There's something utterly spectacular about waking up in the morning only to realize it's barely mid-July. That leaves the better part of summer's bounty yet to come, which can mean only one thing: more pie. The more pies we bake, the more we feel comfortable handling the dough; the more comfortable we feel, the more likely we are to bake another pie, leading to....more pie.
It's the exact opposite of a "vicious cycle"* (a delicious cycle?), helping each of us level up our kitchen skills while simultaneously making life a little sweeter. While some folks are new to that experience and still learning the ropes of a basic lattice design, others have enough summers under their belt to start craving a bit of a challenge.
*Or is it a "vicious circle"?
And, while I completely respect anyone who wants to eliminate rather than embrace challenges in the kitchen, I also know it can be fun to stretch your wings. So, whether your goal is to indulge your own artistic inclinations or mop up at the state fair, have I got a crazy new technique for you: herringbone.
Okay, so the pattern itself is actually several thousand years old, dating back to ancient Egypt, but while it's always been popular among weavers and masons, I've yet to see herringbone embraced by bakers. Seems to me it's a natural fit for pie, though, since it can be simulated with the same technique we rely on for a basic lattice-top design (full tutorial here).
First, a few vertical columns of dough are laid out across the pie, then every other column is folded back to make way for a horizontal row. Once it's in place, those vertical columns are reset to their original positions, creating the illusion that the horizontal row was actually woven over and under each one. From there, the vertical columns that were unmoved in the first round are folded back to offset the pattern, and the next horizontal row is laid down, and so on.
Herringbone follows that basic system, but in multiples of three.
Okay, maybe it's sliiiiiightly more complicated than that, because it's crucial to offset each row sequentially, but you don't have to understand it to follow along, because I've got every step hammered out. If you're the sort of person who can follow a knitting pattern or assemble some Ikea furniture, I promise it's 100% within your reach. And remember, if that sort of culinary challenge doesn't sound like fun, don't worry—I'll have some far more relaxed designs coming up in the future, too.
With any lattice, but with herringbone in particular, it's absolutely paramount that you start with the proper dough: one that's pliable enough to survive so much bending, moist enough not to crack, and rich enough that it won't get tough from all the handling (i.e., my Old-Fashioned Flaky Pie Dough). With any time-consuming design, air-conditioning is mighty helpful as well; otherwise, don't hesitate to pop the dough in and out of the fridge as needed, because it should never feel squishy-soft or sticky.
To make a herringbone, you'll prepare the dough according to the directions, then stop just before dividing it in half. Since this technique goes heavy on the top crust, it's better to split it 60/40 instead. That's 9 ounces of dough for the bottom crust, and 11 ounces for the top. Roll the larger piece into a 10- by 15-inch rectangle, and transfer to a baking sheet or parchment-lined cutting board to refrigerate while you prepare the bottom crust. For that, just roll out a 13-inch blob, sling it over a 9-inch pie plate, and shape as usual, folding the excess toward the center to form a simple border. Transfer to the refrigerator, and let the top and bottom crusts chill for at least two hours.
Use a ruler and a pizza wheel to cut the rectangle into twenty 10- by 3/4-inch strips. Cut four of those in half, making eight 5-inch lengths to use on the shorter sections of the pie. Refrigerate once more, and prepare your pie filling according to whatever recipe you prefer. (My Fresh Cherry Pie Filling is great with this technique, and I'll be sharing my recipe for blueberry later this week.) Scrape the filling into the pie shell, and smooth it into an even layer with a metal spatula; the flatter, the better! Next, completely cover the pie with strips of dough, leaving no gaps in between, creating a single layer. This will be the vertical portion of the grid. (You'll use a mix of short and long pieces to minimize waste.)
For the horizontal rows, you'll start from the middle.
- 1st Row: Fold back the very first vertical column of dough (it doesn't matter if you fold up or down). Skip over three columns of dough, fold three back, skip three, and so on to reach the edge of the pie, creating a straight line across the center. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 2nd Row: Fold back the first two columns of dough, then skip three, fold back three, and so on, as before. Lay down the next horizontal row and reset.
- 3rd Row: Fold back the first three columns of dough, then skip three, peel back three, and so on, as before. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 4th Row: Skip over the very first column of dough, then fold back three, skip three, et cetera, until you reach the opposite edge. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 5th Row: Skip over the first two columns of dough, then peel back three, skip three, and so on, as before. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 6th Row: Skip over the first three columns of dough, then peel back three, skip three, and so on, as before. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
The next three rows will revert to Pattern A; just don't forget to count the very first column, even though you won't need to fold it back due to the curvature of the plate. After that, you may need to finish off with a few rows of Pattern A if you cut skinnier strips, or if your plate is larger than nine inches. Herringbone is really only two patterns, but, since we have to work backwards from the middle, they're done in reverse. It's essential that you don't rotate the pie plate at this stage, as working "up" rather than "down" would flip the pattern.
- 1st Row: Including the very first column of dough, skip over three columns, then fold three back, skip three, et cetera. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 2nd Row: Including the very first column of dough, skip over two columns, then fold back three, skip three, and so on, as before. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 3rd Row: Skip the very first column of dough, then fold back three, skip three, and so on, as before. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 4th Row: Starting with the very first column of dough, fold back three columns, then skip three, peel back three, et cetera. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 5th Row: Fold back the first two columns of dough, then skip three, fold back three, and so on, as before. Lay down the horizontal row and reset.
- 6th Row: Fold back one column, skip three, fold back three, and so on.
Trim off any excess dough, and refrigerate the pie while you preheat the oven, about 30 minutes. Bake as directed, bearing in mind that the extra dough means the pie may take longer to bake compared with a more open-faced design. In real life, the entire process (start to finish) looks a little something like this...
Remember, herringbone is more than a pretty face. It doubles the amount of top crust involved in a traditional lattice, which means you've got twice as much crispy, flaky pastry in every bite. Not to mention lifetime bragging rights!