I’ve been on a quest. For years.
My husband’s dream pie is blueberry. For ages he’s been asking me for blueberry pie. And I’ve found it particularly difficult to get just right. Too runny. Too gelatinous. Not enough berries. Soggy crust. Frustrating.
So I’ve tweaked and I’ve tweaked some more and, finally…I think I got it.
My dilemma with berry pies is the liquid. There’s so much of it. Usually, by the time I slice more than one piece of it, it might as well be cobbler for all the berries running all over the place. And yes, even after it is completely cooled. There are lots of suggestions out there for how to get a berry pie to firm up. I think I’ve tried most of them. And I found some that worked, well, they worked a little too well. The pie would nearly be stiff in the center…all wiggly and weird.
To create a filling that could stand up to slicing, but just barely, without the berries being embedded in a shiny, jello-like substance – that has been the blueberry pie grail.
I’ve used tapioca in the past. I’ve used flour. I’ve used corn starch. I’ve used pectin. I’ve cooked the berries first. I’ve not cooked them at all. I’ve used fresh and I’ve used frozen.
Here’s what I have settled on for now: corn starch (more of it than you might think), frozen berries, mostly wild (because they are smaller/less juicy) and some regular/larger berries (which are cooked down first), and a pie crust that is actually a pâte brisée (because it can handle being a little thicker and makes a lovely lattice for the top.) Throw in some butter, nutmeg and lemon zest and there you have it. After his first slice the birthday boy announced, “This is MY pie. This is the one. I want this for my birthday from here on, like, until the end. Every one.” Which is when I said, “Gee, I sure hope I can remember how I made it. I didn’t exactly write anything down.” (I mean, really, doesn’t he know about my red velvet cake tradition??)
Ron’s Blueberry Pie (aka “The One”)
2 pints (4 cups) frozen wild blueberries + 1 cup large juicy (regular) blueberries (fresh or frozen)
¾ cup sugar (5 oz)
scant ¼ cup corn starch (1.5 oz)
1 oz cold water – for dissolving cornstarch
2 oz butter
1 teas lemon zest
1 teas nutmeg
1 recipe for pate brisee/ pie crust (double)*
Mash the 1 cup of regular berries with the sugar over medium heat and bring to a boil. Thicken with the corn starch dissolved in water. Simmer and add butter, zest, nutmeg. Stir into 2 pints of frozen berries and set aside.
*You can certainly use refrigerated pie crust here, I won’t tell! But if you want to up the “scratch factor” of this pie, I recommend a Pâte Brisée: place 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add 1 cup chilled, unsalted butter (2 sticks) cut into small pieces, one piece at a time until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, add anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup ICE water a few tablespoons at a time – just until the dough holds together – no more than 30 seconds. Divide the dough in half, flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight. Makes a double crust for 9-inch pie.
Have bottom crust prepared and in pie pan – cool in refrigerator. When berry mixture has cooled slightly, add to crust. Use top crust for lattice. Refrigerate completed pie for at least 20 minutes. Egg wash top crust. (I actually forgot this part which is why the crust isn’t as golden as it should be.) Bake in preheated 425° oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and continue baking for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling seems to have set a little. COOL COMPLETELY before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream, of course.