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Crimping Is The Easy Pro-Tip You Need For Making A Holiday-Worthy Pie

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Jazzing up your pie crust primping
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The ultimate holiday dessert is definitely pie—in whatever flavors you prefer, it's likely on your table. But if we're being honest, our pies don't always look like the showstoppers we want them to. This year in particular, I'm seeking small joys this holiday season. For me, making a completely beautiful dessert (even if I'm the only one that sees it) is definitely a piece of joy, so I went looking for tips to take my healthy pumpkin pie and to make it something truly photo-worthy.

Luckily for me, Helen Nugent—a pie expert, of a sort—published a book this fall titled Pie Style, chock-full of recipes and advice for making a beautiful pie. A self-taught baker, Nugent makes ornate pies that have earned her over 50,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares a steady stream of beautifully crafted pies.

Though her complex creations may seem intimidating, there are (much) simpler things you can do to make a pie look a bit more professional. One simple thing in particular stood out to me: how easy it is to crimp a pie crust (a step I always skipped—it always seemed too finicky) and just how much taking that bit of extra time can take a pie from rustic to bakery-quality. So this year, I've decided to certainly be crimping the crust on my pie, following her five-step guide (below).

The best thing about pies is how easy it is to make them healthy and seasonal. Popular ingredients like pumpkin and apple are in season in the autumn, and they pair wonderfully with natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey (though you may not need much, as many fruits have a subtle sweetness of their own that comes out as they cook).

Because it's also actually pretty easy to make a (totally great) vegan pie crust, they're also a great alternative dessert for plant-based eaters at the holidays. Not only that, but cooking fruit doesn't necessarily invalidate its nutritional value—it may break down some nutrients, but others hold up well in the heat. Making an apple pie this season? "Peeling apples will do far more to deplete those nutrients than baking," says registered dietitian Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.

Sticking to seasonal fruit in your pie this year also doesn't mean you're stuck picking pumpkin or apple: Cranberries, figs, raspberries, pears, and pomegranates are in season now, too. And as we head into winter, you can start looking out for more citrus fruits, too—they can make for a wonderful pie or tart on their own or when added to other ingredients.

Crimping a Pie Edge

A crisp, distinct crimp on a pie is a thing of beauty, and you'll be surprised by how easy it is to achieve.

Pie crimping

Image by James Brand / Contributor

  1. Use a pie plate that has a substantial lip of at least ½ inch (13 mm) so you have somewhere to build your crimp. Then, check your overhang. I like to have at least 1 inch (3 cm) of overhang to build a substantial crimp and compensate for any shrinkage that might happen in the oven.
  2. Start by folding the overhanging dough under itself and pressing to seal the filling inside the pie if you are working with a pie top.
  3. To crimp the pie, use the index finger of your dominant hand to press the inside edge of the pie dough outward while "hugging" the finger with the thumb and index finger of your nondominant hand (making a "V" shape) on the outer edge of the dough.
  4. For a larger crimp, use your thumb instead of the index finger of your dominant hand. To make your crimp even more dramatic, use a trick I learned from baking genius Tessa Huff. After making your preliminary crimp, use the same technique but in reverse. Hook your dominant index finger in the inward-facing crimp and "hug" it on the inside edge with the thumb and index finger of your nondominant hand.
  5. Pull your hands away from each other to create a wavy, gorgeous crimp.
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