Monday, July 12, 2010

There Will Be Pie

Photo by Knulclunk

On Saturday, my sister had a milestone birthday. I won't tell you which one because it incriminates me.

Let's just say she's younger than I am. And, she looks fabulous!

The party was in her backyard garden. Her partner, Larry, has created quite a paradise there, with lush flower gardens as well as a lovely vegetable garden. For the party, he set up tents, strung twinkling lights, floated tea lights in the bird baths and hung colorful paper lanterns. We sat under the tents, where they had made a long table (Italian-style--al fresco) with pretty gerbera daisies in small fruit jars scattered along the center of the table.

But, as beautiful as the setting was, the food was better! They are both great cooks and their friends are too. A delightful evening.

In our family, we love to celebrate with pie rather than cake. A cake you can just go out and order. But, a pie, you have to make. Never being ones to take the easy road, my family chooses pie everytime. It's no wonder: my mom has made pies for somewhere between 70 and 75 years and does she ever know her way around a pie crust.

So, when my sister asked me to bring blueberry pies to her party, I was not surprised. It is one of her favorites.

We like to use the James Beard Blueberry Pie recipe, given to me years ago by my friend, Katherine. I converted it to a deep-dish pie because--well--you can't have enough blueberries, right? Also, I like to use my deep-dish pie pans--they are pretty.

I prefer a pâte brisé, which is an all-butter crust. I've tried other recipes, but there is no substitute for that buttery taste.

Here is the recipe. It is time intensive, but well worth the labor.

Happy Birthday, Tia!

James Beard's Blueberry Pie (adapted for deep-dish)

4-6 generous cups blueberries (you want them to mound a bit in the pie plate because they will shrink during cooking)




1 cup maple syrup (I use 2/3 cup for deep dish--1 cup seems too sweet)

2 pie crusts (see below)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and dry berries and place in bowl. Sprinkle flour and cinnamon over and mix. Pour into unbaked pie shell and Dot with little bits of butter. Pour the syrup over all. Cut second crust into strips and make a lattice top. Beat an egg and brush over lattice.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes; reduce temp to 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more. Reduce temp to 350 degrees and bake 20-35 minutes until done. If the crust's edges get brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil.

Pâte brisé for Deep Dish - makes two 9" crusts

3 3/4 cup flour, plus extra for rolling

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks) very cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

6-12 tablespoons ice water

Three things about pie crusts: 1) keep everything very cold; 2) don't overwork the dough; and 3) don't use too much water. I have noticed, though, in our dry climate I often have to use the maximum amount of water suggested, if not a little more. Just add the water slowly.

Otherwise, it's simple :-)

Cut sticks of butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes so that they become thoroughly chilled.

I use a pastry cutter because I like the results better. But you can use a food processor if you prefer. Combine flour, salt, and sugar and mix with a whisk. Add butter and mix with pastry cutter until mixture forms into pea-sized pieces. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix just until mixture begins to clump together. Dough will be very crumbly looking. Pick up a bit and form it in your palm. If it sticks together, it is ready. But, if it doesn't, repeat process, adding a little more water each time.

When dough is ready, place on a clean surface. Gently knead to bring dough together--do not overknead! Shape into 2 rounds. You want to see little pieces of butter in the dough--these are what create the flakiness. Sprinkle each round with a little flour on all sides. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Remove one of the dough rounds from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle some flour over top and bottom. Place the round between two large pieces of parchment paper and roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll the dough, check frequently to make certain it isn't sticking to the paper. If it is, sprinkle lightly with flour and roll until dough is the size you want (place the pie plate on top of the rolled out crust to see if the crust is large enough.) If dough becomes warm during rolling, just place it in the freezer for a few moments.

When crust is a good size, remove the top layer of parchment paper. Lift and gently invert the pie crust into the plate. Pat the crust into place, making certain there is no air underneath the crust. Remove the other parchment paper layer and add filling. If you need to repair the crust, just moisten your fingers with a little water and work the shell back into one piece.

Roll out second round into crust as above. Cut crust into strips and place 5-6 vertically over top of pie. Weaving the strips in and out, add 5-6 more strips horizontally. Bake according to above directions.

Making pie crusts takes some practice but relax. However your crusts turn out they will be waaaaay better than anything you can buy in a store.

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