Bringing any sort of meal to a chef’s house is intimidating – even more so when the chef is your father! My first foray into decorative lattices came when I was 26, the first year I was tasked with providing the family desserts for Thanksgiving. Although I was fairly confident that I could replicate my dad’s recipes, I wanted to do something to make the dessert feel like it was my own. To put my own stamp on the pies, I began crafting unique lattices, and pairing each pie with a recommended wine. It has been such a fun, and creative outlet – and looks incredibly impressive, while being incredibly easy to do (I promise).
It was a hit. Each year, I try to come up with new and different ways to decorate my pies – from braid, to polka dots, to hearts, to herringbone patterns! Read on to find out some of my best tips for a show stopping pie crust, as well our favorite pie and wine pairing combinations!
Make sure your filling is as cool as possible. Obviously, you will start by lining your pie dish with the bottom crust, and then adding your filling – but don’t hesitate to let that yummy apple pie filling (or whichever variety you’re making) cool off a little bit in the pan before adding it to your prepared pie dish. If the filling is too hot, as you are laying your lattice down, it will warm the dough so much that it falls apart, gets gooey, or just won’t come up off of the filling.
Make sure your dough is kneaded well and pliable – but still cold. I’ll admit, this might be the toughest part of the entire pie making process! You want your dough to be warm and kneaded enough that is is pliable, so you can easily roll it out, but not so warm that it begins to break and dry out. The more you touch the dough, the more likely it is that you will damage your crust. A good rule of thumb for this is to make sure your dough is smooth (that’s how you’ll know it’s been probably kneaded) but also just tough enough that you have to apply some pressure when rolling the dough out. You want your dough to be in a rough circle.
Don’t overdo the flour. Flour is integral to rolling out the dough properly – but don’t over do it! A light dusting will get the job done. You should only be dusting the surface of the rolled out dough as you flip it – not adding any flour to the actual kneading process.
Plan your design – and work fast! This is the most labor intensive part. Crafting a pie lattice requires you to move quickly, before the dough becomes too warm, or begins to break. This is especially true if you are working with a filling that is even slightly warm. To find inspiration, I typically look on Instagram, Pinterest…or will even check out weaving diagrams! To get started, focus on the traditional lattice, 3 strand braids, or a herringbone pattern if you’re feeling fancy. To ensure that the strips are roughly the same width, sometimes I will use a ruler to guide me – but sometimes I will just eyeball it! It all depends on your comfort level.
Not feeling up to braiding or weaving? Try Chef Kevin Bechtel’s recommendation of using cookie cutters. Even just dots layered in circles make a run of the mill pie feel a little bit extraordinary!
Cut your dough strips – and then chill them! I can not over-emphasize this. Whether you are preparing to braid, weave, or even just lay down dough that’s been cut with cookie cutters, I strongly recommend laying these strips out on a cookie sheet and chilling them for about 10 minutes before you start assembling your lattice. The extra cold just helps the process go a little quicker. As a general rule of thumb, anytime you experience dough breaking or stretching, you should immediately pop your dough back in the fridge for a 5 minute “time out”.
Laurel Ridge’s Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Guide: