Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Refreshing Variation: "50/50" Blueberry Pie
At long last, things have settled in here a little bit. The Pasta Burner and I have finally gotten our kitchen in order, and with it, there's a chance to really start exploring the California bounty at our fingertips.
I've been inching to make a pie for a while now. Yes, yes, I know, there have been more tarts on this page than in the wives' seats at the World Cup, but there's just something different, something luscious, indulgent, and summery about pie that other pastries -- including my beloved tarts -- just can't touch. In short, think of it this way: If Tarte au Citron is Grace Kelly, Blueberry Pie is Jayne Mansfield.
That being said, too often pies get gummy and overly sweet -- we've all had more than enough examples that were one step away from being nothing more than a pie shell filled with jam. To that end, then, I wanted to make a pie that would reflect the quality of the fruit out here on the West Coast, that would allow the flavor of the fresh, unadulterated fruit to shine through.
What I came up with was a "50/50" pie; traditional blueberry pie filling, but with fresh fruit folded in and latticed on top. This is a fantastically simple and delicious recipe, and there are an endless number of possible variations. Let's get right to it.
"50/50" Blueberry Pie
Makes 1 Pie
6 Cups Fresh Blueberries
1/8th Cup "Minute" Tapioca
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Sugar
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
1 teaspoon fresh-grated Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Store-Bought Pie Crust
[Editor's Note: You can make your own pie crust from scratch. Indeed, I know some people who would be horrified at the thought of doing any less. I am not one of those people. Do as you like.]
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Next, saturate your tapioca with the Cup of water. Let it sit in a measuring cup for no less than five minutes, or until the tapioca expands and becomes springy and soft.
Meanwhile, place three of the six Cups of blueberries into a medium saucepan. Add your sugar. I had some vanilla bean-infused sugar around, so I used that; if you're using regular granulated, you may want to add a dash of vanilla extract.
Add the softened tapioca to the blueberries and sugar. To this, add in the lemon zest and nutmeg. Nutmeg may seem like an unusual addition, but it's a Gauger family secret; my grandmother on my father's side always added it to any and all blueberry-related dishes she made. It really is a wonderful touch -- if you can get fresh (as pictured below), please do. Otherwise, pre-ground will have to suffice.
Meanwhile, blind bake your pie shell. Watching it carefully to avoid it growing air pockets, bake the crust off for about 25 minutes, or until deep golden brown. The pie won't be returning to the oven after this, so be sure to get it cooked through.
As the pie bakes, start cooking the filling. Add an additional 1/2 cup of water and the butter to your saucepan, and heat your burner to medium. Use a whisk to crush the blueberries and whisk the gelatinized tapioca into a smooth and homogeneous texture. Cook until the sauce is thickened and bubbling, about 10 minutes.
Take your hot pie filling and pour it into a large bowl to cool. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to aid the cooling process. Your crust should be finished by now, so let that sit out to cool as well.
After 20 minutes has elapsed, fold two of the remaining three cups of blueberries into the sauce. Set aside for an additional 30 minutes.
Pour the cooled filling into the cooled crust. Top the filling with the remaining Cup of blueberries in an aesthetically-pleasing pattern. The final product:
To be honest, this is a tremendous way to breathe some fresh air into your favorite pie; I can only imagine this would be wonderful with Rainier cherries, blackberries, or even stone fruit. The fresh fruit also makes for a lighter, less sweet dessert; a great way to enjoy these flavors during the summer's heat.
I can't think of a better picnic dessert. Give it a try -- I bet you and your friends will agree.
Music: Fats Domino -- "Blueberry Hill"