This week I am attempting to conquer my fear of baking by diving head first into a pie-baking extravaganza courtesy of Mollie Cox Bryan's comprehensive pie bible, Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies. I chose my first pie project based on two factors—simplicity and availability of ingredients (namely those I had on hand Sunday morning).
I figured that vinegar pie crust was a good beginner crust since the introduction to the recipe billed it as being easy to work with, forgiving, and easily patchable. I'd never experimented with vegetable shortening in a pie crust before, and it was a bit of a revelation. The soft shortening allows the crust to come together much easier and faster than butter. The vinegar in the recipe acts as a stabilizer, and the crust had no sour taste at all. It rolled out like a dream come true, no patching necessary.
Earlier this week at the farmers' market, I was seduced by some beautifully plump blueberries—there was my filling. The filling seemed simple enough: berries, flour, sugar, butter, lemon juice, and some cinnamon. I realized a bit too late that I didn't have any lemons, so I substituted lime juice. Other than that I followed all of the instructions exactly. Everything looked great, picture perfect, in fact, and the pie went into the oven. The second the pie was finished I had to run to work, and wait an agonizing 8 hours to find out how my beautiful pie tasted.
It was well after midnight before I was able to cut into my pie, and I was pretty nervous. How was it? Well, the crust lacked the rich dairy flavor of a butter-based crust but tasted pretty great and the texture was pleasingly flakey. The filling was fantastic. The blueberries kept their integrity and popped as you bit into them. The lime juice did the trick for adding a bit of tartness and although I was a bit skeptical about the combination of cinnamon and blueberries, it totally worked. I can honestly say that this is my first successfully executed pie. Thanks, Mrs. Rowe!
Win 'Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies'
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Barcelona Cookbook to give away this week.
- 1 recipe Vinegar Pie Crust (recipe follows)
- 6 cups fresh blueberries, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
- 1 1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
Line a 9-inch pie plate with 1 rolled out crust and place in the refrigerator to chill.
Put the blueberries in a bowl, add the lemon juice, and stir to coat. Separately, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon, mix thoroughly, and then stir into the blueberries. Spread the filling in the crust, and scatter the butter over the top. Brush the rim of the crust with the egg wash, cover with the second rolled-out crust, and seal and crimp or flute the edges.
Put the pie in the refrigerator to chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Store the remaining egg wash in the refrigerator too. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Brush the top crust with egg wash, then score the top with 2 perpendicular cuts for steam vents. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before slicing, then chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve chilled or warm.
Vinegar Pie Crust
- makes two 9-inch crusts -
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until it is the size of small peas. Add the vinegar, egg, and just enough ice water to moisten the dry ingredients.
Form the dough into 2 equal balls, then flatten into disks. Roll out the crusts right right away, or wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball to a thickness of 1/8 inch.
To prebake an empty crust, preheat the oven to 400°F. Press 1 rolled-out crust into a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Line with parchment paper and weight the crust down with dry beans or weights to keep the crust from bubbling or shrinking. Bake for 10 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. To parbake the crust, remove it from the oven after 10 to 20 minutes, when you first see a golden hue to the crust.