Pie

The Double Puff Pastry Pie of Your Dreams (Is Easy to Make in Real Life)

November 14, 2017

There are a million reasons to love a pithivier, especially as we near the holidays. This dessert can be insanely easy to make if you’re avoiding any dough DIY-ing. Just grab a high-end puff pastry from the freezer section (Dufour is my favorite). Your local bakery might even sell sheets of puff pastry around the holidays! That said, you can also make your own puff pastry for that extra special touch. Either way, this filling is simple and quick, but packs a ton of flavor, a nice balance of sweet and tangy. The real wow effect comes from a few finishing techniques, which are simple to pull off and can be tweaked to suit your baking whims. This particular baked good makes a great substitute or compliment to pie on your Thanksgiving dessert table, but is also excellent on its own as a holiday breakfast.

I contain multitudes (of cranberries). Photo by Ren Fuller

OK, What Is a Pithivier?

A pithivier is a freeform, double-crusted puff pastry pie. Its filling can be either sweet or savory, and it can be shaped as a full-size dessert or as small, individual portions. Traditionally, a sweet pithivier has an almond filling—but really, anything goes. It is important to note that fillings shouldn’t be high in moisture. When the pastry absorbs a lot of moisture in the early stages of baking, it creates a less crisp, slightly spongy interior. But if the filling isn’t too wet, the pastry will rise to be nice, light, and airy, with a crispy, golden brown exterior. Pithiviers are traditionally decorated with a series of score marks that are applied with a sharp paring knife. While this is totally optional and makes the pithivier no more delicious, it does create a beautiful effect—and with minimal effort. If your filling requires heating, it should be fully cooled before you begin to assemble the pithivier.

Shaping the Pithivier

Whether you’re using homemade puff pastry dough or thawed frozen dough, it will need to be rolled out. You’ll need two sheets of puff pastry—one for the base and one for the top. Yes, store-bought dough arrives in sheets, but rolling it out gets rid of any indentations from packaging and makes the puff a little thinner, which will lead to a crispier pithivier later. Roll out each piece of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick.

Fresh or thawed, there will be rolling involved. Photo by Ren Fuller

Cut each piece into a 9-inch circle. You can use a plate or a cake pan as a guide, or you can just freehand it—a wonky pithivier is still a delicious pithivier. Gently transfer one circle to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Be precise—or don't! Photo by Ren Fuller

Spoon the filling into the center of the dough, then spread into an even layer, leaving one inch of dough exposed on the sides all the way around. Lightly brush the exposed dough with water.

Leave that edge clear. You'll be dabbing some water onto it. Photo by Ren Fuller

Gently transfer the remaining circle of dough on top of the filling—the sides should match up pretty neatly—and press with your fingers to seal it up.

Half a smiley face? Photo by Ren Fuller
Seal it up. Photo by Ren Fuller

Use a fork with floured tines to crimp the edges, and press (firmly!) to seal the two pieces of dough together.

Flour that fork. Photo by Ren Fuller

Finishing and Scoring

The pithivier gets its signature look from decorative scoring on the surface of the top piece of pastry, achieved by lightly cutting designs into the surface of the dough. The cuts only just pierce the surface of the dough, and the designs can really be anything—a series of lines or spirals, or whatever you like. Another thing to factor in is the egg wash. It’s great to egg wash a pithivier to get it super golden brown in the oven. If you egg wash the pastry before you score it, the score marks will be more vivid; they’ll be a lighter color than the rest of the golden dough, and really stand out. If you egg wash the pastry after you score it, the markings will be more subtle, more like a pattern in the dough rather than a series of scores. Both look great, so it’s really just about what look you’re going for.

Just scratch the surface. Photo by Ren Fuller

I like to create a sort of herringbone pattern on mine: I draw a series of vertical lines about 1 1/2 inches apart (I’m careful, but I don’t measure!). Then I draw short, diagonal lines in between the vertical lines in opposite directions, so they meet and make a chevron-ish shape. I go back and forth with the pre- or post- egg washing; this cranberry pithivier seemed dressier because it's so the holiday-ready, so I egg washed it before I scored it to create a stronger look.

