Lauren Ko’s dazzling geometric tart recipes are the ultimate baking challenge

Posted by for Food and Drink

In her new cookbook Pieometry, Lauren Ko reveals the secrets behind her Instagram-famous bakes. Below, she shares four recipes with Stylist

If you’ve ever spent time nosing around baking accounts on Instagram, you’ve probably come across the work of Lauren Ko. The Seattle-based writer, artist and self-taught baker is the force behind the popular account @lokokitchen, where she posts nothing but photos of pies and tarts. Not just any pies and tarts, however: Ko’s creations are deliciously non-twee bakes inspired by geometry, architecture and textiles, featuring fruit and dough woven into intricate pattens that look more like the work of a graphic designer than a cook.

Ko made her first pie around four years ago, creating an Instagram account in summer 2017 to showcase her work to family and friends. Within six months she’d grown an 125,000-strong following and quit her office job to focus on her burgeoning baking brand full-time. Today, she has over 356,000 Instagram followers (with Gigi Hadid and Drew Barrymore among them); hosts pie-making workshops, private classes and corporate events through her company LokoKitchen; and has now published Pieometry (£25, Harper Design), her first cookbook in the UK.

Billed as a primer on “modern tart art and pie design for the eye and the palate”, Pieometry is a friendly and surprisingly accessible guide to recreating Ko’s intricate designs. As you’d expect, these aren’t practical recipes to knock out in half an hour at the end of a long day – but neither are they so complicated that you’ll be too intimidated to give them a go. 

Instead, they’re satisfying culinary challenges for weekends or days off when you’ve got some time to kill (which feels pertinent, given that most of us are currently stuck at home more than we’d like). They’re all but certain to leave you with something dazzling to post on your own Instagram feed – and even if you do mess up the presentation, they’re still guaranteed to taste delicious. 

Baker Lauren Ko
Writer and baker Lauren Ko, author of Pieometry

So without further ado, read on to find four of Ko’s best recipes below – starting with the basic shortbread crust that is used in the following three pies. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to recreate one of these bakes at home. We can’t wait to see the pictures…

Basic shortbread crust

Ingredients

  • 142g plain flour
  • 57g icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 113 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F.

Combine the flour, icing sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mixture by smushing the cubes with your fingers, working until a homogenous dough forms. The resulting dough should be smooth and supple.

Press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, using your palm to flatten it into an even layer. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any butter drips that occur during baking and to provide stability as you transfer the tart shell in and out of the oven.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Berried treasure

lauren-ko-pie-recipe-Berried-Treasure

Ingredients

  • 1 baked basic shortbread crust, cooled completely

For the lavender blackberry whipped cream:

  • 2 teaspoons dried food-grade lavender
  • 237ml double cream
  • 85g fresh blackberries
  • 225g cream cheese
  • 113g icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt

Method

Prepare a day ahead

Combine the lavender and double cream in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low just until steam lifts off the surface and a tiny line of bubbles forms around the edge. Do not let the cream boil. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or until cold.

Day of

Strain the cream and discard the lavender. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, whip the cold lavender-infused cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

Puree the blackberries and scrape the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve with a spatula to extract as much pulp as possible. You should have slightly less than 59ml puree. Discard the remaining seeds and set the puree aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, icing sugar, and salt. Blend with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the blackberry puree and mix on medium speed until well combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream with a spatula. Do not overmix.

Berry ombré design process

Remove the baked and cooled shortbread crust from the pan and place it carefully on a plate. Dollop the blackberry whipped cream in the centre and use an offset spatula to swoop and swirl the cream outward, leaving a ¼-inch edge of exposed crust.

Arrange the berries on your work surface by hue from darkest to lightest. Depending on how many different colours you have, mentally divide the tart in as many sections.

Starting from the left edge of the tart, fill a vertical section with the darkest berries. For extra dimension, mound the berries by stacking some as a jumble on top. Transition to the next darkest berry, again filling a vertical column. Continue moving across the surface of the tart, placing fruit in columns, ending with the lightest colour.

Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This tart is best consumed the day it is made.

Topping alternatives

While they may not give the same ombré effect, most fruits (with the exception of citrus) pair well with this tart.

Note

As a design variation, build the berry ombré radially. Arrange the lightest coloured berries in a circle in the centre of the tart and continue moving outward in rings, transitioning from lightest to darkest.

