How to Create Those Amazing Pies You've Been Seeing on Instagram
We've all daydreamed about baking the perfect dessert, posting it on Instagram and immediately becoming Instafamous. For Lauren Ko of @lokokitchen, that's just a typical Tuesday. Thanks to her sudden Internet fame, pies and puns have become her bread and butter—so much so that she recently quit her day job to focus on @lokokitchen full time.
Ko's success is all the more impressive given that she only baked her first pie a year and a half ago. "I'm still learning as I go," she says, giving hope to any home baker who has had a pie go awry. Lucky for us, Ko is willing to share what she's learned from her own pie-baking adventures, so you can give those geometric designs a shot in your own oven.
Get the Right Tools (They Don't Have to Be Fancy)
Ko's pies are so stunning because of their precision and detail, but they don't require fancy equipment. "My arsenal of tools includes basic Pyrex glass pie plates, a ruler, a sharp paring knife and a rolling pastry wheel. All of these items were literally the cheapest versions I could purchase on Amazon."
Stick to an All-Butter Crust
Though piecrusts are little more than fat, flour and water, there are endless opinions on what sort of fat creates the best crust. Ko prefers an all-butter pie version: Not only is it easily accessible, but it doesn't melt as fast as shortening-based ones, "which is helpful as some of my designs require a bit of time to construct." She also uses a food processor to make the dough, both to save time and create a more uniform dough that is easier to roll out.
Always Keep the Dough Cold
Ko's designs can be time consuming, so she manages the dough's temperature by weaving or constructing her designs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. "If the dough starts to get too warm, I simply pop the baking sheet and dough into the fridge to cool it down enough to continue." She also lets her pies hang out in the fridge before baking, regardless of the design, to give the pie its best shot at baking beautifully.
Beware of Frozen Fruit
"All of my pie-baking disasters stem from frozen fruit and runny fillings, so I prefer to bake with fresh fruit whenever possible." If fresh produce isn't available, Ko says you can use frozen as long as you use a thickening agent (she prefers tapioca starch) and don't allow the fruit to thaw.
Pie making is a fickle endeavor. Super-detailed pies that look great pre-baked sometimes lose their visual oomph in the oven. "Woven lattice crusts bake the best, because they have the most structure and hence 'staying power,'" Ko notes. That said, sometimes a pie still runneth over, but the home baker sees a bubbled-over pie as part of the process. "I try not to overfill the pie, but otherwise, I don't see bubbled-up filling as a problem or a failure."
Brooke Siem is a writer and professional chef currently meandering around the world. Follow her on Instagram at @brookesiem.
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