My Favorite Blueberry Pie

It was Friday night, the beginning of the last summer weekend on the lake. We were finishing dinner on the deck when we were suddenly overcome by a scourge of mosquitos just as dusk fell. We decided to head inside. Everyone grabbed something from the table to clear it as we skedaddled into the house.

I had baked my favorite blueberry pie for dessert about an hour earlier. Most bakers know not to cut into a fruit pie until the filling has had a chance to cool and set, but we had momentum in the room; the kind that comes from vigorous teens after a mad dash. It didn’t seem like the time to wait for a pie to set.

As everyone cleaned the plates and loaded the dishwasher, I sliced and plated the pie. The kids passed the plates around the room, bucket-brigade style. Not wanting to move en masse to find a seat at the table, everyone stood where they were and ate their pie. No one spoke, so intent were they on their warm slice of pie with its thick puddle of juices, not too sweet berries, and thick, crunchy crust.

It was a moment in time that I cherish — everyone content and huddled together in my kitchen.

I usually make blueberry pie in late June and early July when blueberries are in season. To store surplus berries, I measure out 4-5 cup increments (enough for a pie) and place in storage containers in the freezer.

Yield: One 9″ Pie

Ingredients


One 9-inch double pie crust ( I adore Trader Joe’s frozen pie crusts)
4-5, occasionally even 6, cups blueberries (all fresh or a mix of frozen and fresh)
1 teaspoon freshly zested lemon
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⅓ cups granulated sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, cut into thin slices
1 egg and a sprinkle of sugar for egg wash, if desired

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450º. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven on the middle rack to preheat with the oven. I find that cooking pie on a hot pizza stone helps the bottom crust cook more fully.

Prepare or purchase a double pie crust. Unroll one crust, use a rolling pin to smooth it out, and place in a 9″ pie pan as described in my Strawberry Rhubarb Pie post. Set aside.

 

Pour blueberries into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir together.

Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until thick, bubbly, and glistening. The juice color will change from dull to shiny within five minutes. Stir in vanilla extract. Remove from heat.

Pour filling into unbaked pie crust. Dot with sliced butter.

Roll out second crust, place over filling, and tuck in edges.

Crimp edges and slash crust with a knife to create vents for steam.

If desired, add an egg wash to the upper crust for a more finished look. Using a fork, beat egg in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to spread over crust. If the wash puddles in the dimples of the crust, use a paper towel to mop it up. Sprinkle sugar over top.

Here’s what the crust looks like with and without a wash.

  

Here it is with a stockinette pattern piecrust from Mason Dixon Knitting. Here is a link to the piecrust instructions. So fun!

 

Place pie on the preheated pizza stone and bake for 10 minutes at 450º. Reduce heat to 350º and cook for 35-45 minutes. After the first ten minutes at 450º, you’ll notice the crust will already be lightly browned. To keep the crust’s edges from browning too much, place a pie crust shield  over the rim. If you don’t have one, cover rim with strips of foil.

The pie is done when the crust turns golden brown and the juices start to bubble out.

Birthday Pie

SOME people request blueberry pie instead of cake for their birthday. For my husband (and for me, too), it has to be THIS recipe because after 35 years of eating blueberry pie with the subtle tastes of nutmeg and cinnamon in it, other blueberry pies taste bland by comparison.

Goodbye summer of 2019!

And, Becca and Joe, I’ll be back next summer to get more blueberries from Rosebud Farm. It was at their farm that I filmed the sheep for the story The Sheep of Nashville: The Chew Crew. You two sure make retirement look like fun!

Other Fruit Desserts
Mom’s Apple Pie with a Cheddar Topping
Homemade Grape Jelly
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
My Favorite Peach Custard Pie
Very Berry Clafoutis
Fruit and Nut Bread

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Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

My Favorite Peach Custard Pie

This is how it goes every summer: the first juicy peach I see, I eat, the second one goes into a pie; this peach pie–

a custardy pie with very few ingredients and no spices; just peaches, eggs, flour, sugar, and sour cream.

