Monday, July 5, 2010

Perfect Blueberry Pie

My first attempt at a totally from scratch blueberry pie was a miserable FAIL. I tried to ward off liquid-pie syndrome by adding 2 extra tablespoons of cornstarch to the blueberry mixture (which was essentially, blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon). This technique didn't work because the natural liquid from the berries took too long to combine with the cornstarch to help solidify the juices. In the end, it resulted in a liquidy, grainy disgusting mess.

After the first fail, I realized that what I was looking for was a recipe that would give me the consistency of pie filling, like the kind you can buy in a can at the grocery store. I knew that I would need to cook the blueberries with the sugar and cornstarch BEFORE adding it to the pie crust.

Everybody remembers that Google is my friend. The lightbulb went off and told me to Google "blueberry pie filling." One of the first results was a recipe from Recipezaar which had 5 stars and enough raving reviews that led me to believe that this was exactly what I was looking for.

As you have probably already noticed, this recipe was a major success. I now consider myself a pie baking QUEEN. Ok, maybe not in a general sense. But a blueberry pie baking queen for sure!

Now that we have the filling out of the way, I can tell you how I came to the most perfect homemade pie crust. The past from-scratch pies I've made I noticed that for my taste, the crust was never sweet enough. I don't like it sickeningly sweet, but just enough to complement the fact that it's a dessert. And for me, the taste of the crust is mega-important because the bottom crust is my ultimate favorite part of a pie.

So I basically had two pie crust recipes I was staring at, one of which called for no sugar, the other of which called for 2 tablespoons. I knew in my heart that 2 tablespoons wasn't enough. Further disecting of the two recipes showed a different ratio of flour-to-shortening. I decided to go in between.

And so here is my recipe for PERFECT PIE CRUST:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
4 Tbsp sugar (it's really the same as 1/4 cup, but it doesn't sound as bad :D)
1 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup shortening (and by this I mean I took a 1 cup measuring cup and didn't quite fill it up all the way, but to where I knew it was more than 3/4 cup and less than 1 cup)
1 egg
1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
3 Tbsp water
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and blend together with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar and water. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until it just comes together.
Tip: You may need to work a little extra flour into the dough as you're rolling it. I did, but I don't know how much. Maybe by adding 1-2 extra tablespoons of flour from the get-go would work, but at first, the dough just seems a little soft. Chilling might work well also.)

And here is the recipe for PERFECT BLUEBERRY PIE FILLING
Source: adapted from Pastryismybiz via Recipezaar

2 pints (4 cups) fresh blueberries, rinsed clean
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp plus 3 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1. In a medium saucepan add 1-1/2 cups of blueberries, sugar and 2 Tbsp water. Cook over low heat, gently mashing the berries, and simmer until sugar is melted and mixture is liquidy.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch with 3 Tbsp water.
3. Add cornstarch mixture to berry mixture. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and is thickened and no longer cloudy, 3-5 minutes.
4. Pour hot mixture into a bowl. Allow to cool to a warm temperature. Fold in remaining blueberries, cinnamon and nutmeg. Let cool before adding to pie crust.

And to put it all together, you want to preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Reduce heat to 375 degrees when you put the pie in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, checking midway through to make sure the edges aren't burning. If they're getting too brown, cover edges with foil. Let cool before serving.

Ta-da! You should have a beautiful pie that you just can't wait to show somebody!

Special thanks to the hubs for rolling out the dough and cutting my lattice strips! xoxo!

Berry Picking & Blueberry Pie Attempt #1 FAIL

Last Thursday we had a 2 day reprieve from the third heatwave of the season and we were blessed with a beautiful 80 degree day. The hubs and I decided to take a trip back up to Solebury Orchards. We took our first trip last Fall after we visited their stand at the Morris Arboretum. Solebury has AMAZING apple cider. But this week was prime picking for blueberries. I've never in my life been berry picking before so this was sure to be an adventure. And I'd never seen blueberries on the bush. For all I knew, they came in my grocer's freezer and were susceptible to freezer burn (I kid, I kid).

I was expecting to be walking through mounds of mushed berries on the ground (that's kinda what happens when you have some random berry tree in Philly). So I was suprised at how neat the orchard was.

And at how beautiful blueberries on the bush really are.

And at how even though I saw these little buggers:

I wasn't bothered by bugs at all!

During our blueberry picking there were several excited children there who repeatedly exclaimed, "OH GUYS! It's BLUEBERRY HEAVEN OVER HERE! It's blueberry HEAVEN!" They were right though.

But they also didn't know how to read the signs.

The raspberry picking wasn't very good.

And the blackberries weren't necessarily ready to be picked, but the hubs found a nice little bounty of them (note: there was no sign saying not to pick the blackberries).

We ended up bringing home a ton of blueberries and a pint of blackberries for snacking on.

So we came home and did some research on blueberry recipes. We figured we'd get the most use out of them by trying to make a pie. In my experience, I haven't been too successful with pies. They're just never as good as anything I can buy in a store. And I proved myself right again with this attempt.

Not only was it super liquidy, but the cornstarch and sugar that was mixed with the blueberries created a very unpleasant texture. But MYGOD was it pretty (before we cut into it)!

Stay tuned for Blueberry Pie Attempt # 2!