She’s my berry pie,
Cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise.
Tastes so good, make a grown man cry,
Sweet berry pieeeeeeeee!!!
Come on, who doesn’t like to sing a little Poison (You go, 80s children everywhere!) every now and then? After eating this Berry pie, you’ll want to shout it on a mountain top!
So, Berry pie: another elusive item on my recipe list, along with bread, ice cream (until recently!) and baba ganoush (how do you get it smoky and not bitter??). But I can officially move the Berry Pie onto to the ‘can-do’ list. I guess what prompted the whole thing was making a cherry pie a couple weeks ago for an uncle’s birthday. Special Request! I had never made a cherry pie before and many of the recipes called for sour cherries. However in Spokane at this time there was literally one grocery store that had cherries at all, they were frozen and dark, sweet cherries.
The recipe I loosely based my recipe on was from epicurious and the crust is the best I’ve every made. I highly recommend it and use it below for the crust in this pie. However, the directions for the cherry filling were a little disappointing and ended up more of a cherry soup than a cherry filling. The pie was still delicious and I have never before thought of cinnamon being coupled with cherries, but it was delightful and added depth to the flavor.
The Red Sea of Cherry! Although the recipe called for both cornstarch and tapioca, I don’t think there was nearly enough of either. But more importantly, it did not recommend that you thaw the berries first. I think whenever making a pie with frozen fruit it is very important to drain out the extra water being retained in the fruits, otherwise there will be too much liquid to deal with!
SO, enough about the pie that didn’t work, let’s get on to the best berry pie recipe, the only one that you’ll ever need! This pie has a flaky and buttery crust (I never promised not use fat! Only few ingredients and this one totally complies with that!) and a tart and sweet center. The filling is firm, yet still very moist. You won’t have any slices degrading into a sea of fruit filling. These slices stand up with the integrity of their own flavor…and a little corn starch!
Note on the pie filling: We used a combo, three packs of frozen and a couple containers of fresh raspberries and blueberries, but I’m sure whatever you choose will be yummy! I think even adding one container of fresh berries adds some freshness to the frozen ones if you don’t or can’t get all fresh.
For the Filling:
5 cups of frozen or fresh fruit, thaw if frozen
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
For the Crust:
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
5-7 tablespoon ice water
1 tablespoon sugar
For the Glaze:
On to the pie!!
Before everything else and only if you are using frozen berries: take them out now and place them in a colander or sieve over another bowl. You might even want to give them a rinse or two under some tepid water, just to help the defrosting along.
Let’s start off with your crust, since you’ll need to refrigerate it for at least an hour before rolling out. Get out a glass and throw in some ice and water, so it’s nicely chilled before you add it to your crust.
Although the epicurious recipe also says you can use your fingers, I think this should be avoided. I don’t know much, but since you bothered to keep the butter and shortening cold, I think using your fingers might warm it up too quickly, thereby affecting the way the flours and fats get coated in each other. I believe those little pockets of fat are what you WANT, so you don’t want it to blend too finely. You want it to look roughly like this:
Next, sprinkle the flour/fat mixture with 5 tablespoons of ice water evenly over the dough. And hark, here is a rare instance of my being anal-retentive about cooking, but if you are using the food processor, I even out the dough mixture inside using a spatula. For some reason it bothers me when it all goes into the center depression in there…from the centrifugal force of spinning. Centrifugal literally means to ‘flee the center’ in Latin, so don’t let those little flour covered bits of fat evade your water!
Ok, moving on. If you do a couple pulses and the dough is still looking more like sand than dough, you can sprinkle in a couple more. Sometimes I use 5, sometimes 7, you just have to pay attention to the consistency. This is just one of those mysteries of the Universe that depends on the alignment of the planets or solar flares or something.
But if you press some of the bits together, you want them to stick together, not fall back apart, and certainly you don’t want them to make a squishy SOUND. That’s rude.
