Cooking Tips

6 Tips for Decorating with Pie Dough

Give your next pie a professional look.

Published Nov. 11, 2022.

The crust is flaky and tender. The filling is jammy and sweet. The top crust, however, could look a little better. 

Next time, try these tips to decorate. All of these tips (and many more!) can be found in our cookbook The Perfect Pie.

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1. Roll Out a Larger Rectangle

We always roll out our dough to a rectangle size slightly larger than what we need (usually that means a 13 by 10½-inch rectangle) and then trim ¼ inch from the long sides so that our strips are straight and neat.

2. Rely on the Refrigerator

You can turn to the refrigerator whenever you need or want to. Dough should be firm but malleable during these decorating processes: If the butter melts your dough will be misshapen, the design won’t stay, and overhandled dough won’t be flaky once baked.

However, you also don’t want dough strips to be too cold. You need to do a lot of folding and too-cold dough may crack, ruining your design. The more pie you bake, the easier it will be to get a feel for the perfect dough temperature and texture.

180 Foolproof Techniques and Recipes

The Perfect Pie

Your ultimate guide to baking beautiful, foolproof versions of the corner bakery classics and French patisserie favorites—plus a host of whimsical, modern pies and tarts of all kinds with sky-high meringue pies, uniquely flavored fruit pies with intricate lattice-woven tops, and lush elegant tarts.

3. Stay Put

The easiest way to track your progress on any design is for you, the pie maker, to stay in one place and move the pie plate as needed. When crimping an edge, rotate the pie plate as you go; if you try to move, the crimps will come out crooked. 

Watch test cook Joe Gitter demonstrate this tip here.

4. Flour as Needed

If dough sticks to your fingers (or to any implement) while you’re working, dip them in a little flour so you can continue working with your hands.

5. Save Your Scraps

Once you understand how dough works, you can play with it as you like. Those scraps also come in handy when accidents happen. Patch dough cracks and breaks with these bits.

And have fun! Any extra dough can be used to make further flourishes. Check out the rosettes on our Crab Apple Rose Pie. You can also bake your scrap dough (much like individual cookies) and place shapes on the surface of cooled custard pies such as our Butternut Squash Pie with Browned Butter and Sage.  

6. Use an Egg Wash

We don’t always use egg wash, but it browns more than a finish-free pie, convincing you the pastry is buttery and delicious before you even take a bite. An egg wash on a pie highlights the designs.

Our egg wash involves lightly beating an egg with 1 tablespoon of water so it’s thinned enough to distribute evenly and not so concentrated that it overbrowns. This is our go-to finishing technique.

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