Pies Get Dressed Up for the Holidays Too!
I am not going to lie... I have always been more of a chef than a baker. Baking is more of my hubby's thing anyway.... I am not complaining about that (except when I am trying to eat healthy and lose weight). ;) What I have always enjoyed though are dressing up desserts. I guess that goes along with my compulsion to make everything pretty I guess. I am a firm believer in the theory that you eat with your eyes first!
I guess this is not really a craft per-say, but it goes along with my DIY adventures and my mother-in-law said she had never really seen this done before so I thought I would share. As I think I have mentioned before, my hubby's family is pretty huge. This year we had a medium-sized gathering with about half of the family there so we were feeding 14 people. Aside from the ridiculous amounts of cakes we had after celebrating four birthdays that weekend, my mother-in-law Kathy wanted to have caramel apple pies for Christmas. I was in at mention of the word "caramel"... yum!
Kathy prepped the filling and then put me in charge of the crusts and assembly. Not going to lie, we went with store-bought pie crusts which worked fine for me since the crusts are the part I always worry about ruining when making pie from scratch. It also saved a ton of time. I learned my lesson from the last time I made pies for Thanksgiving and decided to decorate and prepare the top crust before trying to assemble the pies. This worked soooooooooo much better! The finished product looks fancy but it is actually really simple. Here's how I did it:
The first thing I consider when preparing a pie crust is where I will place the vents for the steam to escape. Surprisingly enough that is something I remember from making pies and cobblers with my mother when I was a kid, since I was always afraid of ruining our food and generally refused to learn to cook until my college years. My mom makes the best blackberry cobbler ever! I think I liked those the best because we would go out picking wild blackberries or some from the garden. We had to pick twice as many as we needed since I would usually eat half of them by the time we got home. Oh how I miss Georgia. *sigh* If you ever have the chance to move to the South, I highly recommend it! Anyway, I digress...
The way I approach a design for something like this is almost reminiscent of a kaleidoscope in that it has a design that is reflected to the other parts of the circular image. I find that doing so usually works pretty well since it looks nice as a whole before it is cut and also in wedges when it is time to dig in.
The cookie cutters we used were ones that Kathy had on hand. She didn't say where she got them, but I know Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Williams-Sonoma, and Crate and Barrel often sell cutters like these. I believe that you can also find them at Amazon.com from the link below:
|Here's a shot of the ones I used.|
One tip is to be sure and save the left over dough for the pie crust when you make your cut outs! You can later attach them to other spaces on top of the pie for more decoration and even layer them for a different effect.
I decided this time I wanted to do at least one cut out in the center and then use either more cut outs or slits closer to the edges. Once you've got your design cut out, you want to transfer it on top of the pie. A cool trick I learned is to roll up your pie crust just as it was when it came out of the box (for the short-cut method) or around a rolling pin, move it over on top of the pie, then unroll. This stretches the design much less than if you just tried to pick it up and move it while unrolled.
Once you have the top crust on, you need to seal the edges. I like the fluted design best I think, but if you are looking for a fool-proof method, pressing the tines of a fork into the edges of the crust to seal them together is nigh impossible to mess up. After the edges are sealed using whichever method you choose, you want to apply your egg wash. This makes it look nice and shiny as in the picture below before baking, "glues" on any cutouts that you want to place on top, and gives a nice golden brown color after baking. The egg wash is just eggs beaten lightly and mixed with a little water or milk.
This is what they looked like when (almost) finished! After that Kathy drizzled caramel sauce over the pies and topped one of them with pecans. Doesn't looking at that golden crust just make you hungry?!? I think I am ready for it to be Christmas again so we can have more pie. Really though this technique can be adapted for any occasion or holiday. Think maple leaves and acorns for Thanksgiving, hearts for Valentine's Day, shamrocks for St. Patty's, or stars for Independence Day. Why not???