When done right, the fruit pie is a thing of beauty. For me, the ideal fruit pie has a tender, flaky crust and a filling with a clean fruit flavor that isn’t too gummy or too runny. Generally, I find that making a well-made pie can be an exhausting matter. This pie is no exception. However, it’s a damn good pie with a delicious blueberry filling that holds up to cutting without having the texture of a gumdrop.
I can’t say that my method for pie baking will make pie baking any easier, but it will certainly make all of the hard work worth it by creating a delicious pie that your friends and family will coo over.
The recipe follows, below.
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
12-1/2 oz (2-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice-cold water
2 lbs fresh blueberries, washed, stems removed
1 apple, preferably granny smith, peeled and cored
5-1/4 oz (3/4 cup) sugar
Pinch (1/16 tsp) salt
2 TBSP tapioca
Zest of 1 lemon
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TBSP Chambord or other berry liqueur, optional
2 TBSP unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch bits
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp of heavy cream (or water)
1 TBSP blue sanding sugar
1 TBSP purple sanding sugar
- Prepare the crust by cutting the cold butter into 1/2-inch chunks. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, and sugar. Process until combined, about 10 seconds. Sprinkle the cold butter evenly over the top of the flour mixture. Pulse until most of the butter is the size of peas, about 5 pulses.
- Using the feed tube, slowly add 1/4 cup of the cold water to the processor while pulsing the mixture. Continue to slowly add water, while pulsing, until the dough just beings to come together into a dough. Some dry flour bits may will be visible. This is OK.
- Divide the dough evenly onto 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to press any loose bits into the dough. Shape each dough portion into rounds and place the round in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
- After the dough has rested for at least 1 hour, remove one dough round from the refrigerator and let is sit on the counter for 5 minutes. (And I mean 5 minutes. Set a timer and walk away.) This 5 minutes is important because it will prevent the dough from cracking at the edges while it is rolled.
- Unwrap the dough round and place it between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough gently, rotating the dough and parchment a 1/8th turn after each roll. This will help keep the dough round as it is rolled. The parchment paper eliminates the need for added flour, which can make the dough dry if too much is incorporated during the rolling.
- After the dough has reached 12 inches in diameter (there’s no shame in using a ruler!), move the dough and parchment sheets onto a baking sheet and into the refrigerator for 10 minutes (or 5 minutes in the freezer). This will keep your dough cold (cold dough=flaky dough) and prevent the dough from sticking to the parchment paper.
- After the 10 minutes has passed, remove the parchment from the refrigerator and remove the top sheet of parchment. Lift up the remaining parchment sheet and flip the dough upside-down onto a 9-inch pie pan. Carefully peel the sheet of parchment paper away from the dough. Lift the sides of the dough and ensure that the dough is touching the entire surface (bottom and sides) of the pie pan. Using a knife, clean pair of scissors, or kitchen shears, trim away the excess dough so that only about 1/2 inch extends beyond the edge of the pan. Gently lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the pie dough and return the dough-lined pan to the refrigerator.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place on an oven rack set in the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- For the filling, place half of the blueberries (1 lb) into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, mashing with a potato masher a few times to crush about half of the berries.
- Cook until the berry juice is thickened and almost jammy. The mixture should be reduced to about half of its original volume. Remove from the heat and add the Chambord, if using.
- Grate the apple on the large holes of a box grater. Place the grated apple into a clean kitchen towel and wring out the moisture. There is a lot of moisture in an apple, so this is a necessary step. You will need to apply some force to the apple to get all of the excess juices out. You can be rough with the squeezing–it’s an apple, not a Fabergé egg. Add the dry apple to a large bowl.
- Add the sugar, lemon zest, salt, and tapioca to the bowl of a food processor. Process the mixture for about 30 seconds. This infuses the lemon oil from the zest into the sugar and ensures any large chunks of tapioca are broken down. Add this sugar mixture to the apple.
- To the apple and sugar mixture, add the cooked and remaining raw blueberries. Stir until all of the apple and sugar are no longer white. Set aside while you roll out the top crust.
- Remove the second dough round from the refrigerator and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Unwrap the dough round and place it between 2 sheets of parchment paper as in step 8. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough gently, rotating the dough and parchment a 1/8th turn after each roll.
- After the dough has reached 12 inches in diameter, move the dough and parchment sheets onto a baking sheet and into the refrigerator for 10 minutes (or 5 minutes in the freezer).
- After the 10 minutes has passed, remove the parchment from the refrigerator and remove the top sheet of parchment. Using a small cookie cutter of your choice, cut out holes from the sheet of dough. If the shapes don’t pull out with the cutter, run your hand behind the dough and push the shape free. You will want to keep these cut out shapes intact as much as possible because they will be used to decorate the crust. A bamboo skewer or toothpick can help free the shapes from the dough. Set these cutouts aside on a sheet of parchment paper.
- Return both the round dough sheet and the cutout shapes to the refrigerator for 10 minutes (or freezer for 5 minutes).
- In a small bowl, use a spoon to mix together the blue and purple sugars.
- Add the filling to the pie pan making sure that it fills the pan evenly. Scatter the 1/4-inch butter pieces over the top of the filling.
- Remove the dough sheet from the refrigerator. Being sure to center the dough over the pie pan, carefully invert the dough sheet on top of the filled pie. Gently peel off the sheet of parchment paper.
- Using a knife, clean pair of scissors, or kitchen shears, trim away the excess dough so that only about 1/2 inch extends beyond the edge of the pan.
- Tuck the trimmed ends of the crust under so they are even with the edge of the pie pan. With your fingers or the tines of a fork, crimp the pie dough to seal the crust.
- Remove the cutout shapes from the refrigerator. Using the egg mixture, brush the shapes with the egg wash. Sprinkle the mixed sanding sugar over the top of the shapes.
- Brush the egg mixture over top of the pie being sure to cover.
- Use a small spatula to move the sugar-coated cutout shapes to the pie, arranging artfully.
- Place the pie in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up the pie crust dough before baking.
- Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for about 35 more minutes. The center of the filling should be hot and slowly bubbling.
- Remove the pie from the oven and, in a perfect world, allow to cool for about 3 hours.
In the interest of full disclosure, this pie is absolutely delicious when still warm after cooling for an hour or so. Topped with some vanilla ice cream, it is sweet berry bliss.
I know, I know–29 steps for a little ol’ pie?! Sometimes baking can be a tough mistress! Actually, for the most steps are intended to keep the pie crust cold to ensure flakiness.
And what’s with the apple? Apples are a great source of pectin–the substance that’s often added to jams to make them jammy. Don’t worry–you will not taste the apple. In fact, once the pie is baked, the grated apple melts away, and you won’t even notice the texture. Along with the tapioca, the apple helps the berry juices thicken into a flavorful syrup that holds up to cutting but doesn’t have the texture of your aunt’s Jell-O mold.
Happy pie baking!