Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Three different takes on Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie is one of the easiest pies to make - you don't even have to peel or cut the fruit! At its most basic, blueberry pie is just blueberries, sugar, and some kind of thickener. That is how my husband likes it - very simple, so the blueberries have nothing else to compete with their flavor. But I like to mix it up a little, so I tried some other flavor combinations to see how they compared to Basic Blue.

They all follow a pretty easy base recipe. I have specified certain amounts of sugar and certain thickeners in these recipes, but go ahead and experiment - vary the sugar to your own taste and try out different thickeners to see which you like best. (See note on thickeners at the bottom of this post.)

Basic Method for Baking Blueberry Pie:
1) Use 1 recipe Flaky pie crust, rolling out half for the top and half for the bottom crust.
2) Follow directions for one of the three pie fillings below.
3) Fill bottom crust with filling and top with the other crust, crimping edges together
4) Optional: Brush crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
5) Put Pie on a cookie sheet and Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.
6) Cool completely before cutting ("Hot out of the oven" makes for very messy slices!)

Basic Blue

5 Cups Fresh Blueberries (you can use frozen too, but fresh is better)
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Instant Tapioca

In a large bowl, mix the ingredients together, stirring roughly to break up some of the berries and create juice. (The berries will create juice as they cook, of course, but when using tapioca as a thickener you want to let the tapioca sit in some juice before the cooking process). Let this mixture sit and macerate for at least 20 minutes before filling the pie.

Hint of Citrus Blueberry Pie:
Okay, totally cheesy name. Maybe I'll come up with something better and rename it.

5 Cups Blueberries
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Instant Tapioca
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon sweet orange marmalade
- OR -
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together, stirring roughly to break up some of the berries to create some juice for the tapioca to absorb. Let this mixture macerate for 20+ minutes before filling your crust.

Blue Ribbon Blueberry
I call it "Blue Ribbon" not because I won the county fair pie contest or anything, but because this filling is the one that won the taste-test in my family, which is much more important! This is the same filling I use for my Blueberry Bars recipe.

5 Cups Blueberries
1 Cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 
1/4 Cup instant Tapioca -OR- 2 Tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon Cornstarch

Put 1 Cup of the berries in a small saucepan with the sugar. Over low heat, cook while smashing up the berries with a fork or potato masher. Cook 2-4 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is syrupy. Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and the cardamom. Let the mixture cool for 5-10 minutes. Add in the Tapioca (or cornstarch) and the remaining berries, stirring well. Fill pie crust and bake.

Note on Thickeners:
There are several different options for thickening your pies, and bakers have different preferences for what to use. You may decide to vary it depending on which fruit you are using. I like cornstarch for most pies, but I also like tapioca sometimes. Here are the most common thickeners:

Flour - A lot of the old recipes I look at use flour as the thickener. I don't really like flour because I always seem to end up with a runny pie when I use it. Not just "juicy" but downright runny. However, many bakers still like it and use it successfully.

Cornstarch - Has more thickening power than flour, and will not add any off flavors or textures to your filling.

Instant Tapioca - Because these beads absorb liquid and turn jelly-like, you will rarely have a runny pie. The upside is that tapioca gives you a "set" filling that won't run, giving you nice pretty slices. The downside is that the beady, jelly-like texture does not work well with some fruits. I think it works well for blueberry, becomming unnoticable. But I don't really like it for apple or peach. You have to be careful not to add too much tapioca to a filling, or it will become so gelatinous it is SOLID and not very appealing.

Other thickeners: ClearJel, Cassava (basically the same as tapioca, but not in bead-form), Arrowroot starch. I have not used these thickeners yet, so I cannot speak to how well they work.

The above is only based on my own experience making pies, so if you want a more comprehensive look at different thickeners, the Everything Pies website has a great page here: Everything Pies thickener page

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