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Pie crust art: Have fun with shapes

Pie crust art: Have fun with shapes

It’s a form of sculpture, and even better, it’s edible
Pie crust art: Have fun with shapes
Peach and blueberry filling with a polka-dot top pie crust theme, ready for the oven.
Photographer: caroline lee/for the daily gazette

Pie crust art is a thing, and I love it.  It’s a form of sculpture, and even better, it’s edible.

“You eat with your eyes,” Chef Tom Alacandro, of the Schenectady County Community College culinary program often says to his classes. All your senses come into play when you eat, think crunchy potato chips or the feel of buttercream icing softening in your mouth, but the sight of the food comes first. If it looks good, you want to eat it, and you can make pies that look irresistible.

Food doesn’t have to look good, but it’s a big plus, and if you like working with pastry, then fiddling with pie crust might be for you. 

If you can crimp an edge, you’re on your way.  But even if you can’t, you can edge the pie with shapes like leaves, hearts or braids. The crust is your blank slate. You can weave a lattice, cut letters or shapes into the top crust, use a paring knife to carve shapes into a plain crust, paint with egg yolk colored with food dye. Any small shapes you cut out can be stuck on with beaten egg somewhere else, adding depth.

Let your imagination go, and check out these websites for ideas: www.marthastewart.com/274216/making-decorative-piecrusts, www.pinterest.com/adolphin/decorative-pie-crusts.

Caveats abound, though. Avoid thick layers of crust or chunky decorations that need longer to cook than the rest of the crust. Don’t forget fruit pies have to boil to finish cooking, which may ruin the effect.  There’s a reason that the before photos are more numerous online than the after ones.  Don’t overwhelm the filling. And remember that pie crust is loaded with calories before getting carried away.

So to make pie crust art as accessible as possible, I suggest working with prepackaged, refrigerated piecrust. Pillsbury pie crust is very easy to handle and it tastes a lot better than it used to.  If you like to make your own, then by all means, do. Prepared pie crust is a dream to work with, though; it’s Play-doh for grown-ups. Best of all, I don’t have bowls to wash.

Basic piecrust rules still hold:  keep the crust chilled and avoid working it too much or it gets tough.  Cover the edge of the pie with foil if it’s browning too fast.

After dumping all my small cookie cutters onto the kitchen table and looking at dozens of ideas online, I decided on a polka-dot theme. I crimped a high edge to keep my peach and blueberry filling in, then floated a sheet on top that was perforated with small round holes. The holes became a decorative edge.  Not too much crust, and it looked pretty.  Better before cooking than after, but I’ll work on it.

The cooler weather means time for pies, and I’m full of decorative ideas going into apple season, and for supper pot pies on chilly nights.

The hardest part for me?  Cutting it up.

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