By Jason Shriner, The Aubergine Chef
As summer draws to a close we begin to enter one of my favorite seasons in Virginia: blackberry season. There are many ways to enjoy blackberries but there’s just something open and honest about a good blackberry pie.
I developed my blackberry pie over many summers. Blackberries are expensive, so I rarely make the pie. Fortunately my family members own lots of bushes so we can make at least one pie every year essentially for free. The very first pie I ever made used the blackberries as they were but I found their seeds overwhelming ruining the experience. The next few batches I strained the seeds entirely but then you have to use tons of blackberries and it seems to take forever to bake. My favorite batch wound up using a blend of both whole and strained blackberries. You get the body from the whole blackberries without the overwhelming seediness. The small number of seeds also seem to express, “I was made with real blackberries!”
The final touch was a trick I learned while admiring Mennonite baking out here in Nokesville. If you egg wash the top and sprinkle a generous helping of granulated sugar on top you get a thin almost caramel coating that adds an additional layer of flavor and texture. Most people like to use medium grain or sanding sugar as those sugars will continue to hold their shape during baking. There’s something about that candy-like coating though that makes this pie that much more irresistible.
Jason Shriner owns the baking & pastry blog The Aubergine Chef, which contains free videos and recipes. He also teaches baking classes at the Manassas Park Community Center. You can visit his blog at www.TheAubergineChef.com.
Basic Pie Dough
Makes 4 pie crusts
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 sticks + 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon of salt
¾ cup ice cold water
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1. Begin to work the butter, by hand, into the flour. This is done through a process called the Rubbing method or Biscuit method. Take your hands and scoop up a handful of dry ingredients and butter. Press your hands together, flattening the fat, and then rub one hand away from you. Do not continuously rub back and forth – this will cause the fat to melt resulting in undesirable qualities. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees in between each cut in.
2. Repeat until the pieces of butter are flat and are about half an inch wide.
3. Drizzle in some of the water into the mixture and toss like a salad while adding. Mix till mixture comes together. Slowly add more water as you need it. You may not need all the water depending on the humidity. Look for the bits and pieces of fat and flour on the bottom of the bowl beginning to become less prevalent. The dough should also become sticky and start to ball up, however it should not have a sloshy water sound.
4. Shape the dough into a log. Divide into 4 equal pieces, weighing about 9 ounces each.
5. Wrap in plastic and flatten into a circular disc (this will help with rolling out later).
6. Store refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 6 months.
Blackberry Pie Filling
1 lb 5 ounces blackberries, strained to make 13 ounces seedless puree
7 ounces whole blackberries
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons for topping
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg (for egg wash)
1. Prepare a 9” pie tin with one piece of basic pie dough.
2. Preheat your oven to 325-375 degrees F.
3. Combine the dry ingredients together and whisk well. Add the dry ingredients to the blackberry puree and whisk together until it is lump free.
4. Evenly place the whole blackberries into the prepared unbaked pie shell. Pour the blackberry puree into the pie shell on top of the blackberries and spread evenly.
5. Roll out a second piece of basic pie dough and cover the top of the pie using a little bit of egg wash as glue along the rim of the bottom crust. Cut vents in the top crust using a sharp knife. Crimp the edges with a fork.
6. Egg wash the top and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
7. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the filling is bubbly.
8. Allow to cool at room temperature before serving. Refrigerate any leftover pie.