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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Berry Pie

I've been eyeing this recipe for a while, especially since it's from a book that I am contemplating getting. I finally got a chance to make it - my first ever American pie, yay! It's delicious too :). The crust takes in from the filling and gets wonderfully juicy, but not soaked and it holds the filling beautifully. And the filling has this divine tartly sweet taste that cooked berries have. OK, enough with the self-promotion, on with the recipe :).

Ingredients for one two-crust 9-inch (23 cm) pie:

For the crust:
14 tablespoons (7 oz, 200 g) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups (320 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water*
1 tablespoon vinegar**

* Ice water = water with ice in it. I don't remember why the cold temperature is so important, but it is.

** The vinegar's purpose is to prevent the dough from forming tight gluten bonds and help it stay flaky. You can't taste it, so don't skip it. The recipe said cider vinegar, but I used wine vinegar. I assume any type will do.

For the filling:
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons (20 g) cornstarch (cornflour)
a pinch of salt
the zest of one lemon (about 2 teaspoons), finely grated
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups (about 1 lb, 500 g) berries. The recipe uses fresh blackberries, I used a mix of frozen raspberries, blueberries and marionberries.


For the crust:

* The crust is not labor-intensive, but it takes a while to make, as it has to rest in the fridge a few times in increments of 1 hour, 30 min, and 1 hour, so a total of 2 and a half hours. The resting is important, as it allows the dough to settle, not shrink during baking and form the flakes that it should. If you don't care to wait, just use store-bought crust.

Divide the 14 tablespoons of butter into 2 portions: 9 tablespoons and 5 tablespoons (130 g and 70 g).
Refrigerate the 9 tablespoon portion and freeze the 5 tablespoon portion for at least 30 minutes.
Place the flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Process for a few seconds to combine.
Add the refrigerated butter, cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) cubes, and process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the frozen butter, cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) cubes, and pulse until the frozen butter is the size of peas.
Add 5 tablespoons of ice water and the vinegar and pulse 6-7 times
Pinch a small amount of the mixture to see if it holds together.
If not, add another 1 tablespoon water and pulse 3 times.
Try pinching again to see if it holds together.
If not, add the final 1 tablespoon water and pulse 3 times.

At this point, my dough still looked like a mess of dry crumbs, but I am happy that I resisted my urge to add more water in it :).

Divide the dough in half. Wrap each portion with plastic wrap and flatten into discs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Remove one disc of pie dough from the fridge.
If it's too hard to roll, let it sit out for about 10 minutes.
Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch (0.3 cm) thick and about 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter.

I always have trouble rolling buttery doughs, as they tend to stick to the counter and tear. So I cover the counter with plastic wrap, cover the rolling pin with plastic wrap and roll it like that. Easy to clean up too!

Carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie pan.
Trim the dough edge to about even with the edge of the pan.
Cover with plastic and let dough rest in fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon zest.
Whisk in the lemon juice to make a slurry.
Add the berries and gently toss them to coat with the slurry.
Mine were frozen and easy to handle, but if you are using fresh, be careful not to crush them.
Let sit for about 15 minutes.

Assembling the pie:

Toss the berries once more and then pour the mixture into the bottom crust.
Roll out the remaining disk of dough to about 12 inches in diameter.
Moisten the edges of the bottom crust with water and gently place the top crust over the berries.
Tuck any overhang under the bottom crust and press down to seal the two crusts.
With the tip of a knife, cut 3-5 slits in the top crust to allow steam to vent.
Cover pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour before baking.

Set your oven rack to the lowest position, so that the bottom crust bakes well.
Preheat oven to 425F (220 C).
Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any juice.
Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Check the pie after 20 minutes and protect the edges from over-browning (mine did!) with a ring of foil if necessary.
Allow pie to cool on a rack for at least 4 hours before serving. This is not only to protect you from burning your mouth :) but also to allow the filling to settle.

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