Now place your dough onto a work surface, I just use a cutting board, no additional flour. And in the recipe they go into a whole process of dividing into 8 pieces, etc., etc. I just break it up into a few handful sized pieces and smear them onto the surface. I guess this does something for the fat dispersal. I haven’t tried it without this step, but I just don’t think it’s that important to get too sidetracked into it. You just want to squish things around a bit, scrape ’em up with a pastry scraper or large metal spatula and form them into two disks. These you will cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour. I think this again harkens back to the fact that you don’t want to butter and shortening to melt before they are in the oven – that’s what gives you your flakes of crust!
So, now that the dough is chillin’ we are (hopefully and depending on the frozen/thawed state of your berries) ready to move on to the berry mixture. Which could not be easier or less complicated.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and lemon zest. Move the defrosted or fresh berries to a large bowl and sprinkle with the mixture. Gently toss together, although if the berries are frozen and thawed, there is a certain gloopiness that can’t be avoided! Fear not, it will TASTE delicious in the pie, even if it doesn’t look pretty now.
Set aside the mixture, because now it’s time to roll out the dough! This would also be a good time to preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. I place a cookie sheet either directly on the shelf I’m using (middle position) or just beneath to catch any errant juices that escape..it saves loads of clean-up!
Leave whichever round you aren’t rolling out in the fridge so it stays cold. Get out your pie dish and rolling pin. My pie rounds NEVER look pretty, but I am always sure not to let them stay too thick, since you want it to cook all the way through AND the excess just gets wrapped up in the very edge of the crust, which means more brown crusty bits to ‘taste test.’
Some tricks you can use if you’ve had crusts rip in the past is you line both sides with parchment paper or saran wrap, then you can move it easily and not dirty the roller! So, roll it as roundly as you can, then either fold into fourths, or in half and gently lift into the pie dish. Push the corners down and stretch the dough gently over the edges so it hangs a bit. Place it back in the fridge until the second is rolled out. I just did a plain ol’ fully covered dough, because A) I like dough and B) I don’t like making lattice-work dough tops. Why would a sacrifice all that delicious crust just so I can see the inside of the pie???
So, once the dough is all rolled out, pour in the filling.
Gently lay your second dough round on top, stretching slightly over the edges. Squeeze the dough that overlaps at the edges together, and generally fold any excess dough under and press together to achieve an even-ish edge. Some people would tell you to cut it off perfectly about an inch over the edge and roll under. Not me. I tell you that I wouldn’t give away those extra bits of brown crusty dough for the world.
The only thing you should be sure of is that the dough still hangs over the edge a bit. This helps the dough grip to the edge of the pie dish so it won’t shrink on you!
This is also the time to get fancy with your fluting if you are feelin’ it. I just used a fork this last pie, but you can use whatever. Think of something fun to use that will make an interesting pattern. The time before I used a hard plastic straw.
Using a sharp knife, cut some vent holes in the top, slits, stars, hearts, whatever you want.
Ok, we are getting down the final moments of this glorious pie bake. Next you’ll want to get the heavy cream and maybe a tablespoon or so of sugar. Brush on the heavy cream, then sprinkle a light dusting of sugar.
Bake at 425 degree F for 1/2 an hour. The edges of the crust should brown nicely during this part, but keep an eye on them just in case they are browning more quickly. For the second half of the baking process you will be using either one of those pre-made crust protectors or just some foil strips that I usually pre-shape for greater ease in putting it on, the pie IS hot!
So, after the first half an hour, turn the oven down to 375 degrees F and let bake an additional 30 minutes, with the foil crust protectors – I recommend removing the pie from the oven to put these on, but that’s just because I don’t like getting burned.
Oh, man. I am getting excited about your pie…can you spare a piece?? I’m not allowed to make it for another couple weeks, since we clearly have no self control around it.
So here we are, your pie is done, you’ve pulled it out of the oven and placed it on a cooling rack to let it cool for several hours. That’s right, SEVERAL hours. I know it hurts. I know you want it NOW. But letting it finish setting up will be rewarded, my friend, and sweetly.
So, I assure you that you’re waiting and efforts will be paid in full. Whether you couple your slice with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or nothing at all, this pie totally delivers.
So go forth and enjoy pie! And maybe with our positive and forward thinking thoughts SPRING will finally arrive and give us the perfect weather in which to enjoy a delightful berry pie!!
Thanks for reading and happy pie making!