Recipe: Blueberry Pie
By Lisa Fielding of Secret Ingredients
I’m often asked when I started cooking and I answer emphatically that the seminal moment occurred when I was six years old. I was visiting my favorite place on earth: my paternal grandparents’ ranch in Orange Cove, Calif. My grandparents were “ranchers” and grew oranges, lemons and olives for a living after decamping from Texas during the Depression. The countryside was redolent with the heavy bouquet of orchards in bloom and provided acres of an idyllic playground for any child.
My Grammies Fielding, as I dubbed her, was an amazing cook who specialized in Southern comfort food. And her kitchen, on a daily basis, was a warm and inviting place where the aromas of baked goodies and cooked dishes greeted anyone who crossed the threshold into the house. My favorite meal during those halcyon days of my childhood consisted of fried chicken with milk gravy, mashed potatoes, flaky warm biscuits smothered in butter and honey, and creamed corn (there was never a mention of the word, “calorie”) followed by a slice of Grammies’ always-perfect pie. The most memorable pies were chocolate cream, lemon meringue, pumpkin, blueberry, cherry lattice and banana cream. Hands down, the reason her pies were so delicious (and gorgeous) was because she had the touch when it came to making and rolling pie crust. And it was this ritual that finally motivated me to pull my step-stool up alongside her and ask, “Grammies, will you teach me to bake a pie?”
It goes without saying that my grandmother was a very patient woman because I spent the next several days obsessed with baking pies and mastering the wire pastry cutter with its worn wooden handle. I was not successful in my mission to emulate Grammies’ pastry. My dough would stick together in big blobs no matter how religiously I applied the cutter to blend the fat and the flour into pea-shaped balls. Eventually I would abandon hope, pour in the ice water and attack the dough with my chubby hands destroying any chance for a flaky outcome. Even if I was a dismal failure, Grammies still managed to coo a few words of encouragement so I didn’t allow defeat to quash my love of being in the kitchen with her and moving on to other culinary adventures.
It only took me several decades and the introduction of my favorite kitchen appliance, the food processor, to get it right, but I now can, without hesitation, bake great pies of many varieties. And I must admit that there is nothing like placing a freshly baked pie on the table after a long, lazy dinner accompanied with (preferably homemade) vanilla ice cream to evoke oohs and aahs from your guests. Whether it’s a single-crust blind-baked, lattice-topped or a crimped-edge double-crust pie, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of making homemade pie, especially if you have budding cooks at home. Just a few days ago while visiting friends, their daughter, Cate, decided it was time to bake her first pie and it was my sincere pleasure to oversee her effort. With the aid of the food processor and me taking on the lion’s share of peeling and slicing fresh peaches, she managed the rest and the end result was a sweet sticky peach pie for dessert. I have passed the baton so to speak and I believe Grammies would be proud.
Perfect Easy Pie Crust
Yield: (2) 10-inch crusts
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water
Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Now you’re ready to make the filling.
4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cassis liqueur
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or cream, for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Mix the blueberries, the 1/2 cup of sugar, the corn starch, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cassis in a large bowl. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured surface into a circle at least 1 inch larger than the pie pan, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough so it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, ease it into the pie pan and gently unfold it. Spoon the blueberry mixture into the pie shell. Roll out the other half of the dough and repeat the process of gently folding in half and unfolding it once you’ve placed over the pie filling. With a pair of kitchen shears cut the excess dough off at the edge of the pie plate. Press the two edges together with your fingers so you have a raised edge. Now you can crimp with your knuckles or press a fork into the dough to make a decorative edge. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, cut three slits in the center for steam to escape, and sprinkle with sugar.
Place the pie in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is very bubbly and the crust is nicely browned. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
*Pinwheels: Roll leftover dough into a disc, generously sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll into a log, cut into 1-inch segments and bake cut-side up at 400 degrees for ten minutes.