Wednesday, July 7, 2010

it's too hot to cook...let's bake a pie!

I love kitchens. I work in one, and most nights, after work, I play in another one. But the funny thing about kitchens, industrial or otherwise--they're really, really hot. Yeah, hot as in sexy, but also hot as in sticky, sweaty, humid, nasty, and generally not a place you want to be when the heat wave hits. But then, there are all those luscious summer berries. For the most part, they're good on their own or with whipped cream or something innocuous and fluffy like that. After all, why obscure the pure tastes of summer in doughs and creams and other such frippery?

However, that said, after your hundredth handful of the little beasts, the palate tends to tire, requiring more drastic measures. Particularly in the case of wild blackberries, which are best in preserves and pies anyways, leaning towards the sour side and often being more seed than flesh. Hence, the best berry pie. Unpretentious, unassuming, simple. Blissfully simple. You will have to turn on the oven, but after your sweat and toil you will be glad you did, for the pie is perfect.

Best Berry Pie

1 lb fresh or frozen blackberries (or any other berry you have in abundance)
Granulated sugar or sucanat, to taste
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
Handful candied ginger, chopped
Pinch salt

3 T. unsalted butter
2 T. cornstarch, potato starch, or arrowroot powder

1 T. melted butter, for brushing
1 T. turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Crust (From Ad Hoc at Home):
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
about 5 T. ice water

1.) Make the crust: Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and toss. With your hands or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are no larger than peas. Drizzle the water over the top and mix the dough until it just holds together. Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated. Divide the dough in half, with one piece slightly larger than the other. Shape each half into a 1-inch thick disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least one hour, or up to a day.

2.)Combine blackberries (if they are very juicy, as my frozen and thawed blackberries were, you may want to drain them a little, but I left mine very juicy and, while the pie was swimming in blackberry juice--not a bad thing--that just meant more juice for ice cream topping; and this crust is a miracle: it not only held up to the liquid, but it held up for DAYS), sugar, lemon zest and juice, ginger, and salt in a bowl. Mix until combined.

3.) Take the larger disc of dough from the fridge and dust your work surface lightly with flour. Roll it into a 13-14 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll outward from the center, rotating the dough frequently and reflouring your work surface if needed to prevent sticking. Transfer the dough to a 9-10 inch pie plate, easing the dough up the sides. Roll out the second disc in a similar manner and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate both crusts 15 minutes. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax so that the crust doesn't shrink while baking.

4.) Preheat the oven to 375. Fill your pie crust with blackberry filling and dot with the 3 T. butter, cut into small pieces, and sprinkle with the starch of your choice. With your second piece of dough--the top--you can do something decorative and precious before covering the filling with it. Or you can just plop it on top and put some slits in it to let the steam out. Crimp the edges to seal the top crust to the bottom crust.

5.) Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. If you have a stupid oven like me, you may need to turn the broiler on for a quick minute to get the sugar on top to brown. After all, this is the point of the butter and sugar. As you can see, mine browned unevenly, but that's part of the homey appeal of this pie.

6.) Allow to cool almost completely. It tastes better when it's not scalding hot. Trust me. I know you're dying to burn your tongue and esophagus eating this, but you'll thank me if you wait.

Note: All ingredients in the filling are TO TASTE. Taste it, for heaven's sake, and if it's not sweet enough, add sugar. If you like an abnormal amount of ginger, add more. If it's not tart enough, squeeze some more lemon juice in there. This is your pie. Make it how you like it.


Camille said...

Megan, that is the most beautiful pie I've laid eyes on!

meg said...