The best laid plans sometimes go wonky. I have been planning on making a raspberry pie for years. No joke, for years, yet somehow I never quite get to it. This year was going to be different. I was determined that this was going to happen. Not surprisingly like many things in my life, I was waylaid by the unexpected. Last week a crazy good bargain up-ended my plans faster than you can say “poor sentence structure”. While driving by a favorite produce market where I’ve found some good deals in the past, I noticed a curious display outside the store under a tent. Oh the telltale boxes of something good for cheap! It’s something I can never resist and in this case it was blackberries. Big, fat, sweet and uncommonly good blackberries and only 99 cents for a whole flat. Keep in mind that a whole flat is 16 half pints. For less than a buck. Mine! All mine! If I had more space in my freezer I would have bought a few but I showed uncharacteristic restraint and purchased only one. I will regret it later; this much is true.
With a quick turn of the steering wheel, my raspberry pie turned into blackberry in the blink of an eye. In fact, it turned into several blackberry pies and I don’t regret it one bit. The first pie was pretty straight forward – sugar, lemon zest. It was good, if expected.
For the next one I took some inspiration from the excellent Hoosier Mama Book of Pie and changed the lemon to lime, which is a far superior combination. Then I added a touch of vanilla and some cinnamon, which seemed a bit odd at first but was a spot on addition that enhanced the flavor of the berries perfectly without being overly spice-ish. A surprising extra and a really good one.
With the flavor down, I concentrated on the texture as the second pie was a bit thin and runny so again, taking the lead from Hoosier Mama, I used both cornstarch and tapioca starch to thicken and added a layer of “pie dust” – an equal measure of all-purpose flour and sugar – in the bottom before adding the filling. Perfection – thick enough to hold together and cut a clean slice but not goopy and sticky. The combination thickens just enough to hold but lets the berries shine through. Another keeper.
As for the pie crust, I’ve been using a few different versions lately: a lard crust is my current favorite, but a classic butter crust is quite nice too. Then there’s the fairly recent darling, the vodka crust, which is a combination of butter and shortening with vodka as the liquid addition. It’s a lovely flaky crust; give it a shot if you like. I’ve listed the classic butter crust below but you can certainly use your favorite recipe or whichever one intrigues you the most. Just make sure it’s enough for a double crust pie.
Now then, rolling and decorating. Everyone has a method and mine changes all the time. When it’s hot, which is my kitchen 90% of the year, I roll my pie dough on sheets of floured parchment, chill and then flip them into the pans. It’s not an overly finessed method but it works pretty well in a hot kitchen when you have to move quickly. For the other 10% of the time when my kitchen is the perfect temperature, I roll the dough up on my rolling pin and unroll over the pan. Do whatever you are comfortable with. Don’t stress too much as it really doesn’t matter how it ends up in the pan as long as it gets there. As for the top crust, heat usually dictates a simple top crust for me but if you feel the need to go all out fancy and weave a lattice or cut out perfect layered shapes, by all means, do so.
Finally, a note on the berries. When you get a flat for 99 cents you have to move fast, often faster than you’re ready which I am rarely am when these deals hit. Rather than lose my bargain berries to mold, I spread them in a single layer on a sheet pan, freeze solid then transfer to a freezer bag. This gives you individually frozen berries rather than big clumps which are much easier to measure. I’ll be honest; I baked a pie with fresh blackberries and several with frozen berries. The difference was negligible. The frozen berry pie took longer to bake but that was about it. If the berries are delicious going in the freezer, they’ll be delicious coming out. Baking a pie with mediocre berries will give you a mediocre pie. Or here’s a thought – that about assembling a pie or two and freezing unbaked? Egg wash and pop the frozen pie into the oven and imagine how delightful that will be in a few months.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: STUPENDOUS. No joke. This is delicious. I gave this pie to a friend recovering from surgery and I swear it made her better. Pie has magical healing powers you know. At the very least, it makes everyone happy, especially with a scoop of ice cream (this peach frozen yogurt was quite the spectacular combination.) Bring a homemade pie into the room and the level of excitement goes immediately to 11. Its kind of a fun thing to watch unfold before you.
Six years ago: Candied Yellow Tomatoes
Five years ago: Peach Pandowdy
Four years ago: Cold Melon Soup
Three years ago: Bastille Day Lunch – Figgy BBQ Sauce
Two years ago: Yunnan Pineapple & Tomato Salad
Last year: Deep Dish Plum Almond Tart
Other fantastic pie recipes: Shaker Lemon Pie, Rhubarb Custard Pie, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie w/a Lard Crust, Sour Cherry Slab Pie, Ginger Peach Hand Pies, Classic Apple Pie, Concord Grape Pie & Purple Cow Pie Shakes, Salted Caramel Apple Pie, Cider Apple Pie, Classic Pumpkin Pie and how about savory? Chicken Pot Pie
LATE SUMMER BLACKBERRY LIME PIE
Makes one 9” pie
butter pie dough for a double crust:
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
13 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold in ½” cubes
4 ½ Tablespoons ice water
for the filling:
5 cups blackberries
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon tapioca starch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh lime zest
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- For the pie crust: In the workbowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt 2-3 times until just combined.
- Add the cold butter and pulse 5-6 times until the butter is in small pieces but still visible (or do this by hand, working the butter between your fingers).
- Add the cold water and pulse and additional 4-6 times until the dough just comes together.
- Turn out the dough onto the work surface and gently knead the dough until it just comes together and all the dry bits are worked in.
- Divide the dough into two pieces, one just slightly larger than the other, pat each into a flat disc and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for ½ hour (or overnight or freeze up to 2 months.)
- Roll the dough: If the pie dough is too cold and hard, let sit on counter for 5-10 minutes to take off the chill.
- Here’s the easiest way to do this, especially if your kitchen is warm: Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper, place the smaller piece of dough on the surface and lightly flour the top.
- Roll firmly from the center out, remembering to keep the dough moving so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Dust with a little more flour as needed.
- Roll dough about 1” larger than the top rim of your pie pan – this one is for the top of the pie. Dough should be about 1/8” thick.
- Slide the parchment onto a sheet pan and refrigerate while you roll out the bottom crust.
- Do the same with the larger piece of dough, rolling to about 2” larger than your pie tin. Slide the parchment on top of the other piece of dough in the refrigerator and chill while you make the filling.
- Preheat oven to 425°F and place a rack in the lowest position. Line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment and set aside.
- For the filling: In a small bowl, combine the 1 Tablespoon each of flour and sugar. Set aside until needed – this will be added to the pie crust bottom before the fruit filling as an additional thickener.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg with a teaspoon of milk or cream or water for your egg wash. Set aside until needed.
- In a large bowl, combine all the dry filling ingredients thoroughly– sugar, cornstarch, tapioca starch, salt, cinnamon.
- Add the vanilla, lime zest, lime juice and stir to combine.
- Add the blackberries and toss gently to coat.
- Assemble the pie: remove the sheet pan of rolled pie crusts from the refrigerator (the bottom crust should be on the top of the stack.) The pie crusts should be chilled but a bit flexible – if too cold where they might crack/break, let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes to warm up a smidge.
- Place your pie tin in front of you, carefully flip the parchment sheet over and quickly center the pie crust over the pan. Remove the parchment and gently ease the pie dough into the pan.
- Brush the edge of the pastry with the egg wash.
- Add the flour/sugar mixture evenly to the bottom of the pie crust.
- Turn the filling and all the sugary bits into the bottom pie crust.
- Dot the fruit filling with the Tablespoon of butter.
- Take the parchment sheet with the top crust, carefully flip it over the fruit and quickly center it on top of the pie.
- Gently press the top crust to the egg washed bottom crust to seal. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim/even up the dough edges all the way around the pie.
- Working your way around the edges of the pie, fold the dough under, pressing to make a firm seal.
- Using your fingers or a fork, decoratively crimp the edges. (see tips on how to do this here.)
- Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle evenly with sugar.
- Make a few slits in the top crust for steam vents.
- Place the pie on the prepared sheet pan and bake until the crust is golden and the filling is thickly bubbling, about 55-60 minutes. If your berries are frozen, the pie will need an additional 10-15 minutes. If the top starts browning too quickly, cover the pie with foil. You’ll know it’s done when the filling is thickly bubbling, like molten lava. If the juices are loose and runny, it needs more time.
- Let cool completely before cutting. The pie is best the day it’s made, obviously. If you have any leftovers, consider making pie shakes.