These Expert Tips Will Help You Master the Lattice Pie Top

According to baker Erin Jeanne MacDowell, this technique requires more patience than skill.

Peach Lattice Pie
Photo: Christopher Testani

Of all the homemade pies out there, those with a woven lattice topper are the true stars—they're so aesthetically pleasing. If you haven't yet attempted one (they can be intimidating), allow us to give you the nudge—and the tools—you need to get started. With the correct strategy and plenty of patience, your lattice pie will be the standout on the cookout dessert table, especially if you use summer fruits for the filling. To help you master the technique, we talked to expert baker Erin Jeanne McDowell, the author of The Book on Pie ($27.28, Ahead, she shares her best tips and tricks for making lattice pie. Once you've had your fill, go ahead and test your new knowledge out by making our beautiful Peach Lattice Pie recipe.

First Things First: What Is a Lattice Pie?

Lattice refers to the technique of crossing strips of pie dough on top of a pie; the result is visually similar to a woven basket. This technique serves as an alternative to a double crust pie and is highly decorative—but it also serves a practical purpose when it comes to fruit desserts. "It allows the steam from the filling to vent easily during baking and cooling," says McDowell, which allows you to skip cutting in additional vents, as you would for a top crust. This evaporation results in a thicker and more concentrated filling, and helps prevent the dreaded soggy bottom by allowing the pie to release excess moisture.

Work with Cold Dough

Pie dough is finicky, but McDowell emphasizes that the secret to keeping your cool is keeping it cool. "Before cutting your lattice strips, transfer the rolled-out dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet, says McDowell. "This enables you to chill the dough at any time, which is super important. As pastry dough warms up, it gets softer and stickier, and can make the lattice weaving process tricky. It will be much easier if the dough is nice and cold."

Use Wider Strips of Dough

Opting for bigger dough strips is easier—especially for a beginner. "Use wider strips of dough, which will cover more of the pie and means less pieces overall—and way less weaving," explains McDowell. As for how to properly slice your strips? Use a pizza cutter dipped in flour and a ruler or straight edge as your guide—this will help you glide with ease every time.

Be Patient

The most important tip of all, says McDowell, actually isn't a trick—it's a virtue. "Good pies take a lot of patience," she explains, "and I think by the time people get to the final stages of assembly, they run out of patience! Don't attempt a lattice top anytime you're feeling rushed—it's a touch that may require a little extra time, but can really be so fun!" Once you've mastered the basic techniques, experiment with different designs, McDowell notes: "I love to do a 'tightly woven' lattice, where I lay the strips I'm working with right next to each other, with almost no space in between. The finished pie looks like a full coverage double crust, but with that lattice flair!"

Fruit Pies for Every Season

Lattice tops are best for fruit pies—and, luckily, there are in-season fruits to bake into these desserts year round. "My favorite fruit pie is the hyper-seasonal concord grape pie, which is wonderful with a lattice top—and is available for only a few weeks each fall," says McDowell. As for some other seasonal options? Try rhubarb in spring, cherries and berries in summer, and pears, apples, and cranberries come fall and winter.

Remember: Even peak, perfect fruit is typically tossed in flour or cornstarch to thicken the pie filling and make it saucy and rich. McDowell says her main fruit pie baking tip is to bake it long enough that the filling visibly bubbles. "It has to come to a 'boil' for the filling to properly activate and not be soupy after baking," she affirms, noting that this is also true for regular double-crust iterations. Lastly, don't forget to cool your lattice-topped fruit pie before you slice into it. "This is a rule I break all the time: Cool your pie completely for the best slice-ability! Warm pies often have more liquid and are less set [than cool ones]," she says. After all, when you have so painstakingly sliced and arranged your lattice top, you don't want to ruin your hard work by cutting into the pie prematurely.

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