Cook's Illustrated (July/August 2008)
Once a year, when blueberries come in season, we binge.
It always starts the same way, with an innocent trip to the grocery store, and suddenly, out of nowhere, pints of blueberries are buy-one-get-one-free, and we load up.
We eat them by the handfuls in the morning. We make muffins. We serve them with sherbet (which you'll see in an upcoming post). And this year, after reading the most recent Cook's, we were determined to make a pie.
But before we get to the pie, let's talk about the crust made with Cook's Foolproof Pie Dough, and its one surprise ingredient.
Foolproof Pie Dough is a recipe that has appeared in the magazine before, but is well worth being reprinted. The crust is much like other pie crusts, with flour, salt, sugar, butter, shortening and water.
But Cook's has found that by substituting half of the water with vodka, you can avoid a tough pie crust and consistently get a tender, flaky crust.
You can hear Jack Bishop -- of America's Test Kitchen -- talk about the pie crust and explain why vodka works so well on a recent episode of Good Food with Evan Kleiman on KCRW. Never heard of Good Food? Prepare to sacrifice an hour of each week for now on.
(We discovered the show's podcast on iTunes a little over a year ago. It focuses mostly on food trends, farmers markets and restaurants in Southern California, but even if you don't live in SoCal, it's well worth your time. Kleiman -- the chef at LA's Angeli Caffee -- is a treat to listen to and continually brings in a bevy of amazing guests. You can hear the entire segment about the pie dough on KCRW.com/GoodFood. While you're there, do yourself a favor and subscribe to their podcast.)
Cook's Blueberry Pie recipe is focused on creating a pie that sits up when sliced and does not turn into a runny mess, a common problem with blueberry pie since the berries have so much juice. The secret here is the addition of a peeled, grated Granny Smith apple and ground tapioca, which combine to thicken the filling but not interfere with the berries.
So did it work?
A resounding yes! The pie was, of course, delicious and the texture was firm, as advertised. We took issue, though, with the recipe's suggestions for cutting six discs out of the dough (see Cook's photo below) because the holes are so large that our crust had trouble staying together when sliced. But it still tasted amazing.
Honestly, the hardest thing about making this pie was waiting four hours for it to cool, which was torture because the entire house smelled like blueberry pie.
We're already looking forward to next year's blueberries.
(THIS PHOTO: Cook's Illustrated)
Foolproof Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
6 cups fresh blueberries
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant tapioca, ground
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted better, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1. FOR THE PIE DOUGH: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
3. Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch think. Roll dough loosely and rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
4. FOR THE FILLING: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4 inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut around 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2 inch overhang on each side.
7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with times of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
8. Place pie on heating baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juice bubbles and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.