I remember as a kid we used to go to Auntie D’s house to make pies. The adults, under her direction, would all be busy making pie after pie Apple, Blueberry, mixed berry…….. she was and still is in everyone’s mind the measuring stick when it came to pies. Across the street there was a path in the woods, long since taken over by development, to the cranberry bogs and along the way was a gold mine of blueberry bushes. Big fat blueberries all there for the picking. Now this was the important job of the kids fill the buckets and eating our fill. The thought of one of her pies after dinner kept us under control and the buckets returned full. A few years back my wife and I went blueberry picking in Beebe Woods and quickly retreated because of the immediate and massive horse fly attack we fell to. That sure took the romanticism out of picking, there they were bushes, branches plump with hundreds of blueberries under the guard of a flying army. We did find the nearest convenient store and sprayed ourselves but it was just not the same. Anyway I babble…..Joe and I were talking about me buying 4 cases of blueberries from Wholefoods when they had them organic $1.99 a pint. I froze some, made some blueberry syrup, jam, Lyn made muffins and probably bread but mostly I would throw a handful in my morning oatmeal taking advantage of the memory boosting powers of blueberries. They are gone except for a bottle or two of the syrup and I am staring to have trouble remembering why I started writing this only kidding….so hear ya go Joe’s Blueberry pie.
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 6 to 8.
Why this recipe works:
For many years we have tried using flour and cornstarch to thicken fresh fruit pies, but the results have been uniformly poor. After testing cornstarch, flour, tapioca, and arrowroot, we found that the samples of fruit thickened with the root starches, arrowroot and tapioca, were clear and bright in appearance and had the clearest fruit flavor. Of the two, tapioca showed a bit more thickening power and was therefore our favorite. So we developed a fruit pie recipe employing this favorite.
The amount of sugar and tapioca you use is relative, depending on the fruit’s quality and your taste. If you prefer a less sweet pie or if the fruit is especially sweet, use the lower sugar amount. If you like your pie juices fairly thick, or if the fruit is really juicy, then opt for the higher amount of tapioca. If you are using frozen fruit, measure it frozen, but let it thaw before filling the pie. If not, you run the risk of partially cooked fruit and undissolved tapioca.
- Pie Dough
- 2 1/4cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
- 1teaspoon table salt
- 2tablespoons granulated sugar
- 11tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 7tablespoons vegetable shortening , chilled
- 1/3cup water , chilled with ice, increasing up to 3/8 cup, if needed
- Blueberry Filling
- 3pints fresh blueberries (6 cups), rinsed and picked over
- 3/4cup granulated sugar
- 1 small lemon , zested to yield 1 teaspoon zest and juiced to yield 2 teaspoons juice
- 1/4teaspoon ground allspice
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 3–4tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 2tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into small pieces
1. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little flour. Cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue to cut it in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle all but 1 tablespoon of the ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon of remaining ice water if dough does not come together. Divide dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten each into 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap separately in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
3. Remove dough from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss fruit with sugar, lemon juice and zest, spices, and tapioca; let stand for 15 minutes.
4. Roll larger dough disk on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer and fit dough into 9-inch Pyrex pie pan, leaving dough that overhangs the lip in place. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into pie shell. Scatter butter pieces over fruit. Refrigerate until ready to top with remaining dough.
5. Roll smaller disk on lightly floured surface into 10-inch circle. Lay over fruit. Trim top and bottom dough edges to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute dough in your own fashion, or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top to allow steam to escape. If pie dough is very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes before baking.
6. Place pie on baking sheet; bake until top crust is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
7. Transfer pie to wire rack; let cool to almost room temperature so juices have time to thicken, from 1 to 2 hours.
The Apple of My Pie
When making our blueberry pie filling, we found that if we used more than 2 tablespoons of tapioca, the texture of the filling took on a gummy consistency we didn’t like. But 2 tablespoons or less resulted in a filling that was too loose. Could we solve this problem with pectin, a gentle thickener that occurs naturally in fruit?
As a control, we thickened one pie with 2 tablespoons tapioca. We then compared it with a second pie thickened with 2 tablespoons tapioca and a grated apple, which is high in pectin and has a mild flavor. (We hoped that grating the apple would make it less noticeable in the baked pie.)
As expected, the pie thickened with tapioca alone was loose and soupy. But the pie thickened with tapioca plus an apple had a naturally gelled texture that was just right. The apple bits seemed to melt into the berry filling during baking, boosting fruity flavor but leaving no textural sign of their presence.
Pectin is a natural substance, found in fruits and vegetables, that creates structure in a plant by helping to bind its cell walls together. This same substance is used to thicken jams and jellies into a set, but soft, mass. Pectin content varies from fruit to fruit and also within a plant (more pectin is found in the skin of a fruit than in its flesh, for example). Apples are a great source of pectin because they contain high levels of high-methoxy pectin, the best natural pectin for making gels. By mashing some of the blueberries and grating the apple, we helped to release the pectin from the fruits’ cell walls so that it could thicken the pie filling.
ON THE LOOSE
Pie filling thickened without enough tapioca won’t firm up. But too much tapioca leads to gumminess.
ALL FIRMED UP
A little tapioca plus a grated apple created a juicy but sliceable filling.
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