Sunday, August 12, 2007

Blackberry Pie


When the CFO of my company came into my office and presented me with a huge ziploc bagful of gorgeous blackberries just picked from the brambles in his backyard, I knew I had to make him a pie to show my thanks. I had to exercise some restraint after eating about a third of the blackberries straight from the bag or I wouldn't have any berries left for the pie.

I went home that evening and started right away on making the pie dough since I knew there would be some periods of resting (not for me but for the dough). Since I've never made a blackberry pie before, I turned to Rose Levy Beranbaum and hoped that she would have a recipe in her tome "The Pie and Pastry Bible". Sure enough, she had a simple and straightforward recipe for blackberry pie. From the many (and I do mean many!) pie crust recipes in her book, she recommended her basic flaky pie crust for the blackberry pie.

Rose explains that the secret behind her basic flaky pie crust is that the butter is added in 2 stages. First the butter is cut in to 3/4-inch cubes and divided into 2 portions. The larger portion of butter (which has been refrigerated) is finely incorporated into the flour. This helps keep the flour from absorbing too much water and from making gluten. Too much gluten will make the pastry tough. The smaller portion of butter (which has been frozen) is incorporated in larger pieces. These larger pieces of butter will end up in layers with the flour and, when baked, will separate and become very flaky pie crust layers.

I always have trouble rolling out pie dough. Mine always ends up looking more like Illinois or Maine than a circle. But despite my deficiencies in rolling, the dough was a joy to handle. Because I rolled it out larger than I needed and trimmed away the ragged edges, my dough was a bit thinner than the 1/8-inch called for in the recipe. But it wasn't so thin that it tore. When baked, the crust was just thick enough to hold all that yummy fruit filling when sliced, but still quite tender. And it was just as flaky as Rose said it would be too! That Rose really knows her stuff. I'm sure that with time and practice, I can improve my pie dough rolling skills using this delightful pie crust recipe.


Blackberry Pie
(from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Pie & Pastry Bible)
(makes one 9-inch pie)

Flaky Pie Crust (see recipe below)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used a bit sugar less since my berries were super sweet)
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pound fresh blackberries

Remove one disc of pie dough from the refrigerator for the bottom crust. If it's too hard to roll, let it sit out for about 10 minutes. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the dough edge to about even with the edge of the pan. Cover with plastic and let dough rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon zest. Whisk in the lemon juice to make a slurry. Add the blackberries and gently toss the berries to coat with the slurry. Be careful not to crush the berries. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Toss the berries once more and then pour the mixture into the bottom crust.

Roll out the remaining disk of dough to about 12-14 inches in diameter. Cut a 12-inch diameter circle from the dough for the top crust. Moisten the edges of the bottom crust with water and gently place the top crust over the berries. Tuck the overhang under the bottom crust and press down to seal the two crusts. Crimp the border with your fingers or with the times of a fork. With the tip of a knife, cut 3-5 slits in the top crust to allow steam to vent. (Or if you prefer, before covering the fruit with your top crust, using a decorative cutter to cut out whatever shape you like. Save the cut outs to place on top of the pie before baking).

Cover pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour before baking. This rest will allow the pastry to rest so that it remains flaky and to help keep the crust from shrinking.

Set your oven rack to the lowest position. This helps to ensure that your bottom crust is completely baked. Preheat over to 425F. Place your pie on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any juice. You may want to line your baking sheet with foil or parchment for easier clean up. Bake at 425F for 30-45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. (Check the pie after 30 minutes and protect the edges from over browning with a ring of foil if necessary.)

Allow pie to cool on a rack for at least 4 hours before serving.

Flaky Pie Crust
(from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Pie & Pastry Bible)
(makes 21 ounces dough - enough pastry for a two-crust 9-inch pie)

7 ounces (14 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
11.25 ounces (2 1/4 cups) bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 to 7 tbsp ice water
1 tbsp cider vinegar

Divide the 7 ounces (14 tbsp) of butter into 2 portions: 4.5 ounces and 2.5 ounces (9 tbsp and 5 tbsp). Refrigerate the 4.5 ounce portion and freeze the 2.5 ounce portion for at least 30 minutes.

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Process for a few seconds to combine.

Add the 4.5 ounces of (refrigerated) butter and process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the 2.5 ounces of (frozen) butter and pulse until the frozen butter is the size of peas.

Add the 5 tbsp of ice water and the vinegar and pulse 6-7 times. Pinch a small amount of the mixture to see if it holds together. If not, add another 1 tbsp water and pulse 3 times. Try pinching again to see if it holds together. If not, add the final 1 tbsp water and pulse 3 times.

Divide the dough in half. Wrap each portion with plastic wrap and flatten into discs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.



Chris said...

Wow - what a great surprise to get! Yum! Your pie looks delicious. I am a huge fan of The Pie & Pastry Bible - good stuff!

Linda said...

That looks absolutely YUMILICIOUS!!! I think I will try to find some blackberries (if they are still available locally) and make that pie....yum, yum, yum!!!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Drat, Mary you've tipped the scales. Until your write up on the crust I've been able to resist getting her Pie & Pastry Bible. Ah well, have to wait another month as my budget is spent.
It does pay to taste the berries before adding sugar. That was what you were doing just tasting to determine their sweetness right?
I would have loved a slice of that pie!

lynn said...

Gorgeous pie, Mary. I love the stars - so fun and festive! Rose is awesome. I love her scientific approach to baking.

linda said...

