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.
(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.