crust off of the other side right onto the top of the pie. It’s as easy as it sounds.
If the lattice doesn’t budge it could be two possibilities: A) the strips didn’t have flour on them so they stuck to the board or B) the excess length of pastry on the side your hand is holding is hooked over the edge, grappling with the cardboard. If it’s A, after it’s been in the fridge for 10 minutes you can just pull the crust or bend the cardboard slightly, and it’ll pop up and unstick. If it’s B, gently lift that side of hanging excess and even fold it up onto itself to free that edge, like you can see in the picture below. Then the lattice should slide freely.
After the lattice is placed, your crust will still be a little cold, so you can even make micro-adjustments if anything has moved out of place. Now you can trim the edges, seal the seams, egg wash, dust with sugar, and throw it into the oven. Prepare yourself for the shower of compliments.
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