I’m a huge fan of pie. Cake, not so much. It may stem from my childhood where the spinning glass pie cases were part of the front of restaurants. I’m partial to the countertop ones because you could get up close and personal with your slice before you even sat down. Fruit pies, cream pies, nut pies – all displayed in their glory.
My grandfather had a diner type restaurant in my hometown’s downtown area – colloquially known as “upstreet”. His restaurant was called Joe K’s - but the tagline was the best part – “Where the food’s ok.” I can speak, albeit completely biased, it was better than ok. Joe K knew his way around the kitchen and knew your order when you stopped in for breakfast before work. You didn’t even have to order it, it just showed up in front of you. But as a kid, my favorite was burgers at Joe K’s. The waitress would take the little glass Coca-Cola bottle and flip over a glass on it. And the burgers were wonderful. But the best part was getting a slice of pie – that I always imagined my grandmother baking. She was one heck of a cook. She learned her repertoire from her older sister Emma who had married an Italian. So the Slovak cooking still crept in, but the Italian staples always made an appearance. I remember her growing gorgeous tomatoes in her little garden plot. I remember her making hand cut noodles hanging them to dry over every surface in the kitchen – countertops and chair backs were not exempt. But most of all I remember her sweet caring way. So, wrapped up in all the pastry of a pie is emotion as well as sweetened peak-of-freshness fruit.
Her sister Ann, my namesake, would bring pie when she would come for Thanksgiving or a picnic. She could bake up a storm. If you still are blessed to have a grandmother around, sit down with them this summer and bake a pie. You’ll find it easier than you think and, trust me, it always gets rave reviews.
I have been known to make my own pie crust using Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee recipe, but in the busy world we live in I’m also a big fan of Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts. They come two to a package and are a real timesaver. In one of my crazy pregnancy moments, I proclaimed that before the baby was born, I needed to have a freezer full of pie crusts. So my sweet Mom spent an afternoon helping me load up the freezer. We all nest in our own special way, mine apparently involved pie.
My blueberry pie is a summer staple when the berries are their sweetest. I’ve also used frozen wild blueberries. You can bake it in a standard pie dish (not a deep dish) or in a tart pan.
1 package refrigerated pie dough, I use Pillsbury
3 pints blueberries, washed and drained
1/2 c flour
1 c sugar
1 T butter, cut into small pieces
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 c heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400. Place one pie crust in the pie plate or tart pan. Put blueberries in large bowl and sprinkle with flour. Once each blueberry is coated, add sugar, zest and nutmeg. Pour into pie crust. Dot with butter.
Mix the egg and cream. Brush the edge of the pastry crust with the egg and cream wash. This allows the crust to seal together. Slice the other pie crust into 1 inch strips. I like a lattice crust top – always lots of oohs and aahs from your guests. It’s simpler than it looks. First lay the two longest pieces perpendicular on the equators of the pie. Then lay one strip on each side of the horizontal axis. Then flip up every other strip on the other axis. Lay down two more strips on each side and flip down the ones that were flipped up. Continue around the pie until it is covered. Press the edges together and trim off an excess. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar or granulated sugar. Bake the pie for 50 minutes. The juices in the middle of the pie will bubble when thickened. This is the key to doneness. No one likes a runny pie. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Enjoy! Let me know how it works out for you. I like to make a cherry pie and apple pie along with this for 4th of July – Red, White and Blue pies!