The ultimate holiday dessert is definitely pie—in whatever flavors you prefer, it’s likely on your table. But if we’re being honest, our pies don’t always look like the showstoppers we want them to. This year in particular, I’m seeking small joys this holiday season. For me, making a completely beautiful dessert (even if I’m the only one that sees it) is definitely a piece of joy, so I went looking for tips to take my healthy pumpkin pie and to make it something truly photo-worthy.
Luckily for me, Helen Nugent—a pie expert, of a sort—published a book this fall titled Pie Style, chock-full of recipes and advice for making a beautiful pie. A self-taught baker, Nugent makes ornate pies that have earned her over 50,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares a steady stream of beautifully crafted pies.
Though her complex creations may seem intimidating, there are (much) simpler things you can do to make a pie look a bit more professional. One simple thing in particular stood out to me: how easy it is to crimp a pie crust (a step I always skipped—it always seemed too finicky) and just how much taking that bit of extra time can take a pie from rustic to bakery-quality. So this year, I’ve decided to certainly be crimping the crust on my pie, following her five-step guide (below).
The best thing about pies is how easy it is to make them healthy and seasonal. Popular ingredients like pumpkin and apple are in season in the autumn, and they pair wonderfully with natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey (though you may not need much, as many fruits have a subtle sweetness of their own that comes out as they cook).
Because it’s also actually pretty easy to make a (totally great) vegan pie crust, they’re also a great alternative dessert for plant-based eaters at the holidays. Not only that, but cooking fruit doesn’t necessarily invalidate its nutritional value—it may break down some nutrients, but others hold up well in the heat. Making an apple pie this season? “Peeling apples will do far more to deplete those nutrients than baking,” says registered dietitian Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.
Sticking to seasonal fruit in your pie this year also doesn’t mean you’re stuck picking pumpkin or apple: Cranberries, figs, raspberries, pears, and pomegranates are in season now, too. And as we head into winter, you can start looking out for more citrus fruits, too—they can make for a wonderful pie or tart on their own or when added to other ingredients.