Blueberry Pie, round two.

June 29, 2010 · 9 comments

I saw my first blueberries at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market last Saturday. I didn’t buy any for this week — we have friends in town, and there are 6 kids between us, the oldest two being six-years old. Between the chaos of 6 little people, and the fact that my cooking-brain has been a bit challenged since we moved, outside of sourdough pancakes on the griddle as I type, and the planned sour-cherry rustic tart for dessert tonight, I’m not doing much to feed them (see what you get when you come visit me?).

But the image of those blueberries stuck with me, and it’s got me thinking about pie. Since I made my first blueberry pie a couple years ago, and it was a raging success, I thought I’d share it again — mainly to remind myself that I did cook, on occasion, before three weeks ago.


This was my very first blueberry pie. Isn’t it lovely?

(Anecdotal note: I was chastised, in jest, a while back, for claiming that something I prepared leaned heavily toward deserving the adjective delicious. But I’ve never had a problem saying that something I make is good. Likewise, I don’t hesitate to bring out such negative descriptors as bad, disappointing, or even disastrous. I suppose I, in some way, place a comfortable distance between myself and what I make — usually, because it’s not my original recipe, so I’m not to thank. Or, it’s entirely due to the quality of ingredients, which I didn’t create. I will allow, that in some cases, claiming the success of a food before your guests try it could set you up for failure. And maybe, in those cases, I should keep my mouth shut. But at the moment of note, I was declaring the utter fantastic-ness of mango sorbet and toasted coconut ice creams served together — and, on this note, I must claim complete objectivity. If anyone were to taste the combo and disagree, I would have to write off their tastebuds as insufficient.)

So, the pie. We picked blueberries a couple of weekends ago, the kids and I. On this adventure, I learned a few things:

  1. Picking a gallon of blueberries is nowhere near as easy as picking a gallon of strawberries.
  2. Two-year olds are not much help. And are, rather, a hindrance. Especially when they decide to eat a white-pink blueberry.
  3. Blueberry bushes are at exactly the wrong height for extended reaching when your body is clearly showing the signs of having entered your third trimester of pregnancy.
  4. There is a reason that the memory of picking blueberries at my grandmother’s house as a child has always included the tinge of general grumpiness.

Thanks to the help of a friend and her older children, we finally filled our bucket. I ended up with a few quart bags of frozen berries, and saved enough fresh to make a cobbler and this pie. I was (of course) inspired by the last issue of Cook’s Illustrated; if I was going to use 6 cups of hard-won fresh blueberries to make a pie, it was going to be this one.

And I think that it was near-perfect (ahem… if I do say so myself). A hefty dose of zest and juice gave it a wonderful lemony aroma and flavor, which kept it from being too sweet and one-dimensional. And the texture — made by using grated apple in place of part of the traditional measure of tapioca — held together enough to cut stable slices while not being close to gummy or gelatinous.

The crust, though. It was both flaky and tender. But the war that was waged in my kitchen for that crust — I don’t know if I can do it again. The recipe called for the ironically-named “Fool-proof pie dough” that Cook’s has published before. This was the first time I’d made it, and I guess that if this recipe is an official measure, I must now be called a fool. The process flies in the face of all pie-dough-making knowledge that I’ve acquired to this point. It was kind of like trying to drive backwards, or write with your left hand (if you are, like me, right-handed). The dough was made in a food processor, and that I’ve done before. But you actually allow the fat and flour to become fully, unapologetically incorporated. No pea-sized clumps here — this was a mass of cookie dough. And then, you stir in enough water and vodka to form a wet, soggy dough (the vodka keeps the dough from becoming tough, which is what you’re avoiding by overmixing when making a traditional crust). I kept repressing my doubt and confusion, trusting the author. But when it came time to roll out the dough, both my confidence and the expletives started to fly. It was impossible to roll and get into the pie pan without it falling apart. So I resorted to actually rolling both crusts twice each — which normally makes a pie crust turn into a thin hockey puck. I stuck it in the oven, cursed one last time for good measure, and hoped for the best.

And, I mean look at it. That crust gave me the bird. Outside of having the slightest hint of that shortening flavor (I prefer the flavor, while not the texture, of all-butter crusts), it was really right-on. The ideal encasement for 6 cups of freshly-baked blueberries. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

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Melissa June 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I need to go get blueberries this week. Perhaps the girls and I will try a pie if I can drag them away from the Wii. :)

Amy June 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Your memories of picking blueberries at Gonnie’s are legitimately grumpy. First, there were those awful bugs. But more importantly, we didn’t WANT to go pick blueberries, we were told, “Y’all would have so much fun if you went outside and picked blueberries!” And being compliant children, we did that.

They tricked us into doing manual labor, you know — they did the same thing with pecans, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go get a bunch of pecans from the park?” Why pay for a bag of berries or pecans at a roadside stand when you have gullible grandkids?

Dad June 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Don’t forget the firewood that I “made you” help load!

Cherith June 30, 2010 at 12:04 am

My sister introduced me to the same dough recipe, I LOVE IT! She taught me that the best way to roll it was to put the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, I find it way easy. I have not made Blueberry Pie before, I will have to try it.

katy June 30, 2010 at 7:46 am

Does the parchment get all wrinkled? Seems like when I’ve tried that before, the paper gets wrinkled and I’m pulling paper out of creases in my pie crust. Or maybe that was waxed paper?

Amanda July 4, 2010 at 12:01 am

I had the same battle with that crust, although the crust won at my house, and I was a sore loser. I was game for the weirdness, but it didn’t roll for beans. So what will you do for crust next time? Do you have a go-to recipe?

katy July 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Amanda, I love the All-American Pie Dough in The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. That’s probably what I’d go with next time, although I’m tempted to try the vodka again to see if Cherith’s parchment idea does the trick.

Angie July 12, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Katy, I remember talking with you a couple years back about this pie dough. I made it a couple of times myself, wondering the whole time what pie crust they substituted in their video clip that came together and rolled out with such ease. Recently, I was turned onto a baker named Dorie Greenspan and have stuck with her “good for almost anything pie dough” recipe. Still love the blueberry filling in CI’s recipe though. Also, love their cherry pie filling made with Trader Joe’s Morello cherries, when the real thing isn’t in season. If you haven’t heard, Rob and I are now in Lynchburg, VA. We moved here in March to take a church plant. Enjoy reading about what your cooking.

katy July 13, 2010 at 8:38 am

Angie!!! I did hear that you guys moved, but after-the-fact. How’s it going up there? Any culture shock from deep south? Hope it is a great new era for you guys!!

I’ll have to look up Dorie Greenspan — I’ve not heard of her. Glad to hear you finally threw in the towel on the vodka crust — that might save me from further trying.

I made a tart once with the jarred morellos, and it was fantastic. Now if I could just remember what I did…

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