photo by Anthony Palatta
It's summertime, which means blueberries that once cost 5 bucks for a half pint are now as cheap as 3 bucks for a full pint. A great opportunity to make pie!
Faithful readers of this blog know I'm a fan of Martha's Everyday Food, which came out with not one but two great dessert options in the latest issue (June 2010).
You may have already read about the tres leches cake I made a while back. Having done well with that one, I decided to try another recipe, this one for blueberry "slab" pie. (Don't you just love saying the words "blueberry" and "slab" together? No? Well, read on, anyway.)
The difference between a regular pie and slab pie is that a slab pie is much thinner and broader, made in a rimmed cookie sheet rather than a pie plate. For that reason, you need quite a bit more pie dough.
I had some trouble as I followed the recipe directions, which called for making a double batch of pie dough all at once in a food processor. Mine, which holds 11 cups, was so weighed down by all that flour (5 cups!) that the blade couldn't move. It was much easier to divide the ingredients in half and make two batches separately.
This was not the only area in which I diverged from the original recipe.
To compote or not to compote? Berry pie recipes differ on the question of whether to prepare the berry filling on a stovetop before using it in the pie. In my experience, when I haven't compoted beforehand, my pie filling has turned out a goopy mess. Therefore, I always compote my berries before putting them in the pie.
Another debate: what kind of agent to use as a thickener? The main candidates are: tapioca, flour, and cornstarch. I must admit I've never tried tapioca, but I've heard a few weird things about it. Cornstarch is great for making custards, but I've found it pretty ineffectual in berry fillings. And then there's flour. Ah, how I love flour. It dissolves easily, it thickens beautifully, and if you compote, you don't have to worry about any residual chalky taste. I say, go for flour!
To flavor my filling, I went beyond the basic sugar and lemon juice combo called for in the recipe. I also added a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon and even a little vanilla. (I also used half brown sugar and half white sugar.) If you like a sweeter pie, I suggest using twice as much sugar as the recipe calls for. Also, I added a pinch of salt, which really brought out the flavor of my filling.
After assembling my pie, I tried to put it into my oven. Unfortunately, we're in a new apartment with a smaller than normal oven--my cookie sheet wouldn't fit on the rack! I had to finally hang it from the grooves on either side of the oven meant for holding the racks. It worked just fine.
I brought the pie to my neighbors' barbecue, where it was a hit. The blueberries were not overly sweet, and provided a nice sour-sweet contrast to the delicate texture of the buttery pastry crust. Also a perfect match for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The only thing I'd have done differently is sprinkle demarra sugar on top of the crust to add a sweet sandy crunch.