Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Blueberry Pie with a Twist

Blueberry pie is blueberry pie, right? Not much you can do to change it. Well, it ain't necessarily so. We discovered that simmering the blueberries in wine before using them enhances their flavor; they don't taste like wine, just more like themselves. Which isn't surprising, given that alcohol is a flavor carrier, and anything made with a bit of alcohol will have richer flavor. (Try adding a quick splash of vodka to your next vinaigrette.)

We always use frozen blueberries for pie, considering the price and intensely seasonal availability of fresh. We find simmering the frozen berries in wine before using them allows them to thaw and release some of their liquid; the liquid then evaporates as the berries gently simmer. This prevents the finished pie from being watery, in addition to giving it great flavor.

King Arthur's new whole grains baking book is due out this fall (watch for a special pre-buy offer in this newsletter in August). Thus, whole grains have been much on our mind of late. We give two versions of piecrust, one made with white flour, one with whole wheat pastry flour. To my mind, they're equally delicious; the whole-wheat flour makes a darker, less traditional-looking crust, but its color harmonizes nicely with the dark purple-blue of the berry filling.

Traditional Crust
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons buttermilk powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) cold unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) ice water

Whole-Grain Crust
1 1/2 cups (5 5/8 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
4 teaspoons buttermilk powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) ice water

6 cups (24 ounces) frozen blueberries
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fruity red wine; use blueberry wine, if you can find it
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup (1 7/8 ounces) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) lemon juice
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter, melted
1/4 cup (1 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour

To make the crust: First, choose which crust you'd like to make: a light crust, using all-purpose flour; or a whole-grain crust, using whole wheat pastry flour. The light crust will be marginally more tender and flaky; but if you're dipping your toe into the waters of whole-grain baking, this whole wheat pastry flour piecrust is a delicious place to start.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour of your choice (all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour), buttermilk powder, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut the butter into small cubes, and work it into the dry ingredients (using your fingers, a pastry blender or fork, or a mixer) until the dough is unevenly crumbly. Sprinkle in the ice water, mixing until the dough is cohesive. Grab a handful; if it holds together willingly, and doesn't seem at all dry or crumbly, you've added enough liquid.

Divide the dough roughly in half, making one half slightly larger than the other. (If you've made the crust with all-purpose flour, the two pieces should be about 8 ounces and 6 ounces; using whole wheat pastry flour, make them about 7 ounces and 6 ounces.)

Shape each piece of dough into a disk. Working with one disk at a time, roll the edges along a floured work surface (as though the disk were a wheel), in order to smooth them out. Pat the disks till they're about 1-inch thick, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 3 days.

To prepare the blueberries: Place the berries in a large sauté pan, preferably 12-inch. Add the wine. Simmer the berries gently, over medium-low heat, until the liquid in the bottom of the pan is syrupy; this will take about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat. This step can be done the day before; refrigerate berries overnight.

Remove both pieces of dough from the refrigerator. Allow them to warm a bit and become flexible, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Flour your work surface, and roll the larger piece of dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch regular (not deep-dish) pie pan that's at least 1 1/4 inches deep; leave the edges hanging over the edge of the pan.

To prepare the filling: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the blueberries and their juice, the spices, vanilla, sugars, salt, and lemon juice, stirring to combine. Mix in the butter, then the flour.

To assemble and bake the pie: Spoon the filling into the crust. Roll the remaining piece of dough into an 11-inch circle, and lay it atop the filling. Bring the hanging edges of the bottom crust up and over the top crust, rolling and squeezing them together, then crimping decoratively. Cut three slashes in the top of the pie, to allow steam to escape. Brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.

To bake the pie: Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil gently on top, covering the entire crust. Bake for an additional to 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and you can see the berries bubbling through the slits in the crust. Remove the pie from the oven, and allow it to cool to room temperature, at least 5 hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

©2006 The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc.
All rights reserved.

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