Sunday, July 11, 2010

Perfect Berry Pie

Although I am no means a Martha Stewart (or one of her lackeys) in the kitchen, I do make a good pie. Pie-making can be intimidating, especially when you start thinking that you need all kinds of fancy accessories to put it all together: pastry cutters, lattice makers, flutey-edge rollers...forget it! I'm going to tell you how I do a pie, and it requires nothing more than a bowl, some measuring cups and spoons, a fork, spoon, and a rolling pin...and those most useful and most beautifully created tools: your two hands.

Telltale signs of mommy's helper: flour and berries on face.

First we picked berries behind our barn...this has been like finding a pirate's treasure, as we had lots of canes last year, but no berries. I had to pick fast, as Margot was eating them at a wicked pace. Once I had a scant 3 cups, I knew I had just enough (4 would be better but by 3 our ankles and wrists were scratched, the bugs had found us, and Margot was whining).

I don't wash them because I know they're free from pesticides...I just carefully picked through for sticks, leaves, and bugs. !

So, here's what you do:

For the pie crust, I just follow the instructions on the Tenderflake lard package!

1. Mix together 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (OR 6 cups cake and pastry flour) and 2 tsp. salt.
2. Cut in 1 pound (the whole darn box!) Tenderflake pure lard.
At this point, I use my fingers to pinch the flour into the lard. Do this until it resembles coarse oatmeal. This always seems like a strange indicator to me; you just don't want it to be "creamed" together the way you would butter and should be small and crumby, but still in bits.
3. In a measuring cup, combine 1 egg, slightly beaten, with 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Mix into lard mixture with a wooden spoon. Add just enough cold water to make the dough stick together.

This is probably the hardest part: DO. NOT. OVERMIX. It really should just cling together. Add the water very gradually so it doesn't get too sticky.

What makes pie crust flaky is all those little bits of lard that are not totally mixed in. Pie crust shouldn't be should be light and flaky. Keep working at it. It takes practice, but I assure you, it's worth it!

So, now you can divide this huge ball of dough into 6 equal parts. Tightly wrap four of them in plastic wrap, then put them all in a freezer bag, and pop in the freezer, ready for you to use for tarts, pot pies, or more berry pies!

Roll out one sixth on a floured surface; attempt to make it round! This doesn't always work, but don't sweat it. It's just pie, after all!

Lay it in a 9" pie plate, gently pressing it into the "corners" and letting the excess hang over.

Now you make your berry mix:
3 cups berries
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then mix in berries. If you prefer to use frozen berries or that's all you have, add 1 tsp. lemon juice and 1/2 tsp. lemon zest to the mix.

Pour into the pie shell, and dot with about 1 Tbsp. butter, in little pieces.

Isn't that pretty?

Roll out your second ball of dough, and place over the whole thing. Trim the edges with a sharp knife...there is no right or wrong way to do this, as long as you leave enough to pinch it together to seal in the filling! You can leave an inch "seam allowance" to roll in and make a thicker edge if you like. You can cut it to the edge of the pie plate, then press the two layers together with fork tines. I like to fold them both over, then press with my pointer and middle fingers about a centimetre apart (yes, I'm Canadian and you can tell because I shift comfortably between Imperial and metric measures!), with the tip of my opposite thumb between them, creating an edge like this:

Slice some little vents in the top. If you want to get fancy, you could cut a little shape out with a knife, or with a tiny cookie cutter! I really like the look of a simple, home-baked pie myself.

Place this delightful creation in an oven that's been pre-heated to 400 degrees. Bake for 35-40 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven, till all is golden and beautiful.

Hot, oozey, berry goodness!

Resist the urge to cut when hot...all the filling will ooze right out. Let it cool for an hour or so; then it will be set, and still nice and warm and wonderful!

Raspberry pie is my favourite pie (a close second is cherry). As soon as it touches my tongue, I am transported back to my childhood summers on my Nanny's farm in Quebec. I wonder sometimes how much my memories of that time have influenced where I am today: homemade bread, toasted over the woodstove; picking raspberries for a freshly-baked pie; picnics in the surrounding fields; and so on. The sweet/tart flavour of the berries, combined with the salty flakiness of homemade pie crust is beyond description. I wish I could add an olfactory feature to this space, so that as you read you could smell that pie as it baked...or that you could join me this afternoon for a hot cup of tea and a warm slice of this childhood memory.

Julia Child used to say, Bon Apetit!...

One of my favourite French expressions is Bon Courage, which, translated directly is Good Courage. To me it means..."Go for it, bravely and with a smile on your face!" with a bit of "I know you can do it!" thrown in...

So, get out that rolling pin, and make a pie: Bon Courage!


  1. Delicieux! Je veux une tranche, s'il vous plait!

    I am so inspired by your tutorial. There is going to be some pie-baking happening at this farmhouse. It's only right. It is just how a farmhouse kitchen should smell :-)

  2. I wonder if the crust would work with all purpose gluten-free flour. MMMmmmmmm....gluten.
    Very good tutorial.....raspberry pie is my favourite, too, with a hot cup of tea and milk of course.

  3. such a lovely looking pie! we went to a farm and picked blackberries not to long ago. i have several cups in the freezer...i think i know what i will do with some of it..:)

    and i love that saying, bon courage...i might have to borrow that one..:)


  4. lol...Je voudrais une tranche aussi...That is one delicious looking pie! I've never made raspberry pie before, although I love raspberries and I make pie fairly often. We never have enough raspberries around!

    That's the very same pie crust recipe I always use--although my pies never look half as pretty as yours does! They taste good though, which is what matters right?

  5. What a great looking pie!I'm so proud of you.I think rasp. pie is my favourite.And your own berries.Great photos!

  6. Yesterday I picked a big handful of blackberries at the edge of our bush. I gave them to the kids to eat right away and now I wish I had saved them or looked for more to make a pie! Ah well, there are more ripening so will maybe do this with the next bunch. Raspberry pie is my fav, too, but will make do with blackberries- or maybe find some raspberries and mix them..
    Thanks for the great tutorial! I will do it from scratch for sure!

  7. mmmmmm. . . thanks! We will do this. Hopefully very soon.

  8. Stephanie - this pie was delicious! Best berry pie I've ever made, I think. I had blueberries and strawberries to use up and yum. I posted a link to you and a picture on my blog. Thanks!


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