A couple weeks ago, I wrote about using the same techniques for buttercream flowers on cakes to create floral effects on pies. This week, I’m diving in a little further to make beautiful arrangements using my absolute favorite medium: pie dough!
Ready to make your own dough-quet? Here’s what you need to know:
Plan ahead. The trickiest part of making any decorative effect on a pie is keeping things cool. Be sure your dough is thoroughly chilled when you first begin working with it, and return it to the fridge as needed while you’re working. If you have naturally warm hands, you may need to give your dough a little fridge time at the end of several—or even every—step to keep things working well. Most importantly, plan to have a decent refrigeration (or freeze) time after you’ve finished assembling the pie before baking. The colder the pie is when it hits the oven, the more likely your perfect petals will stay in place and won’t “wilt” during baking.
Know your dough. I’m all about the flaky crust, but some decorative effects work better (read: more consistently) with a mealier pie crust. This basically means the fat is mixed in more before the water is added. For a flaky crust, I normally recommend mixing in fat until it’s the size of walnut halves. For a mealier dough, the fat should be mixed in until it’s the size of peas and smaller. “Mealy” sounds like an unappetizing word, but basically it’s just referring to the dough being less flaky—and less flaky means more definition in the baked pieces later.
Keep the baking even. As with all decorative finishes, it can be difficult to keep the baking even. Sometimes elements are at slightly different levels, or pieces overlap. A few tips that can help: You can opt to egg wash your pieces before placing them on the pie (warning: this can make them a bit slippery and a little harder to work with). You can also use foil to cover the areas of the pie that are browning more quickly to give the other portions more time to catch up.
How to Make a Hydrangea Pie
This is the easiest way to make a floral effect on a pie, and can be used to make a whole host of floral effects (not just hydrangeas, like I chose). For this effect, the flowers are baked separately, which makes it especially easy. Bake your pie, bake the flowers, then once they are cool, arrange the flowers on top of the baked pie. You can get creative here: Use different shapes and sizes of flowers, arrange them around the edge of the pie, or cover the whole thing.
To prep, roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Use a floral cutter to cut flower shapes from the dough, and transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet.
Once you’ve cut out all your flowers, chill them thoroughly on the baking sheet. To give your flowers a little extra oomph, you can egg wash them and finish them with a sprinkling of sugar.
I opted to arrange my tiny flower pieces in clusters across a slab pie. And I used pearl sugar on my finished hydrangeas for a little flair.
How to Make a Sunflower Pie
This is a pretty easy and fun way to make a floral effect on a pie. In this method, individual petals are cut out of the dough, then applied to the pie before baking. To complete the sunflower effect, I used chocolate chips in the center to create the seed head (my pie flavor was black bottom cherry), but you could use another ingredient as needed to match the flavor of your pie. I par-baked my pie crust, let it cool, added the filling—then added the petals!
To prep, roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. You need to cut individual petals out of the dough. I used a leaf-shaped cookie cutter for this, but you could also freehand it using a paring knife (or cut yourself a little stencil out of paper!). Cut out petals in two different sizes: You’ll need large petals for the outside and some smaller petals for the interior. For a standard nine-inch pie, I needed 18 large petals and 15 smaller petals.
Start with the large petals on the outside of the pie. Place the first petal so the pointed edge is on the outside of the pie. Place the second petal slightly overlapping the first. Continue this, overlapping each petal slightly until you’ve made a full circle of petals around the outer edge of the pie.
Next, place a smaller petal inside the circle of larger petals. It should overlap the outer petals slightly. Continue this, overlapping each smaller petal until you’ve created another circle of petals.
Finally, arrange chocolate chips in the center of the pie. Chill the assembled pie thoroughly before baking. I chose to egg wash but not add any sugar to this pie, which gave it a pretty, golden hue—a little like, well, sunflowers!
How to Make a Rose Pie
This is the trickiest method, but it’s also well worth the effort. For this method, individual petals are cut out of dough, and arranged into one giant rose on top of the pie. It’s important that your filling is thick enough so you can use it to help keep the petals stable as you build. I opted to make a pre-cooked berry filling. Making pre-cooked fillings (rather than using fresh fruit) allows you to help manage the juiciness factor, as well. I par-baked my pie crust, let it cool, added the filling—then added the petals.
To prep, roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. You need to cut individual petals out of the dough. I used a leaf-shaped cookie cutter for this, but you could also freehand it using a paring knife (or cut yourself a little stencil out of paper). To begin building the rose, form one petal into a tight spiral and place it in the center of the pie. Where the spiral opens at one end is where you should place the second petal. Tuck it into the first piece a little to overlap it (just the way rose petals are all tucked inside the one before it).
Continue this process, adding overlapping petals and working outward to the outer edge of the pie.
There’s no wrong way to do this—but I like the petals to appear looser as I get toward the outer edge, just like an open rose. (This also gives the dough more breathing room to help it brown evenly in the oven.)
You can continue the process all the way to the edge of the pie plate, or leave a small bit around the edge exposed so you can see filling, which is what I opted for. Chill the pie thoroughly before baking. I like to egg wash this pie and garnish it generously with turbinado sugar for a little texture and sparkle after baking.
Get the Recipes
- 3 pounds (1360 g) peaches, diced (I don’t peel my peaches, but you could!)
- 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (104 g) honey
- 2 teaspoons (3 g) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon (less than 1 g) freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup (55 g) cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon (less than 1 g) almond extract
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) vanilla extract
- 4x your favorite single crust pie dough recipe (my favorite recipe is here: https://food52.com/recipes/24928-all-buttah-pie-dough)
- 4 large eggs, lightly whisked
- egg wash, as needed for finishing
- pearl sugar, as needed for finishing
- 1 1/2 quarts cherries, pitted
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup (149 g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (38 g) cornstarch
- pinch cinnamon
- small splash vanilla extract
- 2x your favorite single crust pie dough (my favorite recipe is here: https://food52.com/recipes/24928-all-buttah-pie-dough)
- 1 cup (113 g) chopped dark chocolate (I used 60%)
- 1/3 cup (76 g) heavy cream
- 1/3 cup (39 g) chocolate chips
- egg wash, as needed for finishing
- 1 pound (454 g) strawberries, quartered
- 8 ounces (227 g) blueberries
- 8 ounces (227 g) raspberries
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup (98 g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (40 g) all purpose flour
- 2x your favorite single crust pie dough recipe (my favorite recipe is here: https://food52.com/recipes/24928-all-buttah-pie-dough)
- egg wash, as needed for finishing
- turbinado sugar, as needed for finishing
This is also very good
Do you have a favorite pie crust recipe? Tell us in the comments below!