After a meal so gigantic that only stretchy pants will do, there remains one dish that everyone still looks forward to: pie. There’s pumpkin pie and pecan pie but, oh, that fruit pie. You’ve always wanted to make an impressive, sugar-studded, perfectly woven lattice crust, but you balk every time because, well…you’ve mucked it up every time. I’m here to tell you two things: You’re not alone, and you can nail a real lattice crust for the rest of your pie-bakin’ life.
Every first-time lattice ends up a mess. Even mine was hot trash. This is a fact of life because we all make the same mistake: pile in the warm, gooey fruit filling and then start coyly placing strips of buttery crust on top. Let the easy weaving begin. But before you know it, you’ve missed an “over-under” and suddenly the crust is melting and your hands and lattice are covered with fruit goo. Many forgo weaving altogether and simple lay down a crosshatch pattern, while others pick it all off and throw it out. Not you. Not anymore.
Don’t weave the lattice on the pie
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To avoid lattice crust problems, you should be aware of the pie crust’s enemies: liquid and heat. The ideal crust is delicate and buttery, and typical crusts are made primarily of two components: flour and saturated fat. If you weave your lattice crust on top of warm, wet pie filling you are introducing your delicate, highly meltable crust to its greatest adversaries. The liquid in your filling will coat the lattice on contact, making it impossible to make any adjustments, let alone weave the pastry. If you’re working with a colorful filling like cherry or blueberry, you should be prepared for that color to be all over the place. The wet filling will also make the strips extremely slippery. Again, any weaving will be impossible to do neatly under these conditions. If your filling happens to be warm—or worse, hot—the heat will quickly melt your fat, leading to floppy strips, and fast. What’s a baker to do?
How to make a lattice pie crust, step by step
Build and weave your lattice off the pie. Far, far away from the pie. Build it in advance even. Then, when the pie is lined and filled and your oven is preheated, take your pre-woven lattice crust and simply slide it on top. No mess, no rushing as your crust strips start to dissolve, no trash. This method gives you the chance to fix mistakes and make adjustments. Beyond simply creating a tidy-looking pie, weaving your lattice separately allows you to take your time. Explore what kind of lattice you want: Maybe you want an open weave with plenty of air vents, or maybe you want to try that close weave with the big, wide strips you saw in that Pinterest board.
What you’ll need:
- Pie crust for lattice top, cut into strips
- Flat, rigid board (cake circle or cardboard circle)
1. Get a flat board or cardboard circle
So, you’re ready to weave a lattice. You have your top pie crust rolled out and strips are cut. The next thing you’ll grab is a cardboard cake circle of the same size or a little bigger than the diameter of the top of the pie dish you’re using. (Don’t have a cake circle? Make your own! Cut a circle out of a piece of cardboard that’s roughly the size you need.) The point is to have something flat, thin and stiff. A thin cutting board or the false bottom of a tart pan could work also. Dinner plates are slightly concave, and that curve tends to make the sliding process a little trickier. It can be done, but my recommendation is always a cardboard circle.
2. Weave the lattice pie crust on the board
After lightly dusting some flour onto the cardboard circle, lay out your first side of pastry strips. With your remaining strips, begin weaving the lattice pattern. Fold every other strip backward on top of itself and add a strip in the other direction. Alternate folding back strips as you add pastry to the pattern. Once you’ve woven all of your strips, feel free to make adjustments until you’re satisfied with the spacing.
3. Chill the lattice crust
Transfer the entire cardboard circle, cutting board or whichever surface, to the fridge to chill for at least 10 minutes. The high fat content in the pastry will solidify in the fridge making the lattice feel like a single rigid pastry raft, allowing you to slide it around in one piece. Don’t trim off any excess from your lattice yet; you might need the extra length. At this point, you can leave it in the fridge, covered, overnight—or even freeze it for a week or two if you love to plan ahead. Minimally, you’ll want to chill it for 10-20 minutes to firm up—the perfect amount of time to preheat the oven and pour your cooled filling into your pie shell.
4. Slide the lattice crust onto the pie
Once my pie is ready for the lattice top, I usually egg wash the outer edge of the bottom crust first to ensure a good seal once the top slides on. Take your lattice pie crust out of the fridge. It should be firm by now but a little flexible. The idea is to hold one side of the cardboard (not the pastry), tilt it, and slide the crust off of the other side right onto the top of the pie. It’s really as easy as it sounds.
Troubleshooting your lattice pie crust
If the lattice doesn’t budge it could be two possibilities: A) the strips didn’t have flour on them so they stuck to the board or B) the excess length of pastry on the side your hand is holding is hooked over the edge, grappling with the cardboard. If it’s A, after it’s been in the fridge for 10 minutes you can just pull the crust or bend the cardboard slightly, and it’ll pop up and unstick. If it’s B, gently lift the strips of hanging excess by your thumbs and fold it up onto itself to free that edge, like you can see in the picture below. Then the lattice should slide freely.
After the lattice is placed, your crust will still be a little cold, so you can even make micro-adjustments if anything has moved out of place. Now you can trim the edges, seal the seams, egg wash, dust with sugar, and throw it into the oven. Check “learn how to lattice a pie crust” off your list, and prepare yourself for the shower of compliments.