The humble pie has been given a makeover, fit for Instagram.
A quick search of the hashtag “pieart” in Instagram reveals close to 7000 posts, featuring pies decorated with all kinds of pastry art. There’s one topped with pastry Scrabble letters.
But almost exclusively, the top #pieart posts are from one woman - Lauren Ko, who posts under the name @lokokitchen.
The Seattle resident is an amateur baker with no training whatsoever, but her intricate, geometry-heavy designs have won thousands of followers (since launching her account in August, she’s amassed a community of more than 41,000 people, and counting). We chatted to Lauren about pastry art, pie prep, and why patience is the key to a great dessert.
How did you get into making pies?
A little over a year ago, I had newly moved to Seattle, Washington, and had some free time on my hands while job hunting. I thought I’d try my hand at making a pie after seeing some really beautiful images on Pinterest, and successfully (to my surprise) created the plaid pie on my feed. Then I brought a really disastrous pie to Thanksgiving and was too mortified to continue. Eventually, all the wonderful summer produce in Seattle lured me back into the pie world. I've always been a cookie/cake/muffin baker, but since this Instagram has taken off, it looks like I'll be deep in the pie world for a bit!
Right! You’ve amassed a huge social media following but it looks like you haven’t been on Instagram for too long - how’d that happen?
I started the @lokokitchen account on August 29 for fun. It was simply a venue to post my occasional food photos without inundating all my friends on my personal account. On October 29, one of my photos was shared by @designmilk and things just blew up! Since then, I have gained nearly 40,000 extra followers and have been featured on accounts like @food52 and @grubstreet (@nymag). The internet is nuts!
Your pie art is out-of-this-world amazing - what are your secrets?
My arsenal of tools is pretty minimal. It includes a French rolling pin, a rolling pie cutter, a metal ruler, a bench scraper, and a tempered glass pie plate. That's about it! A good chunk of time and patience is required, so I do a lot of my baking on the weekends since I work full-time during the week. I don't sketch my designs out and because I usually only have a general idea in my head. The finished products are often improvised accidents.
What are the best tips you’ve learned?
I'm such a novice and still figuring things out as I go along. But I do find that keeping the dough cold is key to preventing significant shrinkage. After I finish constructing the pie, I refrigerate the whole thing for at least an hour before baking.
Favourite kind of pie?
The pear and miso caramel pie I made was a revelation. Miso caramel is my new favorite thing.
And your least favourite?
The runny, undercooked marionberry pie I brought to Thanksgiving 2016! Yikes.