Last week I made a blueberry cranberry pie with a basic all-butter flaky pastry crust. Once again, this recipe is from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible.  I’m going to stick with this book for awhile, because I think this just might be the key to my pie-crust success. And it doesn’t hurt that the fillings are also exacting and exactly perfect every time.

See how the filling stays in place and doesn't ooze out everywhere? I love that! (I know. I'm a geek. I've embraced it.)

The blueberry cranberry filling is a perfect winter pie.  It’s not too sweet. In fact, it’s bracing and tart, in a  good, beat your chest sort of way. And if you want to tame the tartness, it’s lovely with some local or homemade vanilla ice cream.

You can use blueberries you put up in the summer, or buy frozen.   Randy brought home fresh blueberries from Trader Joe’s that came from Mexico, I think.  I cringed, because I try to eat in-season as much as possible, but I wasn’t about to waste these berries. They actually tasted quite good. And of course I used some of the cranberries I stocked up on in December.

You start by macerating all the filling ingredients for 30 minutes.  Then you cook it until it’s thick, let it cool and transfer it to the pie shell.  Incredibly easy and delicious.  In fact, there’s no reason you couldn’t use this filling as an ice cream topping or in a fruit crisp as well.

Here are the blueberries and cranberries macerating in sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest.

Of course, I can’t help myself.  I always switch up a recipe, even if it’s just slightly.  And really, this time it’s hardly worth mentioning the change, but I’ll mention it anyway.  I decided on a lattice top crust rather than a double crust.

Well, this tiny decision did end up tripping me up a bit.  The quantities for all the ingredients for the double-crust and crust-with-lattice are right next to each other in the book, so while I’m certain I got the flour and butter measurements correct, I know my eyes kept drifting back and forth between the recipes on the other ingredients.  I think this may have had a slight impact on the end result.

The crust was flaky, tasty, and very crisp…  approaching tough, which is not a good thing in a pie crust.  I still haven’t laid my hands on pastry flour, so I might attribute some of the minor flaws in the pie crust to the fact that I used bleached AP flour which has a slightly higher protein content.  But I also think that the tricks my eyes were playing on me as I was measuring ingredients into my bowl may have had an impact.

Also, Rose keeps calling for vinegar in her crusts–just a tad, but really, I just can’t do it.  At least not yet. I subbed extra water instead. This may also have contributed to that slight chew in the crust.

I’m going to make the same crust again this week. Maybe I’ll try the vinegar. Maybe not. I’ll report how it goes.

If you want to try this recipe, just remember the key to a good pie crust is cold everything, and resting the dough.

Basic Flaky Pie Crust for 9-inch lattice pie

Adapted from the Pie and Pastry Bible

9 T/4.5 oz unsalted butter

1.5 cups/7.5 oz bleached AP flour (or if you use pastry flour, add an extra 1.5 T)

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp baking powder

3.5-4.5 T/1.75-2.3 oz ice water

1.5 tsp/0.25 oz cider vinegar (I didn’t use vinegar, and instead add a touch more water)

Cut 2/3 of the butter into 3/4 in. cubes and put it in the refrigerator.  Slice the remaining 1/3 of the butter into thin slices, separate them and put them in the freezer.*  Put your dry ingredients in a bowl and stick it in the freezer or refrigerator until very cold.

Rub the refrigerated butter into the flour mixture with your fingers or a pastry blender until it looks like coarse meal  (your flour, butter and bowl are cold enough if this hurts a little). Gently fold in the frozen butter slices, trying to keep them intact as much as possible.  If it seems like your mixture is warming up too much, let it rest in the freezer or refrigerator for awhile before you continue.

Add your ice water, beginning with the smallest quantity recommended in the recipe.  Help the dough come together with your spatula (or your hands if you have very cold hands)  by turning and pressing the mixture in the bowl.  Add additional water until it’s ready and forms a crumbly mass. Stop kneading it, and dump it onto a square of plastic wrap. Use the edges of the wrap to bring all the crumbs to the dough mass.  Wrap it up and form it into a disc.  You can split it up at this point if you want:  9.5 oz for the bottom crust, and the remaining piece for the lattice.  Or split it later (which is what I did). Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Take it out of the fridge, let it rest a few minutes until it’s roll-able, and roll it.  Bottom crust should be about 13 inches.  Roll the lattice into a rectangle, and cut into strips about 3/4 inch wide.  Here’s a good photo demo of how to make a lattice top.

Dump the filling into the pie crust, make the lattice top, stick it back in the fridge to rest for an hour.

Bake for about an hour in a pre-heated 375 degree oven, until the crust is golden brown.  Rose recommends a 20-minute bake on the bottom of your oven or baking stone, then transfer to the top rack to finish baking.  This worked well for me, but be sure to put a sheet of foil on the bottom of your oven to catch drips from the filling.

Let it rest for 6 hours before cutting. (I know it sounds like a long time. It is, but you know how the filling in the picture is staying put instead of oozing all over the plate?  Yeah, it’s because it rested for 6 hours. Skip this step at your own risk.)

Blueberry-Cranberry filling

1.5 cups/10.5 oz sugar

1/3 cup/1.6 oz corn starch

1 T/.25 oz lemon zest

3 T/1.6 oz lemon juice

a pinch of salt

1.5 lbs frozen blueberries

3.5 cups/12.25 oz fresh or frozen cranberries

In a large, nonreactive saucepan, combine all the ingredients except blueberries and cranberries.  Then add the berries and toss to coat.  Let it sit for about 30 minutes or until the berries begin to give up some of their juices.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently until very thickened, and some of the berries have bursted.  It’s a lot of filling, so this may take awhile. The recipe says 8-10 minutes, but mine took longer. Just make sure it comes to a complete boil (doesn’t have to be a rolling boil), because boiling it is what activates the starch.  If you don’t activate the starch, it won’t get as thick, and worse, you’ll have a really unpleasant texture to your filling.  It should be edible after you’re done cooking it.

Let it cool to almost room temp before dumping it into your pie crust for baking.

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