The first peach pie I made was in 1983 after reading Nora Ephron’s debut novel, Heartburn. In the book, Ephron described perfecting a peach pie recipe with a friend while on vacation. I got that. I spent our last family vacation at the beach perfecting no-knead artisan bread. Half the joy was having ten people at the ready to test samples with smiles on their faces and spoonfuls of homemade Roasted Rosemary and Strawberry Jam dripping off their buttered toast. Ephron’s recipe was good, but her directions were sparse. They were more like the directions of a seasoned cook, as she was — quickly scrawled notes on bits of scrap paper.

To get consistently good results, I needed to better determine when the custard would be set and learn an effective technique for preparing partially baked crusts. For pie crust help, I turned to First Prize Pies, by Allison Kave. I love her book. Thanks to her instructions, I went from making crusts with shrunken, collapsed sides to beautiful partially baked pie shells that still crested the rim of the pie plate.

 

My old way of filling a crust with a few ceramic beads, as seen in the photo on the left, didn’t cut it. I switched to Allison Kave’s way of lining the dough with foil that is gently pushed into the corners of the bottom layer of dough, filling the foil with two pounds of dried beans right up to the crimped edges, and covering the edges with foil to keep them from browning.

 

Her technique provided the side-structure needed for a good-looking crust. Baking a single-crust pie shell no longer intimidates me.

Neither does knowing when a custard filling is set. With fruit pie, you add flour, tapioca or cornstarch to the filling to thicken it. Once cooked, though, it takes longer than you would imagine, about three hours, for the filling to cool and set. When baking a custard filling with fruit, it can be even iffier because the center of the pie, although crusted over, will still be slightly wobbly when it is time to be pulled from the oven. That goes against one’s cooking instincts for determining when a dessert is sufficiently baked. You can’t depend on the time-honored knife test with this recipe. I did some research and learned you could use a digital thermometer to help determine doneness. As long as the center temperature is 190, the pie should finish cooking with its residual heat and set within a few hours as it cools. It takes 50” to cook this pie in my oven.

Another thing about pie crusts, although I know how to make them, I still buy Trader Joe’s uncooked, rolled crust from their freezer section for convenience. The trick to unfurling their prepared crust without it falling apart is to let the dough defrost completely on the counter for ninety minutes. If you want to learn how to make a beautiful pie crust from scratch, go to  King Arthur Flour’s website. They have excellent instructional videos.

Ingredients:

A single 9-inch pie crust that is partially baked
3 cups (6-9 peaches) ripe, peeled peaches, at room temp
5 large egg yolks
1 to 1¼ cups granulated sugar (less if peaches are super-ripe, more if not so sweet)
3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
½ cup sour cream

Mise en Place:

Partially bake the pie crust:
Preheat oven to 425º.
Grease the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.

Lay the single crust inside the pie plate. Crimp the edges. Poke fork holes in the bottom to help decrease shrinkage.

Place a layer of aluminum foil over the crust, gently pushing it into the bottom edges and around the upper crimped edges. Fill with two pounds of dried beans as shown in the photos above. The beans need to fill the shell completely to keep the sides from collapsing.

Place the pie plate on the middle rack of a preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn crust 180º and bake for another five minutes. I recommend setting a timer. Remove crust and place on a wire rack to cool for 1-2 minutes before gently removing foil and beans.

Prep the filling while the crust cooks:
Peel the peaches and slice. You do not want to use hard peaches — they lack flavor. If they don’t taste good enough to eat, they won’t taste good in a pie. If you use drippy-ripe peaches, let them drain a little in a colander while you make the custard. If you use frozen or canned peaches, drain them.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk. Add sugar and flour and stir. Add sour cream and whisk until batter appears smooth.

Put it all together:
Decrease oven temperature to 350º.

Lay the peaches in the bottom of the crust.

Pour filling over it. Cover the crimped edges with an edge protector, or foil, to keep them from browning any further.

Bake the pie for 45-55” on the middle rack of 350º oven. When done, the filling should be golden on top, the outer 3-4 inches of the pie should be firmly set, and the center should be almost firm. Read notes above on testing for doneness.

Now, let’s just say you have a tableful of hungry guests who have finished dinner, have been smelling the pie cooking, and are waiting for dessert. In that case, I would cook the pie 15″ longer to firm it up more quickly and serve it warm.

Other Pie Recipes on the Blog:
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Mom’s Apple Pie (with a cheddar streusel topping)
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Very Berry Clafoutis
Quiche Lorraine with Bacon and Kale
Stocking Stuffers: Tools for the Cooking Life

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright

Applesauce or Apple Pie?

