Monday, August 30, 2010

Pie 101

The wise Paul Blart from the movie, "Mall Cop" said it best. "Pie heals." I couldn't agree with him more. I grew up with an amazing pie maker, my grandma. I think her patience has a lot to do with it. She takes her time and creates these amazing flavors! Since my love of all things pie started as a young girl, it was natural that I would eventually try my hand at making one.

I didn't get my nerve up until I was 16. One day I just opened up a McCall's cookbook and read how to make a pie. Easier said than done. Blackberry pie seemed the obvious choice for flavor since there were tons of blackberry bushes where I lived. I guess I didn't read the instructions very clearly, specifically in the amount of thickening and sugar! The crust was a patchwork of burnt crap, the filling totally sour and runny and when I took the pie out of the oven, I kid you not, a herd of earwigs came flying out! No joke!
Hey, I still kept making them and they gradually improved. Don't let my earwig story deter you!
Pies really aren't that difficult to make. Honest, they really aren't. I never get very fancy. I just like the simple traditional flavors, quality ingredients and in season fruit. The truer you can stay to the flavor, the better off you will be. And, by the way, a rustic pie is part of it's charm. Even with the patchworking of the crust or leaking juices over the sides. It is part of the homemade quality. It is so much better than those disgusting Costco assembly line pies (no offense to those who enjoy them.)
Basically, my motto is if the crust cries a little, feed it some love like you would to a baby. Just don't breastfeed the thing. Save that for your actual wee one!






So, in reverence to the end of summer blackberry season and my little story, I am sharing my recipe for blackberry pie, complete with photos! Dim the lights people and let's get this party started!
For the love of all things, please use quality ingredients. Can I ask you to do that? Remember, I just said a pie tastes better with fewer ingredients but they have to be QUALITY ingredients. Memorize that.
Now, I totally understand how expensive groceries are, especially organic. I mean it is an obvious answer - if you can't pay your month's rent then default on the payment and go and buy the organic. See? Problem solved. Easy fix.


Here I am with 6 cups of blackberries. I picked these pups on my own so they were super cheap. I prefer Marionberries but blackberry work great too.
Add to the berries 3/4 sugar. Again, I use organic from Costco. It is fabulous and hey, it doesn't have crushed animal bones in it for filler! Fancy that!
Then add about 1/4 cup flour for the thickener. You can use 3 tbsp of instant tapioca if you prefer. It works great.
GENTLY stir together with a rubber spatula and set aside. Be sure not to overmix because the berries break down very easily.
In the meantime, you can start rolling out your crust. I would really like to encourage you to try making your own. I have a recipe I have used for years and have never had a problem. The reason is because it is an all butter crust called "Pate Brisee." It has a delicious flavor, easy to roll out and the crust tastes like you are eating a shortbread cookie.
Of course, if it isn't something you want to bother with then find your own crust, just don't say I gave you the recipe!


In a food processor combine 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup sugar. With the blade attachment, combine.
Then add 2 cubes COLD unsalted butter cut into small pieces and add to the flour mix.
Pulse until the consistency is that of small peas.
Get some ice cold water and with the processor on drizzle the water through the feed tube. Add enough water (slowly) until the dough comes together in a ball.
Separate the dough into 2 portions. Place in plastic wrap and flatten to a disc size. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze if you want it for later.
Now, time to roll out your dough. Grease your 9 inch pie plate. Flour your board and rolling pin. Gently start rolling out pastry keeping the dough floured to prevent sticking. Just give it some love and be patient - don't overwork it. When it is rolled out larger than the pie plate gently slide your floured hands underneath that bad boy and transfer to the pie dish.


Add your berries and repeat the process with the top crust.









Now, right here is where my camera battery went dead so I will describe the next step. Trim the crust that is hanging over the sides of the pie dish, scissors work great. Tuck the crust under like you are creating a hem and then crimp the edges to seal it.
Poke a design on top of the crust with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape.
Brush some heavy cream mixed with egg yolk over the top of the crust and then sprinkle heavily with sugar. Normally you would use a type of pastry brush. Unfortunately, mine turned up in the kid's paint supplies so I just swirled it with a spoon. Bake for about 40 min at 350 degrees or until very nicely browned.
You will need to let that sugary piece of fruit heaven cool for a while to let the juices thicken.








Now...drum roll please...

DIG IN!! YOU EARNED IT!
*my disclaimer - in the event your pie doesn't work out there is still hope. Use it as a "cobbler" and pile a bunch of whipped cream and/or ice cream on top OR head to the nearest grocery for a Willamette Valley Fruit Company pie!*














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