Wave of wonders

lauren-ko-pie-recipe-Wave-of-Wonders

Ingredients

  • 1 baked basic shortbread crust, cooled completely

For the spiced coffee cream:

  • 118ml double cream
  • 225g cream cheese
  • 57g icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 59ml brewed black coffee, cold

For the wavy layer design process:

  • 1 firm red pear, such as D’Anjou
  • 1 firm green pear, such as Concorde
  • 1 firm yellow pear, such as Bartlett
  • 1 firm brown pear, such as Bosc
  • Chef’s knife or mandoline slicer

Method

In a medium bowl, whip the double cream to soft peaks with an electric mixer. Set aside.

Combine the cream cheese, icing sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Beat with the electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain, about 1 minute. Add the coffee 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Gently fold in the whipped cream until just incorporated. Set aside.

To create the design, stand the pears stem-up and run your knife straight down to cut each into four wedges, slicing as close to the core as possible but avoiding the seeds. It’s OK if the sections vary in height, as this will lend an additional textural dimension to the tart.

Place each pear section skin-side up and cut into 1-millimetre slices. If you have a mandoline, this is a pearfect opportunity to use it, but watch your fingers! You’ll need those for this design (and every other one in the book, for that matter). The slices shouldn’t be too thick to bend, but neither should they be so thin that they are translucent. They should retain enough structure to stand upright in the cream. Keep the pear slices organized by colour as you slice.

Remove the baked and cooled shortbread crust from the pan and place it securely on a plate. Dollop the coffee cream in the centre and spread it evenly over the surface of the crust with an offset spatula, leaving a ¼-inch edge of exposed crust.

Gather 8 pear slices of one colour and lay them on their side in a slightly overlapping line on the cutting board. Carefully transfer the line of pears as a single unit and stand them skin side up in the coffee cream, curving the line slightly and using the cream to hold everything in place.

Gather 8 slices of another colour and repeat the process of organizing them in an overlapping line. Transfer this group of slices to the tart and place it adjacent to the first line of fruit, following the curve. Continue this process of fitting lines of pears – staggering the lines, varying the curves, and alternating colours – until the entire surface of the tart has been covered. You can also vary the number of slices in each line of fruit depending on the remaining space.

This tart is most visually striking when served immediately. Refrigerated leftovers after the first day will still be tasty but less appealing in presentation, as the pear slices will brown.

Topping alternative

Apples

Notes

The type of pear matters less than the colour variety, although for design variation, you can opt to limit your colour assortment.

I serve this tart right away, but if you are concerned about oxidation, mix 2 tablespoons honey in a bowl with 1 cup water and soak the pear slices for 1 minute. Drain the slices and pat dry before arranging.

Jewel’s paradise

lauren-ko-pie-recipe-Jewels-Paradise

Ingredients

  • 1 baked basic shortbread crust, cooled completely

For the gingerbread caramel:

  • 198g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (43g) unsulphured molasses (eg Grandma’s Molasses, available online, not blackstrap molasses)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 237ml double cream

For the gingerbread caramel cream:

  • 225g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 170g gingerbread caramel

For the jewel box design process:

  • 6 figs
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils
  • Paring knife
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers

Method

Whisk the sugar, 118ml water, and the molasses in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

While waiting for the sugar and molasses to boil, whisk the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the sugar and molasses mixture registers 120°C/250°F on a candy thermometer, remove from the heat. Add the butter and carefully whisk in the double cream. If the caramel seizes, return to low heat and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the spices. Cool completely and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the gingerbread caramel cream, combine the cream cheese and caramel in a mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer until smooth.

To create the design, trim the figs and cut them crosswise into 1/8-inch slices, discarding the ends. Cut each fig slice in half, and each half into 2 or 3 small wedges. Set aside.

Remove the baked and cooled shortbread crust from the pan and place it carefully on a plate. Dollop the gingerbread caramel cream in the centre and spread it evenly over the surface of the crust with an offset spatula, leaving a 1⁄4-inch edge of exposed crust.

Use a toothpick to draw a wandering, curvy line in the cream across the middle of the tart. Draw another undulating line that intersects with the first line. Trace several more lines, spacing them out over the surface of the tart, adding smaller connecting squiggles as desired.

Pave the lines with pomegranate arils.

Fill in all the negative space between the pomegranate lines with fig wedges nestled tightly together. Since the tiny fig wedges can be difficult to manoeuvre, I like to scoop up each piece with the tip of my paring knife and then gently nudge it off the knife and onto the surface of the tart with my finger. Continue filling in fig wedges until the surface of the tart is completely covered and the gingerbread caramel cream is no longer visible.

Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This tart is best consumed within 2 days.

Topping alternatives

Pomegranate and green apple, blueberry and strawberry

lauren ko pieometry cookbook

Pieometry: Modern Tart Art And Pie Design For The Eye And The Palate by Lauren Ko (£25, Harper Design) is out now

Photography: Ed Anderson

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