Sunday, August 10, 2008

Almost as easy as pie

My experience with baking pies has only gone as far as a Cool Whip and Jello mixture spooned into a store-bought graham cracker crust. While there's nothing at all wrong with these delicious pies, I felt that I really should be stretching myself as a baker and move away from the 3-step baking recipes that I have gone to by default for years. As I browsed through pie recipes, I became overwhelmed by how complicated some of them could be, but in reality, I only gave the directions a passing glance before deciding that I would not be pitting cherries or buying fresh rhubarb. Once I decided for good, though, that a pie would be a gratifying challenge, I started to read through recipes in earnest, and I found this one for a lattice-topped blueberry pie from Cooking Light.
Actually, the preparation was not exceedingly difficult, but I also did not create an ideal pie. The blueberry filling was a breeze, and it turned out perfectly: sweet enough, but not too much to overwhelm the fruit flavor. The crust, on the other hand, is something that I apparently need to work at a bit more. It was slightly buttery and browned, but it crumbled where it should not have, making for a pie that could hardly support itself. And, if this were for a party or a gift, I would have taken more care when rolling out the dough on the plastic wrap, and also cutting the dough for the lattice top; mine was a bit messy.
In the end, the feedback was all positive. I made this for my family, and each of them agreed that it was absolutely scrumptious, if not heavy on the blueberries (which, in reality, is not a criticism). As summer berry recipes go, it was quite fun to try, and I'm proud that I was able to face the trepidation of making a pie without the safety net of a pre-made crust or a filling that comes from a can. This recipe is nothing to fear at all, and I daresay that I've gained the confidence to take another look at some of the pie recipes that I scoffed at earlier, thinking that it would simply be too much work. After all, the work of it is the enjoyable part!
As us bakers know, there's something so satisfying about creating an entire dessert from scratch: digging our hands in the dough, meticulously measuring out each ingredient, sampling the smallest spoonful along each step, and finally removing a finished product from the oven, fragrant and hot, then offering it up to others as if it were a finely executed work of art.

Lattice-Topped Blueberry Pie

Crust: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided 1/2 cup ice water 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 1/2 tablespoons butter Cooking spray

Filling: 1 cup sugar, divided 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/8 teaspoon salt 6 cups fresh blueberries 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. To prepare crust, spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1/4 cup flour and ice water, stirring with a whisk until well-blended. Combine 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water mixture; mix with a fork until flour mixture is moist.
2. Gently press two-thirds of dough into a 4-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap; cover with additional plastic wrap. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Press remaining dough into a 4-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap; cover with additional plastic wrap. Roll dough into a 9-inch circle. Freeze both portions of dough 10 minutes. Working with larger portion of dough, remove 1 sheet of plastic wrap; fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap.
3. To prepare the filling, combine 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, and sprinkle over blueberries. Toss gently. Stir in butter and vanilla. Spoon blueberry mixture into crust.
4. Preheat oven to 375°.
5. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap from remaining dough. Cut dough into 6 (1 1/2-inch) strips. Gently remove dough strips from bottom sheet of plastic wrap; arrange in a lattice design over blueberry mixture. Seal dough strips to edge of crust. Place pie on a baking sheet covered with foil. Sprinkle lattice with 1 tablespoon sugar.
6. Bake at 375° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until crust is browned and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

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