One of the great crimes against humanity, along with slavery, genocide and religious persecution is the proliferation of bad pie crust. A warning to sensitive readers: what I am about to say may be upsetting to some. There are people in this world who have never had a good pie crust. There are people who think that one of the main ingredients in pie crust is Crisco! Worse yet, there are some who buy pie crust in the refrigerated section of the grocery store! Think of what this does to their friends and family. Think of the children! It makes me want to cry.
I haven’t been doing very much inspiring cooking in the last week. We have been super busy, and the weather has been hot, hot, hot so I haven’t felt like hanging out in the kitchen. But in the last few days I have found time to make two blueberry pies. In an attempt to end the suffering caused by Pillsbury pie crust I am going to post my recipe here. I will also post the recipe I used for the blueberry filling – it turned out quite tasty.
I use almost the same recipe for pie crust that I got from my mom when I was a little girl. It is the very first recipe I ever wrote down. Judging from my handwriting I must have been about nine or ten.
this “recipe” makes 1 top or bottom crust and it is easily doubled
1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 stick of butter (I use salted butter for my crust)
pinch of salt
1/3 c. of cold water (or more. or less.)
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut your butter into little tiny cubes, about the size of peas and toss them gently with the flour. Your butter needs to be firm at this point. If for some reason it is not, refrigerate the whole bowl until it is. Start mushing the butter between your fingers to break it up. The whole idea is to incorporate the butter into the flour while still leaving little tiny hard pieces of butter. I tend to break the butter up a bit, then go through and smash the remaining lumps between my fingers to make what I think of as “butter flakes”. When you are satisfied that your butter is mixed in, but not too well, you can add the water. Now, this is the part where people can really screw up. You don’t want to mix the dough any more than necessary after you add the water. If your dough is too dry you will have to mix it more to get it to stick together, so you want to add enough. I sometimes add too much water though, and you don’t want to do that either because you end up with a sticky mess. You have to watch what you are doing. I cannot stress this enough. If you just follow the recipe without paying attention to your dough it will not behave the way you want it to. Some flour is dryer than others, sometimes your butter is more mixed in than other times, sometimes you didn’t measure that accurately. Whatever. All those things can be overcome if you pay attention while adding the water. Make sure the water is cold, I never use ice water, but if you want to it won’t hurt anything. Pour in about half the water you think you will need, then fluff everything up very gently with a fork. Pour more water onto spots that look dry and fluff again. When things look uniformly dampened, gently press the dough together into a ball. I like to flatten mine out into a disc, wrap it up and refrigerate it for an hour or so, but I don’t when I am in a hurry and you don’t need to either. When you roll it out, especially if it was in the fridge, give it a few firm squeezes to soften it up and show it who is boss. It is important that your dough always knows that you are the boss of it, and not the other way around. Move your dough with purpose and don’t be timid! Don’t be shy with the flour either when you are rolling, you can always brush some off at the end if you need to.
Those are all my pie crust secrets. Use butter, pay attention to your dough, tell it who is boss. Now go make pie! Make pie for the whole world!
P.S. Don’t ever bake pie in an aluminum pan if you can help it. Aluminum doesn’t conduct heat well and the bottom crust never gets brown. I like glass pie pans. I also have a copper one that works well.
The blueberry pie filling that I made was adapted from a recipe in the July/August 2008 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It uses a combination of tapioca and apple pectin to thicken it and I really like the final texture. I played around with the recipe a little bit, I just can’t help myself, but the basic technique came from the magazine.
2 pie crusts, one for the top and one for the bottom
6 c. blueberries
1 large apple, peeled and grated
juice and zest from 1 lemon
3/4 c. sugar
2 T. tapioca, ground in a food processor or mortar and pestle (you don’t need to grind it, but it helps avoid lumps in your filling)
pinch of salt
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups of berries in a saucepan and smash them with a potato masher. Cook them over medium heat until they are broken down and reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the grated apple in a kitchen towel and wring it dry (wring it into a glass and drink it while you cook!) Put the apple into a bowl with the remaining filling ingredients. Add the cooked berries when they are done and stir to combine.
Roll out one of your pie crusts and place it in a 9 inch pie pan. Roll out your top crust before filling so that things don’t get soggy. You can cut little wholes in your top crust like this:
Or do any kind of top you feel like. Lattice is nice on a pie like this too.
Fill your bottom crust, moisten the edge with water, and carefully put your top crust over the whole thing. Trim off the edges of the dough leaving about an inch. Roll up the edges and crimp them. I like to sprinkle the top of the pie with cinnamon sugar before it goes in the oven but that is optional.
Bake the pie on the bottom rack of your oven. This is very important, the bottom rack. I baked mine for about 45 minutes in the 400 degree oven, but if you find that your pie is browning too much you can turn the heat down to 350. It may take a little longer. the pie is done when it bubbles in the center. Cool on a rack for at least four hours if you want it to slice neatly. Otherwise, just dive right in.