Last year I discovered my favorite blueberry pie. It came from Cook’s Illustrated, and was bright and fresh tasting, without being a mess. A grated apple and some quick-cooking tapioca had been the key players in their pie. The apple’s pectin acts as a natural thickener, which cuts down on the need for more tapioca that could dull the fresh blueberry taste. But last year I was also set on making their pie crust with vodka, that also included shortening along with butter. The crust looked flakey and tasted quite good, but this year I came across something better.
Smitten Kitchen, a food blog with beautiful pictures and divine recipes, realized long ago that as long as you keep all of your ingredients really cold and your butter pieces big, your pie crust will have a superb taste and a texture that is still very flakey-yup, she said the vodka crust really wasn’t worth it. So, this year I decided to try the vodka recipe and the all-butter recipe from Smitten Kitchen, while making pies for the same church function. Guess who won? Yup, butter was the best. I rolled up the dough scraps with cinnamon sugar to cook along with the pies. It was tender and flakey and the texture was beyond belief. Of course, I probably should have made sure the butter pieces were bigger in the Cook’s Illustrated crust, but their recipe also encouraged the use of a food processor which the Smitten Kitchen recipe denounced for making short work of the big butter pieces.
I must admit though, that I did use the food processor for even the Smitten Kitchen recipe, because I still am without a pastry blender and using forks to cut in such cold butter is quite messy. I just cut the pieces very small to start, mixed them through the flour, partially cutting them in, and then let the processor run for a second or two with that mixture. You can see the flakes of butter in the rolled-out dough below. Another small change I made was to add a bit more water, almost a full cup, to the dough. It was very dry with less. Yet despite being dry, it rolled out very easily, with fewer tears than the vodka dough. Who knew?
Find the dough recipe here: Smitten Kitchen Pie-Crust
Blueberry Pie Filling
For a nine-inch pie
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated~July/August 2008
6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (still frozen, do not thaw)
1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated using large holes (small holes=mush and lots of juice), then wrung dry
Zest of half a lemon and juice of half a lemon
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant tapioca, ground (so, I have tried grinding it in a mini food processor like they advise, and it doesn’t work too well. The tapioca more or less dissolves though. Perhaps their suggestion of a spice grinder works better?)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 egg beaten with a little water (1 teaspoon or so, doesn’t really matter too much) and whisked well
Heat oven to 400 degrees and move the rack to the bottom of the oven, placing a baking sheet there.
Fresh Blueberries: Cook 3 cups fresh blueberries on medium heat in a medium saucepan. Mash the blueberries as you cook them for about 8 minutes, so that about half have broken apart and about 1 1/2 cups of blueberries remain.
Frozen Blueberries: Cook 3 cups of the blueberries over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan until reduced to about 1 1/4 cups. Do not mash the blueberries. This takes about 12 or 15 minutes.
In the magazine it states to wait until the mixture cools a little before adding the next ingredients, but I add the tapioca soon after finishing the berries with the thinking that maybe more of the tapioca pieces will disintegrate. Add in the rest of the ingredients but for the butter and turn into a pie plate with the butter crust. Top with the butter and the remaining rolled-out crust. Trim and shape with crimping or the tines of a fork. Prick the top if it hasn’t already had pieces cut out. Place on the baking sheet in the oven and cook at 400 for 30 minutes. Then, turn the heat to 350, and cook 25-30 more minutes.