Pies, yum. Pies with crust made from lard, doubly yum. When I was baking a lot of apple pies last year, I found out that I much preferred crusts made with butter and shortening. So much more flavor than an all-butter or all-shortening crust. I saved some of my own rendered lard for pie crusts (you can read about rendering lard here). The good part is the lard made the most flakiest and delicious pie crust we’ve ever had. The bad part is I now have to keep lard on hand just for pie crust. Oh the tragedy.
I’ve been working on a blueberry pie recipe to get the type of filling that shows off the blueberry flavor without being runny and still (fairly) easy to make. I made pies with just fresh blueberries or frozen as well as a combo of fresh and frozen. The Mister has been very willing to be my
guinea pig taste tester in all this, especially if the pie crust is a “lard crust” as he refers to it. So what was the final ruling? I prefer the frozen blueberries.
The fresh blueberries had a nice blueberry flavor but ONLY if the blueberries were good. During this time of year, good blueberries aren’t hard to find. But the filling was a little unpredictable since the sweetness of the blueberries varied quite a bit. So the amount of sugar had to be adjusted accordingly. Not a huge problem but something to keep in mind. I don’t like my filling to be too sweet but I also don’t like it when it wasn’t sweet enough because then it lacked the kapow factor when I took a bite.
Frozen blueberries, on the other hand, was much more reliable as far as sweetness consistency. And I can get frozen blueberries year round. The frozen blueberries are used right from the freezer and it helps keep the crust cold. I didn’t taste or notice a consistency difference in fillings between all frozen and the fresh-frozen combo so I’m going to stick with frozen blueberries. And frozen blueberries are usually cheaper than fresh pound for pound.
For the filling, I tried the more common method of tossing dry ingredients and wet ingredients together then baking. Whether I used tapioca flour, all purpose flour, corn starch or potato starch, the filling was always a little on the runny side. Too much and the filling tastes a bit off, some a little gritty, some a bit…well, like thickener and took away from the blueberries. Then I finally remembered a method that I’ve used for cherry pies, a method I learned (of all places) in my junior high home ec class. Geez, how long ago was that? The trick there is to preheat the filling ingredients sans the fruit before mixing and filling the pie shell. It turned out the best filling to date.
For the pie crust, I used the same recipe as the recipe I used in the apple pie post except I swapped out the shortening for lard. I used a different method of baking the pies (also a Cook’s Illustrated method) that browned the bottom of the pie shell just a nicely as the pizza stone method. This is good since since I know not everyone has a pizza stone to use.
I baked a lot of blueberry pies in the past few weeks and we haven’t gotten tired of them yet. It’s really hard resisting a slice of this deliciousness when it’s sitting the fridge but hey, I’m getting my antioxidants (and whatever else I want to tell myself to justify that second slice).
Special equipment: food processor (not necessary but extremely helpful)
Makes one 9-inch pie (2 shells)
Pie Dough Ingredients:
- 2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar + 1 teaspoon sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter ,very cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (or lard), chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I stuck the shortening in the freezer for 20 minutes)
- 6–7 tablespoons ice water
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, DO NOT defrost)
- 3/4 – 1 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of blueberries
- 4 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- pinch of all-spice
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel (zest)
For the filling combine sugar, cornstarch, water and spices in a small saucepan. Heat on medium heat until thickened, about 4-5 minutes. It should coat a spoon or spatula. It’ll look a bit like caramel sauce. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Put the rack to the lowest position possible. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place into oven to preheat. This will help brown the bottom of the pie crust.
For the pie crust, add flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse to combine. Add cold shortening (lard) and pulse until the texture is like coarse sand, about 10-15 seconds. Add cold butter and pulse about 10 times (1 second pulses) until mixture looks like coarse crumbs where the butter is no larger than small peas. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of cold water over mixture and pulse until the dough comes together a bit but still crumbly. Add another tablespoon of water if necessary. It’s ready when you can squeeze a bit of the dough together and it stays in a clump. Turn dough out on a lightly dusted work surface. Squeeze and fold dough gently a few times until cohesive and divide into two equal balls. I use a scale to get them equal sized. Flatten into disks and wrap each disk in plastic, refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling.
Remove dough from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Lightly dust a work surface and roll out one disk into a 12-inch circle. Turning the dough a quarter turn after each time you roll it to help prevent sticking. A dough scraper is handy to scrape a sticky dough off the surface. You can also roll dough between parchment paper or plastic wrap. Ease the dough into the pie pan, taking care not to stretch the dough leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place.Don’t worry if the dough cracks. You can always patch those up with scraps. Roll out the other dough disk.
In a large bowl combine blueberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and cooled filling mixture. Pour filling into dough lined pie pan.
Add top crust and tuck edges of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits on dough top. Lightly brush the top of the pie with beaten egg white and sprinkle top with 1 teaspoon of sugar. What’s so nice about using frozen blueberries is that it cools down the dough and eliminates the need to re-refrigerate the crust while putting the pie together. The edges will still be a bit soft but didn’t really have any issues while baking.
Place pie in oven on the baking sheet. Turn heat down to 425 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F, rotate the pie and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes until the filling is bubbly. Watch the crust, if it starts to get too brown, put foil around the edges. I like to rotate the pie several times during baking to make sure the edges get even browning.
Let pie cool for at least 4 hours before cutting. I cut 5 slits on the pie below but one of them sealed shut during baking.
When cooled enough, the filling shouldn’t be runny. Look at how clean this was.
So good! I love how the filling turned out. It was almost like blueberry jam and the blueberries kept most of their shape. The filling sets up even more when refrigerated. I love to eat this cold. As a matter of fact, think I’ll go get me a slice right now!
Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!