I like to knit, I like to bake, and honestly, I like to play with food. A few times a year, I make elaborate themed lunches for my kids to take to school. Heart-shaped strawberries, Harry Potter broomsticks made of pretzels and string cheese, and sandwiches that look like Emmet from The Lego Movie.
I like finding ways to make baked goods look interesting too.
A couple of years ago, I made a berry pie with a faux-knitted lattice crust for Pi Day. Playing with pie crust was fun. I had done simple cut-out pie crust shapes before, but making a knitted crust was a new experiment. (Can you actually knit pie crust dough? I tried and failed, using chopsticks.)
Earlier this year when I was collaborating with the MDK team for Field Guide No. 12, my raspberry/blackberry knitted pie became part of the story. The Brambleberry Cowl in Field Guide No. 12 is named after my pie. I had written the pattern for this cowl, but didn’t have a name for it yet. The stitch pattern in the cowl is called the cluster, blackberry, raspberry and/or brambleberry stitch. I was brainstorming pattern names with Field Guide Editor/Creative Director Melanie Falick, and we realized the name Brambleberry was perfect. Knitting meets pie, pie meets knitting!
Photo by Elysa Weitala for MDK Field Guide No. 12: Big Joy.
I can’t take credit for the faux knitted crust technique that I used to make my pie. The first time I saw it was on the Craftberry Bush site, and I’ve also seen cake bakers imitate knitted fabric with rolled fondant. It’s not difficult. It takes a little time, but it’s totally worth it.
We are knitters, after all. We know good things take time.
You Will Need
Two boxes of Trader Joe’s Pie Crusts (2 crusts per box)
– or –
Recipe pie crust of your choice (my suggestions below), rolled into two crusts plus some extra dough
Fresh or frozen blackberries (1 cup)
Fresh or frozen raspberries (3 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Lay one crust on your cutting board.
Use a pizza cutter to slice this crust into 1/2-inch wide strips.
Place the other crust (uncut) in the bottom of a pie pan. Set aside the other two crusts in case you need them later.
Fold your strips in half, then roll gently into “yarn.” Pinch two rolled pieces together at the top, then twist, right over left.
Take two more pieces and twist them left over right. These two twists make a pair. Lay them side by side on a cutting board. They should look like a column of stockinette stitch.
Keep twisting your yarn in pairs until you have enough stockinette columns to cover your pie. Use reserved extra crust if you need to make more.
Toss berries with sugar and flour in a bowl, then add to pie pan. Lay the twists on top of the berries and gently press the ends onto the bottom crust.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, until filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown.
Optional: Use extra crust to make a larger twist and place around the outer edge of pie. (I used 1 1/2 inch strips.) Press this larger twist into crust below so it doesn’t end up falling off during baking. (This may have happened to me.)
Optional: My grandma Minnie taught me to brush a pie crust with milk and then sprinkle with sugar before it goes into the oven.
Optional: To prevent over-browning, use a pie crust shield or aluminum foil wrapped loosely around the edge of the pie. Place a cookie sheet under your pie pan in case your filling runneth over.
Your pie may have a mind of its own as it bakes. The stitches might sink, twist, turn and gap. The berries might bubble over your neat little dough twists. But pie doesn’t have to be perfect. Like knitting, it’s handmade. What matters is that it’s made with love, and it tastes delicious.
In the MDK Shop
Here is more pie inspiration from some of my personal favorite cookbooks. (Some of these crust recipes may be better suited for regular, non-decorative crusts, but I’m a pie lover and these deserve a share.)
Singer, mom and chef Kelis (also known for her song “Milkshake”) serves up a collection of recipes inspired by her Puerto Rican/Jamaican upbringing and world travels as a musician. Add this book to your collection and try her apple pie recipe and Butter Flaky Everything pie crust dough. (You also may want to try making her recipe for Cappuccino Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust. Just wow.)
At Sister Pie, Lisa Ludwinski and her band of bakers are helping make Detroit sweeter one slice at a time from a corner pie shop in a former beauty salon. No one leaves without pie—those who don’t have money in their pockets can cash in a prepaid slice from the “pie it forward” clothesline strung across the window. This gorgeous book includes a whopping 75 pie recipes, sweet and savory, and totally unique. Find the Sister Pie Crust recipe here on Bon Appetit.
I can’t talk about pie without mentioning fellow Iowan Beth Howard. Beth knows about pie. She made pies at California’s Malibu Kitchen for Barbra Streisand, Dick Van Dyke and Steven Spielberg before moving back home to rural Iowa to live in the house that was the backdrop for Grant Wood’s painting, American Gothic. In her book Ms. American Pie, she explains how a simple slice of pie can serve as a catalyst for healing. Read more about Beth at The World Needs More Pie, and scroll down to the Shaker Lemon Pie to find her pie crust recipe.
For some reason, knitting and pie just go together. Maybe it’s the season. Maybe it’s the joy of making things with our hands. As Beth Howard says, “Pie is comfort. Pie heals. Pie can change the world.”