I’ve been told that the quickest way to make any dessert look fancier is to put it on a cake stand. I don’t personally own a cake stand, but I have seen this principle in action and it seems to be sound. There is a corollary to this rule which applies specifically to pies, however, with which I do have a good bit of experience: the quickest way to make any pie look fancier is to put a lattice top crust on it.
I learned to make lattice tops while when I was seventeen and interning in the eighteenth-century kitchens at Colonial Williamsburg. Truth be told, there isn’t really a lot of technique involved, it’s more about patience. Honestly, I love making lattice tops for a couple or reasons: The first is that I have not yet perfected a pie crust recipe (or found one with which I am completely happy) and in some ways lattice tops are more forgiving if your crust wants to crumble. If you’re making the top crust one big piece and it cracks, it’s going to show in the finished product. If you’re making a lattice top, you just make sure that the cracked part falls underneath another piece and you’re good to go. The other reason I love making lattice tops is that it feeds all of my obsessive tendencies: cutting straight strips and having them all be about the same width; finding where to put each strip so you have the most efficient used of pastry possible; and then all the folding back and forth to achieve the woven effect. Way more fun than writing a dissertation.
And when you show up to a potluck carrying a pie with a perfectly (or, who am I kidding, less-than-perfectly) constructed lattice top, you are guaranteed to get oohs and ahhs. Followed by a chorus of “Did you make this yourself?” “Did you do that crust yourself?” and other similar exclamations. People will be so impressed by your fancy crust, they won’t even notice if the pears in your pie are slightly under cooked and the proportion of cherries is slightly off (ask me how I know). Because when something looks fancy, people assume it tastes fancy.
Now a lattice top pie on a cake stand… that might just make you legendary.
Trivia: In the eighteenth century in order to be considered a “pie” something had to have a complete top crust. A lattice topped pie or an open top one (think pumpkin) would be considered a “pudding.”