What are Pie Guides?
"Pie Guides" are 8" diameter flexible food-safe stencils featuring cheeky and geeky subject matter that allow anyone - from baking novice to pie god - to create sophisticated and fun pie crust designs quickly and easily.
Pie Guides are designed to work in a modular fashion, allowing the user to create multiple different designs from a single Guide. But it's when different Pie Guides are brought together that you can really unleash your baking creativity by mixing and matching different shapes into new and wacky pastry compositions!
Powder Guides are similar to Pie Guides, except they come with an additional thinner stencil for use with your favourite spices and powders like cocoa or cinnamon. This extra stencil layer lets you quickly add finer details, such as the butterfly with mathematical symbols above, to amp up the awesome of your pies even further.
Where can I buy Pie Guides and Powder Guides?
You can get the Unicorn Pie Guide for free right now with my epic pie decorating book Pie Modding, and I do frequent giveaways of Pie Guides and Powder Guides on my Instagram account @thePieous. Watch this space for announcements as well as some groovy giveaways and contests!
What Can I make with Pie Guides and Powder Guides?
At the moment, there are 7 different Pie Guide designs and 5 different Powder Guide Designs... with many more in the works!
Each guide has an "edge trim" shape that is the outline of the Pie Guide itself, a central figure like a dragon or rocket ship, and some modular components like stars or hearts. These elements can be used to create "positive" designs - shapes cut out of dough and added to the pie crust, as well as "negative" designs - holes cut out of the pie top revealing the filling beneath. You have the freedom to place and pose the central figure however you wish, and use the modular elements to create intricate crust borders, wallpaper patterns, or anything you can dream up.
Those of you who have more than one Pie Guide in your collection can also combine elements to create even wackier compositions like dragon-winged kitties or knife-wielding Cthulhus. Throw in a couple of your own cookie cutter shapes and free-form hand cut designs and there is no limit to what you can create...
If you were one of the first 600 Kickstarter backers to get a Pie Guide, post your master-pie-ces (see what I did there?) on any social platform with the tags #PiesAreAwesome #PieGuides to be eligible for future contests and pie-oneer spotlights!
How do I use my Pie Guides and Powder Guides?
In general, Pie Guides are pretty self explanatory. But there are a few best practices that will help you get the most out of your designs. Check out these tips and tricks, and feel free to add your own in the comments at the bottom of the page!
If you've ever tried to lift pie dough onto the top of a pie, you know two things:
- There are as many techniques for accomplishing this as their are flavours of pie.
- They're all kind of a pain in the butt!
Pie dough, like all dough and clay, is very susceptible to tearing and distortion when lifted. You've gone to all the trouble to produce a gorgeous composition in pie dough on your counter and now you are ready to lift it onto the top of your pie... You carefully shimmy your knife under the dough to lift it up, and as you are moving it over to the pie, all hell breaks loose. Your dough stretches out and cracks in the middle, your lovely C'thulhu tentacles slide off... Calamity!
Fortunately for you, this is an easily avoided calamity. All you have to do is set up your work surface correctly. Instead of working directly on your counter, work on either a thin plastic cutting board (like the one pictured in the video below) covered in flour, or any flat surface that can be lifted such as a baking sheet covered in flour or parchment paper covered piece of cardboard. This allows you to not only get closer to your pie when it is time to transfer, but it allows you to put the whole dough top into the freezer for a few minutes to make it even easier to circumvent gravity's nasty attempts to kill your pie art.
Skip ahead to second 0:50 to see the dough top transfer. The design in the video was verrry delicate. The intricate shapes were cut right through the dough and there was no way I would be able to lift it over if I wasn't able to freeze it first. I use a"cake lifter" here to provide even more support.
Once your work surface is set up, place your clean and dry Pie Guide stencil on top of your rolled and chilled pie dough. Pressing the Pie Guide firmly down to avoid slipping, use a sharp knife to slowly and carefully cut out your pieces. Watch your fingers!
