Blue--what an incredible color. Blue ribbons, blue bonnets, blue suede shoes, blue moods, Marge Simpson's blue hairdo, the list just goes on and on. And blueberries . . . what a fabulous color for a fruit! I mean, how did nature ever come up with that? And how does one do justice to such an impressively blue fruit? How to honor it, pay it tribute, and appreciate it in all its indigo glory?
Bake it into a pie, of course. What berry wouldn't be proud to have a pie devoted to its very existence? No berry worth its juice, that's what berry.
I bought a few pints of blueberries this week for just such a purpose--a pie purpose, that is. It's been a while since I've made a blueberry pie out of fresh, vs. frozen, berries and my past attempts at fresh-berry pies have frequently yielded tasty but overly juicy results. That may not sound too bad, but in reality too much juice can turn the bottom crust into a spongy, soggy, non-crusty entity that is not attractive and that I do not like. So, in preparing to make this week's pie I figured I'd better try the method where you cook the fruit for a while to remove some of the moisture prior to putting it into the shell to bake. The recipe I used, just for the fruit filling, turned out to be a good one from King Arthur Flour. The only aspect of their formula that I changed was to decrease the recommended amount of cinnamon. Other than that, I think I adhered to the original pretty closely.
For the crust, I used my own adjusted version of a recipe for pate brisee that comes from the baking textbook About Professional Baking by Gail Sokol. I more or less doubled the recipe because I just like to have extra pie-crust dough available in the freezer. I reduced the amount of sugar indicated and I increased the salt. (Pate brisee's just a basic pastry/pie crust dough with a quaint French name. We should all have such quaint French names, don't you think?)
This is a crust recipe that's written to be used with a food processor, so that's what I used this time around. But I have to tell you that I am not fond of using this appliance for pie crust dough. Why? Well, I don't feel I have nearly as much control when I can't see into the bowl at all times and I can't just stick my hand in there whenever I want to. You see, I'm still into the joyous-though-primitive rapture of using a simple hand-held pastry blender for this task. Yes, I said joyous rapture. Call me crazy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist. I'm not a technology hater, I just like to have a close-up and personal relationship with my pie dough. I don't just like to, I need to, in order to feel like the dough is fully my own creation. I know I love my mixer, but I guess I only like my food processor. (There, it's out. I've said it. No turning back now.)
Fresh Blueberry Pie
For the fruit filling (enough for one 9" pie):
6 cups of fresh, ripe, firm blueberries that have been rinsed and lightly dried
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a large sauce pan, stir together gently, and simmer until the mixture has thickened. This may take a good while, since you'll be simmering on low heat, so just be patient. Check it every now and then and give it a stir. Don't let it get so hot that it boils or it may become overly thick and gelatinous, like canned pie filling--not our goal! After it's thickened to your liking, remove it from the heat, set it aside, and let it cool to lukewarm.
(See, initially the liquid looks like pink gravy, as shown above. Then, as shown below, it eventually starts to look more like blueberry preserves.)
For the crust (this makes enough for two 9" double-crust pies; you can always freeze the extra dough):
3 1/2 cups AP flour, bleached
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cake flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 lb. minus 2 Tbsp. (that's 3 sticks plus 6 Tbsp.) of unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes and put in the freezer for about one hour
1 and 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup ice water, plus more on hand if needed
Combine the two flours, sugar, and salt in the large bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well combined. (Or, do the whole kit and kaboodle by hand in a big bowl with your trusty pastry blender. That'll work too.)
Scatter the frozen butter cubes over the top of the flour. Pulse the food processor until the cubes are no smaller than peas.
Slowly add the lemon juice and half the water, pulsing just until combined. Continue adding more water until the dough holds together when you test it by pressing a bit of it in your hand.
When the dough seems ready to you, dump it into a large regular bowl, or onto a clean flat surface, so you can gather it all up into a ball.
Divide the ball into four equal parts, and shape each one into a flattened disk. Wrap all of the disks individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate two of them (if you're making one pie refrigerate two; freeze or refrigerate the other two for future use) for about an hour or more so the dough can rest. Pie dough needs to nap, you know. Makes the gluten calm and relaxed.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
When you're ready to roll out your dough, do it on a lightly floured surface. Cold marble works great, if you have it, as does using a marble rolling pin (if you've never tried using cold marble you might want to consider it; it's unbelievable how much easier it makes the whole dough-rolling experience).
If you like, use your pie plate, flipped upside down, to help measure the size of the circle you'll need. Trim off the excess crust with scissors or a sharp knife.
Transfer the crust to your plate. (I like to fold the dough into quarters before moving it over to the pie plate. This is a really easy method if your dough is resilient and flexible enough to handle it.)
Spoon all of the lukewarm berry mixture into your pie shell.
Dot the top of the berries with a several tiny dabs of unsalted butter.
Roll out your top crust and transfer it to your pie. Crimp the edges however you like, and cut slits in the top of the dough for steam to escape. Brush the crust lightly with milk or cream, and liberally sprinkle sanding sugar (or granulated sugar) over the crust. Sanding sugar will give the top crust a cute rumply appearance after it's baked.
Put the pie on an old cookie sheet, or on foil, to catch juice leaks. Bake it for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Then, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and continue baking for anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes, until the pie is light golden brown. Cover the edges of the top crust if they seem to be over-browning at any point along the way.
When the pie is done, take it out and cool it on a rack for at least a couple hours before cutting it. (If you can resist.)
This pie was a big hit in my house. My sixteen-year old son inhaled most of it. He's a tall, skinny lifeguard this summer and teenage lifeguards gotta eat!
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