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 pie crust, and with strawberry season nearly behind us, and stone fruit/berry/everything-delicious season ahead, I wanted to give step-by-step guides for 9 pretty edges.
First, a few general guidelines for decorative pie edges:
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.
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:
This crimp is my go-to, and the one you see on many a 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:
Your dominant hand will be doing the bulk of the action, and your non-dominant hand will be providing the shape. Use the pointer finger of your dominant hand, and use the pointer finger and thumb of your non dominant hand to form a V shape.
Start anywhere on the pie. Push down and slightly outward from the inside of the pie with your dominant pointer 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.
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.
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 pointer finger to make the shape all the way around. But I find it’s easier to get a uniform look using the pointer fingers of both hands.
To make this crimp, you’ll use your two pointer 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.
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.
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.
Your dominant hand will form the initial shape. Use the pointer 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.
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 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
I love this edge. 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!
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 pointer finger of your dominant hand, and use the pointer finger and thumb of your non-dominant hand to form a V shape.
Start anywhere on the pie. Your pointer 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 pointer 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.
Once you’ve crimped the pie all the way around, use your pointer 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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 paring knife to cut the excess dough away, holding it flush to the edge while you cut.
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.
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.
Press the spoon into the dough again, this time just below the impressions you made the first time, making two little scallop shapes.
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.
This is a fun old-school edge that’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
What's your crimp of choice? (And what's the first pie you'll use it on this summer?) Tell us in the comments.
This article was originally published in June 2016, but fancy pies never go out of style, so we're sharing it again.
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.