It’s apple season! There are so many beauties out there right now that every time I go near a farm stand, I pick a few more to add to my stash.

Have I mentioned how much I adore color and texture? It doesn’t matter if it’s in food, as in a bowl of apples

or tomatoes.

Or yarn, as in this painting of my yarn stash created by my friend Kim Barrick. It makes no difference to me. I love it all. They each bring me joy.

Unlike yarn, which can last beyond a lifetime as in the case of my adorable mother’s yarn stash,

when I get too many apples I’ve got to act. Pie or applesauce? If the skins have started to wrinkle and the bruises have started to show, I make applesauce. Otherwise, it’s Mom’s Apple Pie with Cheddar Streusel Topping. No contest.

Even the ingredients are photogenic!

Apple Sex

The core of an apple is actually the apple’s ovary. It is usually divided into five chambers containing two ovules (where the female DNA is stored) each. If the ovules are pollinated with male DNA in the form of pollen grains, the apple will mature into a well-developed fruit. A fully pollinated apple will contain ten seeds. The number of seeds is directly related to how many grains of pollen have traveled from the stigma, down the style to the ovum in the ovary on the apple’s blossom. The apple needs a minimum of 6-7 seeds to set fruit, or it will not grow to maturity. The pollen is carried by pollinators from other nearby varieties of apples in the orchard.

Mother Nature ensures the survival of the apple tree species by making the flesh sweet and tasty so squirrels and deer will want to eat the fruit and disperse the seeds widely.

While in Hasting’s New Zealand, we had the pleasure of visiting our friends Annette and Rufus Carey’s Longland’s Fruit and Vegetable and Christmas Tree Farm.

I loved seeing their neat system for growing rows of apple trees.

Having an apple orchard is on my bucket list.

How to make Apple Sauce

The following kitchen tools might be helpful:

To make applesauce, peel three pounds of apples and remove brown spots. Three pounds of apples equal about 9 medium apples or 7-8 cups sliced.

Use an apple corer (ovary remover – ewww) to prep the slices.

Or, if you have a spiralizer, use it.

Add the apple slices to a saucepan with about 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lid and simmer 10 more minutes. Use a potato masher to pulverize the chunks, if desired.

   

You could leave the peel on, but know that it will separate from the apple as it cooks and has a tendency to stick to the roof of your mouth. That’s one of the reasons I always peel apples for my grandson, the skin can be a choking hazard for babies.

You can add cinnamon and sugar if you’d like, but applesauce is plenty sweet and flavorful unadorned.

Consider putting aside ½ cup of applesauce to use in Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Bread.

One More Seque!

How about a great book to read this Fall about an American pioneering family in the 1800s who struggle to plant an apple orchard in Ohio? At The Edge Of The Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier, is such a book.  I love how John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) plays into the story as well as the science of bark-grafting apple limbs. I’m grateful to my dear friend, Gayl Squire, a teacher in Napier, NZ, for buying me a copy of this book to read while we were visiting them.

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Tomato Pie for a Crowd

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Tomato Pie, like Pimiento Cheese, is one of many fabulous culinary treasures of the South. Basic tomato pies combine the goodness of ripe tomatoes, with melted cheese and a crunchy pie crust. If you add to that bacon, onions, basil, and cheese in the crust, now you’re talking about a DELUXE and savory tomato pie.

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Like for pimiento cheese, there are many ways to make a tomato pie. Some have the cheese on the bottom, and the tomatoes on top and some have it reversed.

 

The key to making a great tomato pie, in fact, the only must-do after you gather colorful heirloom tomatoes (see Tomatoes: The Crown Jewels of the Summer Kitchen Garden)


is to core, slice, salt, and drain the tomatoes to divest them of their watery juice and thereby prevent a soupy, soggy, messy pie.

My favorite way to make tomato pie is with a crunchy cheese crust and tomatoes that are piled high and deep on top.

This pie’s problems are that there is never enough to go around, definitely not enough for seconds, and too many calories in the crust for an “everyday” meal. To fix these problems, I first tried to develop a larger pie (lasagna pan-sized) without a crust. However, I found the soft texture of the tomatoes and melted cheese demanded a crunchy crust, so I added the crust back, but only on the bottom, and loaded the dough with nutty parmesan cheese. My family loved it.