This is the result of an egg wash pre-scoring. Photo by Ren Fuller

Baking

Underbaking is the real enemy of a pithivier. An underbaked pithivier will be soggy and soft, while a properly baked pithivier will be crispy and flaky! A high temperature is also important to achieve the ideal browning of the crust. I bake my pithivier at 400° F for 30-35 minutes. The pithivier should be very (and evenly!) golden brown; it's better to err on the side of dark than it is to pull it from the oven too soon. Remember, very brown = very crisp and flaky!

Let me cool down first; amazing people is no easy task. Photo by Ren Fuller

Serving

It’s best to let the pithivier cool a bit before slicing and serving. Cooling allows the filling to set, but also allows the pastry to firm up. The filling will release steam as the pithivier cools, allowing the pastry to be at it’s crispest once it’s had a few minutes of cooling time. I say 20 minutes minimum, but you can also let it cool completely before serving.

23 Comments

Rita C. December 4, 2017
I made this with frozen cherries and dried cherries. I should have drained the thawed cherries first. The filling was too wet, but all in all, it was delicious and I will definitely make another one!
 
carol December 4, 2017
Can you make a day ahead?
 
TJ_B November 22, 2017
So the fresh or frozen cranberries are neither cooked nor chopped before being combined with the rehydrated dried cranberries? They are all essentially baked raw inside the pastry?
 
s_bermingham November 22, 2017
Hi! Can this be made the day before? Or can it be made and then frozen? Thanks!
 
Suzanna November 19, 2017
How come nobody is answering these questions?? They probably want to make this for Thanksgiving.
 
catie November 19, 2017
I was just thinking the same thing, Suzanna!!
 
Author Comment
Erin M. November 20, 2017
Thanks Suzanna and Catie! Sorry for the delay in my reply!
 
Linda November 19, 2017
Can I make this with un=sweetened cranberries? How should I modify the recipe? Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Erin M. November 20, 2017
Hi Linda - you sure could - you might want to add another 1/4 - 1/3 cup additional brown sugar to the filling!
 
food52fan November 19, 2017
This looks both beautiful and delicious!
 
Rick B. November 19, 2017
Should steam vents be added before baking? Or is it not necessary because it isn't in the oven long enough to have too much leakage at the seams? Thank you!
 
catie November 19, 2017
This is an excellent question. And so???????
 
Author Comment
Erin M. November 20, 2017
Hi Rick! It’s not necessary to add steam vents for a traditional pithivier - though you absolutely could add a small x to the surface to ensure a crispier end product!
 
Suzanne B. November 19, 2017
Can this be used for pumpkin pie?? It looks wonderfully different and delicious.<br />
 
Author Comment
Erin M. November 20, 2017
Hi there! Pumpkin filling would be trickier because it’s traditionally a bit wetter - can make it harder for the puff pastry to set on the interior without being a bit soggy!
 
Nikkitha B. November 15, 2017
Erin, you make the scariest-looking foods seem fun and do-able!
 
Author Comment
Erin M. November 15, 2017
Thank you! <3 Erin's the name, baking pep talks are my game!
 
catie November 19, 2017
The recipe says to place the rolled-out puff pastry onto "prepared parchment paper"...but I can't seem to find any mention of the referenced preparation of same...????
 
Bruce H. November 19, 2017
buy parchment paper in the grocery store near AL foil and waxed paper
 
catie November 19, 2017
I possess parchment paper. My question refers to the way in which the parchment paper is to be "prepared"...? She mentions putting the pastry on the "prepared parchment paper". How does one "prepare" parchment paper? Typically, I simply cut it off the roll and stick it in the pan.
 
Author Comment
Erin M. November 20, 2017
Sorry, Catie - a clarification has been made to the recipe! Thanks for pointing it out!
 
catie November 20, 2017
Thanks, Erin! xoxo
 
James T. November 15, 2017
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