13 July 2009

Fresh Oregon Berry Pie

This weekend was all about the berries. Loads and loads of them, in fact. My dear college friend Becky was in town and had graciously offered to pick up Oregon berries on her way out of town for all of us living one state north. I placed my order for a flat of marionberries, anxiously anticipating a pie's worth. What I got was two pies' worth, stained fingers, and a couple of bellyaches from overindulgence.

When Beck arrived with the berries, I thought surely she was mistaken -- I had expected only about half the amount. She had also anticipated my error, and rather than bringing a full flat of marionberries, she picked out a half-flat of marions plus a variety for the other half, including delicate blueberries, mondo blackberries, sweeter-than-sweet raspberries, and unusual tayberries. Behold:

My eyes ogled the heaps of fruit. What in Martha Stewart's name was I going to *do* with all this fruit? I gingerly transported my loot home, spilling only a half-pint of blackberries in the open trunk of my SUV (I think a few may still be rolling around...), and I got to work. Plopped on the couch with a stack of vintage pie cookbooks, Joy of Cooking, and my binder of family recipes, I scoured through the listings for ideas.

What emerged from the pack was the simplest recipe - simple both in flavor as well as execution; perhaps the origin of the phrase "easy as pie." It's a blissfully benign mixture of a pre-baked pie shell mounded with fresh berries and a couple thin layers of cooked berry puree/sugar/cornstarch to act as the glue. Joy of Cooking dubs this "Fresh Strawberry (Or Raspberry) Pie" but I think you could substitute any fresh berry (or a combo) depending on what you have on hand. As Joy says, "This is only as good as the berries you start with."

It was so good, I made another this morning before I started my workday -- I'll take it to Family Dinner Night tonight in honor of Shelby's and my mom's July birthdays. It was also so good, I had a slice for breakfast...

Fresh Berry Pie - adapted from Joy of Cooking:
9" baked pie shell (see below)
6 c. unrinsed fresh berries, picked over (I used approx 5 c. marionberries + 1 c. raspberries; a few tayberries thrown in for kicks)
1 c. organic sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. water
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. salted butter, cut into slivers

-Do not wash marion-, rasp-, or tayberries. The excess water will mar the final outcome of your pie, rendering it soupy.
-Measure 4 c. of berries and set aside.
-Puree the remaining 2 c. of berries (a food processor works wonders); set aside.
-In a medium saucepan (under no heat just yet!), whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until blended.
-Now whisk in the water, and then stir in the pureed berries.
-Turn on the heat, medium to start. Stir in the lemon juice and slivers of butter.
-Whisk constantly, and bring the mixture to a simmer (medium heat). Really, keep stirring! You don't want the jammy mixture to cook too soon, scorching the bottom layer. You also don't want to have the heat up too high, or it'll bubble up and possibly burn you. Cook for 1 minute until thickened. The consistency is like a pliable, pourable jam.
-Gently shake half of the reserved fresh berries into the pie pan, arranging a uniform layer. Pour half the hot berry jam atop; shake the pie pan ever-so-gently to let the jam slip into the cracks. Cover with remaining berries and pour/spoon the remaining jam atop to cover and coat evenly.
-Place the steaming-hot pie into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set. Serve cold the day it's made with a nice steaming cup of coffee. Breakfast is the best time for this, in my opinion.

Easy-as-Pie Crust (aka Incredible Pie Crust!) - from mom. (Makes 2 8" crusts; can be stretched to make 2 9" crusts)
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
scant 2/3 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. cold water
medium-sized Tupperware-type bowl with lid

Place the flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl; stir to blend. Add the oil and water. Put on the lid (tightly!) and shake 5-6 times. You want to shake the bowl with a floor-to-ceiling motion. Remove the lid, and like magic the dough is ready to roll. (You may want to stir a few more times using your hands to pick up any remaining crumbs that didn't form into the ball of dough.)

Divide the dough in 2 pieces. Place each one before layers of waxed paper (cut to 9" square) and roll to size. Gently peel back the top layer of waxed paper; flip (dough-side down) over the top of a pie pin and let the dough fill the pan. Gently peel back the waxed paper. Along the rim of the pie pan, gently roll the dough under itself to hide any ragged edges.

Artfully "flute" the pie crust edges with your fingers. Use left hand's index and middle fingers to form an upside down "v"; press these fingers into the dough/side of the pan to make an indentation. Now, "v" still in place, take the right hand's index finger and insert it to the base of the "v" and gently tug dough away from the pie pan's side to flute the edges.

Too much work? Just plop the dough into the pan, letting it fall as it may, and label it "rustic"!

To bake: Preheat oven to 425. Prick the bottom and sides of your dough thoroughly with a fork (about 40 times; that is thoroughly!). This prevents shrinkage/puffing up. Bake 10-15 minutes or until just golden. Let cool.


  1. I am the luckiest girl in the world because I got to eat a slice of this delicious pie! Now I'm going to make it for others with the next flat of berries that comes into my life! Thanks!!

  2. Oooh, I think I'm going to try to make this! Yummy! By the way, have you read Julie and Julia? Given your food blog, it seems like something you might like if you haven't already finished it! ;-)