Yield: Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan, 10-12 servings

Pie Crust Ingredients

¼ cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup grated parmesan, somewhat packed
1 stick (½ cup) very cold or frozen butter, sliced into many pieces
4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Tomato Filling Ingredients

5 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces unflavored bacon, about 12 strips
1 pound sweet onion (red or yellow), sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup homemade breadcrumbs
20 large or 30 medium-large leaves basil, chiffonade
½ cup mayonnaise (not the low-fat, sweet, or whipped varieties)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Game Plan
I’m not going to lie about the amount of prep work needed for this recipe; this pie takes time. I streamlined the process by buying already shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and by using homemade breadcrumbs from a stash in the freezer. As a time-saver, you could forego the homemade cheese crust and use a single layer, pre-made roll of uncooked dough, reshaped to fit in a 9 x 13 pan. Or, you could make the cheese crust version the day before and store it uncooked in the fridge.

1) Prep Mise en Place for Pie Filling

Slice tomatoes about ⅓ inch thick. Place in a colander, add 1 teaspoon of salt and gently mix to distribute the salt. Place a weighted object on top of the tomatoes to help squeeze out the juice. I put a collection bowl under the colander to capture the juice and save for something else (like soup broth). Gently stir and squeeze the tomatoes every 5 or 10 minutes. Let them continue to drain while you finish the prep work.

 

Chop the bacon into two-inch pieces. Sauté until cooked, then drain the fat, and pat the bacon dry with paper towels.

 Thinly slice the onions. Salt very lightly with a pinch of salt and sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

 

If you don’t have a stash of homemade breadcrumbs​ in the freezer, make some now in the food processor.

Stack, roll and cut basil into thin ribbons.

 

2. Prep Mise en Place for Pie Crust

3. Make the Pie Crust
Add the flour, cornmeal, salt, and parmesan to a food processor with the regular blade attached. Pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter slices and pulse 7 or 8 times until you can see little chunks of butter covered in flour and meal.

Add the chilled water and pulse a few more times until dough is just blended and forms pea-sized balls. I know this doesn’t look like it is blended enough, but as those little balls melt, they create steam that causes the puffiness in a flaky crust. We want them to melt in the oven and not in the food processor which is why we keep the dough cold and underworked.

Dump the crumbly dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the right side of the paper over the dough and roll it with a rolling-pin. Now fold the left third of the paper over the dough and roll again. Notice how you can still see the chunks of white butter in the dough in the third picture.

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Roll the dough out, between two sheets of parchment paper until it is at least 9 x 13 inches.  Test for proper size by laying the pan over the dough to see if it fits.

Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and flip the dough over into the baking pan. Center the dough by using the edges of the top sheet of parchment paper. Once centered, remove the top sheet of paper.

Trim the dough and use the trimmed pieces to patch the crust until it fits in the pan neatly. Use the tines of a fork to poke holes in the crust. Lots of holes. This allows air to escape while baking, so you don’t end up with a lot of air bubbles.

Preheat the oven 375º. While it heats, place the dough-lined pan in the fridge to chill for the 15-20 minutes it takes to heat the oven. This is a necessary chilling period.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. About 10 minutes into cooking, open the oven door and add a few more fork pricks into any bubbles that have formed in the crust. Allow crust to cool for 5-10 minutes before filling. Remember, the goal is not to have a soggy crust once we add the filling. Therefore, some cooling down is necessary.

4. Prepare the Tomato Pie Fillings
While the crust is cooking, remove the tomatoes from the colander and gently squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands. Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels.

Combine the mayonnaise, cheeses, and basil in a mixing bowl. Stir in the onions (red or yellow) and bread crumbs.

5. Assemble and Bake the Pie
Here’s what you have now: tomatoes, cheese and onion mixture, bacon and cooked cheese pie crust.

Add the cheese filling to the cooled crust and then add the bacon.

Arrange the tomatoes over the top. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes and some cracked pepper and sea salt.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Pie is done when the filling is bubbling, and the tomatoes are lightly browned.

Dinner is served!

Related Tomato Posts
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Gazpacho Galore
Roasted Ratatouille
Roasted Roma Tomatoes

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.