Two weeks ago we were out at the family cabin and we managed to pick a small bucket of saskatoon berries before they dried up for the season. Trevor's request was saskatoon pie, but it was a busy week so I didn't get to it until this past weekend. I ended up being just a tiny bit short of saskatoons, so I added in about 1/2 cup of blueberries I had picked up at the farmer's market. When you're making the filling, you need to use some judgment when deciding how much sugar and tapioca flour to use. First for the sugar: decide how sweet the berries are on their own, it they're on the tart side, use one cup, if they're sweet, use less. Next when deciding how much tapioca flour to use, consider how juicy the berries are. Saskatoons aren't too juicy, so I decided to use 3 tablespoons and I may have been able to use even less. If you decide to make the recipe with juicy blueberries you might want to add 4 tablespoons.
Now if I may pat myself on the back for just a moment, I need to say that my pie crust is pretty darn good. It's one of those baking achievements that I'm really proud of (and it's my grandma's recipe). I like pie crust to be flaky and golden, rolled a bit on the thick side. If you can, make the crust with a duck egg; the different protein structure of duck eggs make tender and delicious pastry.
The result was delicious and worth the time it takes to put a pie together, with saucy berries that were sweet, but still a bit tart with a hint of lemon and spice flavour in the background. Also, the crunchy sugar crust was fantastic and I tried to get a little bit in each bite. When Trevor was growing up, pie was a common breakfast in his house, his mom figured it couldn't be worse than something like danish or poptarts. We had our pie for desert tonight, and I'm sure another piece will go missing in the morning!
Grandma Eleanor's Pie Pastry
- 1 lb. vegetable shortening
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 egg (use a duck egg if you can)
Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the vegetable shortening until there are no pieces larger than a pea and the mixture looks like coarse oatmeal. Mix the egg and vinegar together in a measuring cup then add cold water to make 3/4 cup. Add the liquids to the dry mixture and stir with a fork until it starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter top and knead a few times. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Place dough into the fridge for at least one hour before using. This recipe will make two 2-crust pies. The dough can be tightly wrapped and stored in the freezer for a few months.
- 1/2 of Grandma Eleanor's Pie Pastry recipe
- 6 cups berries, rinsed and picked over
- 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on the berries)
- 2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2-3 tbsp tapioca flour
- 2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- sprinkle of muscovado sugar
Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimed baking sheet sheet on the rack then preheat the oven to 500 F. Roll out 1/4 of the crust dough on a lightly floured counter top. Try not to add too much flour as you're rolling it out. Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin then unroll it over the pie plate. Gently press the dough down into the pie plate then trim the excess dough from the edge, leaving about 1/2" hanging over the edge. Put the prepared bottom crust into the fridge to cool for about 15 minutes, or until your berry mixture is ready.
In a large mixing bowl, stir the berries, lemon juice, lemon zest, allspice, nutmeg and flour together and let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes. Roll out another 1/4 of the dough. Remove the prepared bottom crust from the fridge and spoon the berry mixture into it. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the top, then use the rolling pin to transfer the top crust onto the pie. Trim the dough so that it's the same length as the dough overhang of the bottom crust. Fold the two edges under (so that the crust dough is doubled around the edge) then crimp the edges. My mom taught me to use my left thumb and index finger and my right index finger, but use whatever method works for you.
If you feel like the dough has warmed up too much, put the complete pie in the fridge to cool off before baking, or if the oven is still preheating keep the pie in the fridge. Before baking, brush the top of the pie with lightly beaten egg white, then sprinkle with muscovado sugar.
Just before putting the pie into the oven, turn down the heat to 425 F. Place the pie onto the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Turn down the heat to 375 F and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and you can see the filling bubbling. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours before serving.
Filling recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated