Life Video

Pie plaits for all! This event-worthy braided crust is actually easy to create — watch and see

Arlene Lott is back with a topper to make your pie all the talk of the Thanksgiving table.

Arlene Lott is back with a topper to make your pie all the talk of the Thanksgiving table

We would argue that Thanksgiving, and the harvest weeks ahead, are the best time of year to make a spectacular pie. Whether you’re a pumpkin pie purist, haven’t had your fill of blueberry, or have been eagerly awaiting the abundance of local apples, now is the time to bake your best, and of course, present a pie that looks as good as it tastes.

We’ve called on pastry pro Arlene Lott to show us how to make some crusts that are both impressive and near and dear to our hearts. But this braided crust is the beauty best fit for right now. It looks festive enough for your Thanksgiving table, and is straight-forward enough to get right even if you’re just a beginner at pie-decorating. If you can twist a few strands together, you can make a pie this pretty — all you need is Arlene’s tips on how she gets it to look this good. Watch her show you how here, then get her recipe and detailed technique below.

Orange-Infused Blueberry Pie with Braided Top

For the pie crust, vegetable shortening can be used in place of the lard for those who don't eat pork or meat in general. The vodka won’t add any flavour to the crust, but it’s said to prevent gluten from developing, resulting in a more tender crust.

The crust recipe makes enough for a 9.5" deep dish double crust pie with decorations.

Arlene uses a quilting ruler to measure and cut her pie braiding strands, similar to this one.

Arlene Lott is back with a topper to make your pie all the talk of the Thanksgiving table. 2:54

Ingredients

Orange-infused blueberry pie filling:

Fruit: 

  • 8 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt

Thickener: 

  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 6 tbsp cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup water (or more orange juice if you have it)

Spices (optional): 

  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder

For shine:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter

Pie dough with braided top:

  • 5 ¾ cups of flour (divided) plus more for dusting surface
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups cold butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 6 tbsp cold lard, cut into ½ inch pieces (see note above)
  • 6 tbsp ice cold water (ice water is best)
  • 6 tbsp cold vodka

Special equipment: 

  • 9.5" x 1.5" deep pie plate
  • Quilting ruler (optional), see headnote

Preparation

For the orange-infused blueberry pie filling:

In a 4 litre saucepan, combine the blueberries, orange zest and juice, sugar and salt. Stir and cook over medium heat until the liquids begin to simmer.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make the thickener. Combine the sugar and cornstarch well, then add ⅓ cup water and stir until smooth.

Once berry mixture begins to simmer, pour in the thickener and stir until glossy and thick. This happens pretty quickly — in about 3 minutes. Simmer the thickened filling for about a minute, then remove from heat. Add in spices if you're using them, and then add in the butter. Stir until the butter melts and combine well.

Remove from heat and allow the filling to cool at least to room temperature.

For the pie dough with braided top:

Cut butter and lard into ½ inch pieces and place in fridge or freezer to keep cold. Combine 2 cups of the flour along with the sugar and salt in your food processor. Using a food processor helps keep the crust flaky.

Add butter and lard cubes to the flour in the food processor and pulse about 6 times for 2-3 seconds until the fats resemble coarse crumbs with some cottage cheese-sized pieces. Then add the rest of your flour and pulse again.

Sprinkle ice cold water and cold vodka over top of the dough. Pulse food processor a few more times until the pastry comes together in a ball. Turn it out onto a table and use hands to bring any loose pieces together and divide it in half. Wrap each separately in plastic wrap, and flatten into two  6" x 1" thick discs. Place them in refrigerator to chill for at least 45 minutes before rolling.

Generously flour your counter and pin, and roll out pastry to ¼ inch thickness, roll dough around a rolling pin and gently unroll over top of an empty pie plate. Press and form into pie plate. Trim off any excess dough that hangs over the edge of the pie plate and keep the excess dough! You’ll use this for creating your decorations. Fill your pie shell with the cooled filling and chill in the fridge while you make the braids.Braiding method:

First, preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Roll out the second ball of dough and use a ruler or a quilting ruler to cut 21 ¼ inch strips and 4, 1 inch strips. You will need to make 4, 3 strand flip over braids. Three of these braids will be used for the border of your pie, and one will be arranged in the middle.To make a three strand flip over braid, gather three strips of dough and place side by side, lengthwise. Pinch the tops together and twist and flip the right strand over the middle strand and then the left strand over the middle. Continue this sequence until all strands are braided.

You will need 1 double 3 strand flip over braid. To make this braid gather 6 ¼ inch strands and group in pairs of two. Pinch strands together at the top and  twist and flip the two right strand over the two middle strand and then twist and flip the two left strands over the middle. Continue this sequence until all strands are braided.

You will need to make 2, 1 inch braids. Gather three 1 inch strips on pie dough and pinch the tops together. Laying flat, braid together, laying the right strand over the middle strand and the left strand over the middle. Repeat with second 1 inch braid.

Lastly, you will make two twists. Gather 2 ¼ inch strips, pinch the top and twist strands together. Repeat with two more pie dough strips. Chill all braids in fridge for 30 minutes..

Assemble:

Retrieve cooled pie shell base and orange-infused blueberry filling from the fridge. Gather the assembled braids and starting in the middle of the pie, place the first braid across. Working out from there, repeat with the remaining braids until the top of the pie is covered in them. Use scissors to cut off any overhang. Brush the edge of the pie with cream. Place the three braids reserved for the edge around border. Cut the braids to fit. Brush the top of the pie with cream. Chill pie in fridge for 30 minutes. Bake at 350F degrees for 1 hour.

Servings: Makes one pie

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