Blair A La Carte: Creating pie art

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Blair Dunbar, Columnist

Many people will say baking is a science. I’ve always thought of it more as an art, particularly in terms of presentation and especially when it comes to baking a pie. What could be more of a work of art than a beautiful raspberry or apple pie topped with interwoven lattice? Sure, there is some chemistry involved, but the crust and the top of the pie are entirely art. Here are a few ways to ensure your pie looks like a masterpiece people are eager to eat.

First, there is the lattice top. This consists of a series of perpendicular and parallel strips of crust placed on top of the filling. Interwoven strips look like a handwoven basket. Although daunting to many beginners, making interwoven lattice is relatively simple. First, roll out the dough meant for the top of the crust. Then, using a knife, cut the dough into long strips. Thinner strips look more classically elegant while thicker strips appear more rustic. Lay the first set of strips in one direction across the filling. Next, add the second set of strips in the opposite direction, weaving them into the first set. Weaving means taking a strip and alternating between placing it under and over the first set of strips already on top of the filling.

If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of doing latticework, you can simply roll out the dough for the top crust and cover the filling. Then, to give your pie just a little more flair, when creating vents at the top of the crust, turn the slits into an interesting design. Make a diamond or flower or sand dollar pattern.

One of my favorite things to do is cut shapes from the dough like I would when I make cookies. Places such as Williams-Sonoma sell “pie cutters.” I have a set of cutters in the shape of various leaves. When I make French silk pie, which typically doesn’t have a top crust, I cut out leaves from the extra pastry. Then I bake the leaves on a cookie sheet and place them on top of the pie. I might put a layer of leaves around the edge or create the look of a lattice top. You can even use cutters to cut out shapes in the top of a crust, and then put the crust on top of the pie. Now your vents will be in the shape of leaves!

There are so many ways to give your pie that finishing touch, which is what makes baking pies so much fun. All you have to do is get a little creative.