Did I mention blueberries grow in New England? There was a day apart long ago, when a few kids I had met, while grown-ups were visiting, took me to pick blueberries. For me that was the best day, a memorable day, the sun was out and the bushes were full of small, ripe sweet blueberries. The first making a pie adventure happened afterward – with those pie dough sticks and me rolling out the dough and having such a moment of kensho* that it stuck with me all this time.
Blueberries are my favorite food. Before that first pie was ever made, one summer, my mother bought fresh blueberries. She did something unusual. She put them in a bowl with sweet milk for me to eat. We didn’t snack at home. This was a treat. To this day, I can remember that first bite of the blueberries and milk. (Quelle surprise!) This was something to taste, cool sweetness and deep, sun drenched berry flavor enriched from the local soil mixed together in my mouth – uncooked goodness. (Ah, childhood memories are sweet.)
Yesterday I managed to get a blueberry pie in the oven to bake. I followed an old fashioned recipe that uses instant tapioca as a thickener instead of flour or cornstarch. On Sunday, I started dough for the pie and monkeyed with the method. (Will I ever learn?) In an effort to turn over a new leaf in my eating, I tried making an oil dough instead of butter dough. (Surprise. Surprise. Mais non.) It looked like anemic Play Dough that had been left out overnight. (Yuk. I could barely knead it.) It was un-kneadable. (Gak.) Disgusted, I wrapped it in cling wrap and refrigerated it with the hope that it might be usable later. Long story – short ending, I threw it out. Made butter based dough, but added a ½ cup of whole-wheat flour to the recipe. (Can’t leave it alone, can I?) This crust turned out light and flaky. Peace, at last. Anyone want to try a piece of blueberry pie?
Pastry dough ingredients – this is from All Recipes: Retrieved August 18, 2010.
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
3 cups all purpose flour (for a more rustic and tasty crust exchange ½ cup of the white for whole wheat flour)
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/3 cup ice water and a little more in reserve. (I put ice in the water to make it cold.)
Combine flour and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Cut butter or margarine or butter and shortening into tablespoon pieces; add it to the flour and butter. Use the paddle beater to cut the butter and flour together. Alternatively, this can be done by hand with a pastry blender.
With the mixer on low speed, or while stirring the mixture with a fork, pour in the cold water. When the dough starts to clump, and before it turns into a ball, stop stirring.
Lightly knead dough in the bowl until it forms a ball. Divide dough into two parts. Flatten each part into a disk, and chill for about 30 minutes before rolling.
The Business of Cooking Desserts, Favorite Recipes Press, Page 110, 1967. From the American Business Women’s Association
Fresh Blueberry Pie (Abridged version)
4 c. fresh blueberries
1 c. sugar
3 tbsp. quick cooking tapioca
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. grated fresh lemon peel
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 9 inch pie plate with 1/2 of the pastry rolled 1/8 inch thick; set aside. Combine blueberries, sugar, tapioca, cinnamon, lemon peel, salt and lemon juice; turn into pastry lined pie plate. Dot with butter. Roll out the dough for the top. Place on the pie. Trim and seal the edges. (I practiced making a fluted edge this time.) Use a fork and put holes in the top of the pie – make a nice design. Place in the oven for 40-50 minutes. I use a timer and let it go for 40 minutes, then give it 5 minutes more.
Voila! There you have the freshest Blueberry pie to serve with a light, flakey crust. Hint: don’t overwork the crust. I mixed the butter and flour with my hands. Messy? A little, but then I tasted the mixture on my finger – flavor was goood! For this pie, I did buy the Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey’s on Hennepin Ave in Uptown that Anna recommended. (It’s fantastic.)
*Kensho: loosely defined – an aha moment! “Like wow, I get this.” Everything is practice, even cooking.
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