Knives (especially dull ones) can pull and distort pie dough, or any modeling medium really. For larger areas like a unicorn's body, it is okay to drag your knife through the dough as if you are drawing with a pencil. However! When you get to the fiddly bits like the horn or the hooves (hoofs? they both look funny) if you perform the same "pulling" motion with your knife, you'll just drag the corners of the fine details in the dough out with you. The solution to this is to press straight down with your knife in these areas. That way the dough gets cut through without being dragged and distorted and you have a lovely clean shape.
In this video, I cut out several teensy weensy "Pi" symbols using the "Pi Mandala Pie Guide" (or an early prototype of it anyway.) I was able to do this quickly and painlessly by pressing straight down with my knife rather than pulling. Skip to second 0:20.
It also helps to have a nice, sharp knife! I use a fondant cutting knife because I can easily swap out the blades when they start to get dull.
Scoring Fine Details
You may wish to add some details to your cut out pieces, such as a face for your kitties or polkadots on your unicorn... This can easily be accomplished with a fondant sculpting tool or a simple toothpick. There are two tricks to making your scoring details work in pie dough:
- Wet your tool with some egg white. Using a "dry" tool will cause the edges of your dough to lift up and drag along in the direction of your line. Bit messy. To keep things smooth and tidy, just dip your toothpick or scoring tool in some egg as you draw. You'll not only keep things flat, but you'll seal the edges of your line which will help it brown and stand out when baking.
- And speaking of "standing out when baking", if you've ever baked a pie before, you know that pie dough both "puffs" and shrinks in the oven. The single best way to make sure your details are still visible after you've baked your dough is to give them a light wash with vanilla mixed with a drop of brown food colouring. You can do it without the food colour if you don't have any kicking around, it will just be a slightly more subtle effect. Make sure the vanilla mixture pools inside the lines and let it sit for a few minutes before you pop it in the oven.
Skip to second 1:05 to see me painting a vanilla and food colouring wash over my scored dough lines.
Pasting pieces together
You can simply place your Pie Guide cutouts on top of one another and then bake - the heat from the oven will help them adhere to one another to a certain extent... But if you want to really make your designs robust and hold together as your pie is cut, you'll want to "paste" your dough pieces together before baking.
All you need to accomplish this is a bit of egg wash (with or without yolk) - just dab a dot of the egg wash on the surfaces you want to bond together and press them together lightly. They will bond in the oven and hold up to the bumps and bruises of the buffet table for the duration!
Using a Powder Guide
Powder Guides are just like Pie Guides, but with an extra, more detailed powder stencil included.
Once you have cut out your basic shapes, align the powder stencil on top of the cutout shape and holding it down firmly so there are no gaps, lightly dab egg white through the holes with a pastry brush. Make sure you fully cover all of the exposed dough with the egg wash, but don't make it too goopy or runny as this will cause you problems when you are ready to lift it off.
Next, sprinkle your cinnamon or powder of your choice over the stencil and firmly tap it into the dough. Let it set for 2 minutes to give the egg a chance to dry and then carefully brush off the excess with your fingers or a small brush.
Now lift off the stencil, raising it straight up - parallel to your table so that none of the loose powder falls back onto your shape. If any stray powder fell where it shouldn't, simply scrape it off with a clean knife or toothpick.
There are two ways you can bake your Pie Guide-adorned pies: with the designs baked "directly on the pie" or baked separately on a baking sheet as "post-bake appliqués."
How do I care for my Pie Guides and Powder Guides?
Pie Guides and Powder Guides are made of food safe clear PETG plastic. They are both flexible and robust, and can handle almost anything you can throw at them. While they do hold up fine in dishwasher tests, it is probably best to hand-wash them with soap and warm water to avoid scratches building up over time. Just pat dry and store flat - perhaps in a drawer or the pages of your favourite cook book!
Post your Pie Guide and Powder Guide creations on Instagram with the hashtags #PiesAreAwesome and #PieGuides and you could have your work showcased in the Pie Guide spotlight: instagram.com/pieguides/ And maybe on this page too!