Very cute (and delicious!) looking pie! I really like the cut out stars...

Ed Tep said...

Mary - Your blackberry pie looks beautiful! Thanks for sharing the secret about adding the butter in 2 stages.

Meeta said...

Oh my that looks sooo good Mary! I hope I find some blackberries - I just need to make this!

ashley said...

yummy! I love the addition of butter in two stages. That makes so much sense. I've been experimenting with a pie crust that uses some canola oil for tenderness and butter for flakiness. I'll have to try this one though. Thanks for the great post!

Anita said...

Blackberry pie...mmm, you're so lucky you got so many of them! The pie looks wonderful!

Deborah said...

OK, the pie crust recipe I grew up with and have been using since I started cooking has vinegar in it, but I have never seen a recipe with vinegar in it besides the one I use! I can only imagine how good this pie is, and now I want that cookbook!

veron said...

Simply delicious Mary! I'm with Tanna...i've been eyeing the pie and pastry bible...must resist...
How is the back? Hope you are feeling back to normal.

Patricia Scarpin said...

It looks beautiful, Mary - I love the star details.

Amy said...

Adding butter in two steps is new to me but the crust looks fantastic. My bf has a blackberry bramble in his backyard and I can't wait to go pick some after work.

Cynthia said...

I love all your work, Mary. The pie is simply mouth-watering.

Shaun said...

Mary - Your blackberry pie looks absolutely gorgeous, and I bet it was delicious. I don't know how people like Ms. Levy Beranbaum figure out the different ways to test how to make a pastry extra flakey - the two-step addition of butter, for instance. I now add one teaspoon of citrus juice to keep mine flakey, a tip I learned from Nigella Lawson's "How To Eat". I don't suppose there is any blackberry pie left...

Ivonne said...

Such a beautiful pie, Mary!

Peabody said...

I would love for someone to bring me some blackberries.
Your pie looks like I could dive right into it.

Maria said...

Looks like you mastered the crust!! When I was little we had wild blackberries around our house! It was the best! We would pick buckets and buckets...I sure miss those days!

Andrea said...

A gift of blackberries would be welcome, indeed! We found a wild bush just behind our house, but it didn't produce much this year. Your pie is lovely, especially with the decorated top crust!

Tartelette said...

What a great idea for the butter in the crust! I use vinegar in mine too and it keeps nice and tender. Gorgeous pie! I would love to see fresh blackberries here!

Bake your cake and eat it too said...

Now that would make such a good midnight snack! No one has to know right? lol

breadchick said...

Oh Mary! Next to strawberry-rhubarb, blackberry is my favourite and this one looks so yummy. And now I have the perfect excuse to go buy this cookbook!

Jacelyn said...

What a yummy looking pie! Too bad blackberry aren't a common fruit in my local supermarkets. Maybe I would try this with other berries. =)

Poonam said...

Wow! that looks delicious!

Cheryl said...

A nice present from your boss and a nice present for your boss.

Beautiful pie, love the decorated crust. Well done.

Jeanne said...

That may not have been intentional, but I love the moon and stars effect. I wonder if I could reproduct that. Looks delicious!

Mary said...

Chris - I've had the book for years but only recently started really paying attention to it.

Linda - I hope you can find some in your area.

Tanna - Ah, yeah, testing for sweetness, that's what I was doing. :)

Lynn - I really like knowing the science behind it too.

Linda - It's always fun to get more use from my cookie cutters.

Ed - The stages of butter is a great tip. But IMHO Rose is a genius.

Meeta - Thanks so much.

Ashley - When I read it about the stages I thought the same thing. It totally makes sense and totally worked for me too.

Anita - Yes I am lucky. Our CFO is a cool dude.

Deborah - Sometimes when I don't have vinegar I'll used a bit of lemon juice instead. It works but not as well as vinegar.

Veron - I know it's hard to resist all those books. Luckily this book was a gift.

Patricia - I like the stars too.

Amy - Your BF is so lucky to have blackberries in his yard.

Cynthia - Thanks for the kind words.

Shaun - Something about acidity hinders gluten formation. Food science is amazing.

Ivonne - I would've preferred the juices not running out all over the top of the pie but I guess it can't be helped when the berries are so juicy. So I guess it's not an elegant pie but one with rustic charm!

Peabody - You must have some incredible berries available to you up in the PNW. Lucky.

Maria - What a nice memory of picking berries as a child.

Andrea - Yes, I was quite excited and thankful for the berries. I heard that some berry bushes only produce every other year.

Helene - I'm surprised you don't get fresh blackberries in Charleston. Frozen ones are almost a good for pies.

Bake your cake - Yes, midnight snack or even breakfast too!

Mary - I've never had strawberry rhubarb pie. Every spring I think about making one but never do. Next thing y' know, all the rhubarb is gone from the markets and I have to wait until next spring.

Jacelyn - If you can get frozen blackberries it'll definitely work.

Poonam - Thanks! And I can spend hours at Crate & Barrel too!

Cheryl - Yes, it was very nice of him to think of me.

Jeanne - After I took the photos I did notice the moon and stars thing too. It was totally by accident.

Dianna said...

I tried this recipee and had problems with the butter it became smooth and creamy when processed with the blade, not fine and course. any suggestions??

Mary said...

Dianna - Perhaps your butter wasn't cold enough when you put it in the food processor? Or maybe you processed it too long?