Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blackberries, Part I (Not the Things You Text On...)

I've been a reluctant food writer lately. For the past two weeks, I've been in the spin cycle of busyness at my job, my part-time teaching gig, planning an engagement party with the hostess with the mostest, Nicole H., and also working out with my personal trainer on Tuesdays and Thursdays (and making time for the gym a day or two beyond those days). This past weekend Dave and I drove down to see my granddad, John Dee, who just turned 84. Happy Birthday, Granddad! Even though I know he's never seen a blog, I hope my message goes out to the universe at-large...

Ultimately, though, as good as all of these calendar items sound, I know they are excuses. Sad but true. Sometimes the truth is boring, even though I know it doesn't have to be. I really want to prize my creativity, my writing, and you, my lovely readers. I am really going to step up my game, and get to blogging on a more regular schedule. Whenever I e-mailed Terry B. of Blue Kitchen about advice for new foodie bloggers, he told me to keep to my schedule. Once a week is what I'm good for, and so I'm going to endeavor to post my goods, my odes to oven-raised goodness, by Tuesdays at midnight. It's going to be tough some days, but the girl knows she can do this, wants to do this. So, enough talk.

Let's bake!

Tonight, instead of the chocolate chip cookies I thought about making, I realized that Blackberry Pie was in order. I had all of the ingredients at home, including the blackberries I had frozen from my two-flat bounty this past July at the Soulard Farmer's Market. The Scharf Family Farms (shout out, Illinois!) have some great deals on produce, especially if you visit the Soulard Market before it's closing on Saturday. The berries I used in tonight's recipe were beautiful looking, but not necessarily the sweetest blackberries I've ever eaten. Therefore, baking pies and cobblers (and making jam... more on that front next week) for not-quite-there produce is ideal.

Again, I go to my favorite minimalist cookbook author, Mark Bittman. I truly believe that in life, as in baking, less is more if you have quality ingredients and simple cooking ethos. I'm not into culinary foams or deconstructed BLTs. I like my food real, tangible and enjoyed by many. While I may never write for Saveur or Gourmet, I know that the trick to good eating rests in making the ingredients you do have taste as lovely as possible with minimal (there's that word again!) fuss or obfuscation. Opaque, I am not, nor is my kitchen.

So, without further ado, here's the skinny on how to make Blackberry Pie--one last huzzah to summer fruit before fall completely takes us over.

Blackberry Pie

Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything

Makes about 8 servings

Time: About 30 minutes ('cause I cheated tonight and used pre-made pie dough*)

5 cups blackberries, picked over, briefly rinsed
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tbsps. corn starch
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (It's the best when freshly zest... Use it!)

Pre-made pie pastry (see *)

1) Gently toss the blackberries with the sugar, corn starch, salt, and spices.
2) Roll out the pie pastry and place the first layer into the pie pan.
3) Pile the blackberry mixture in the middle of the pie pan, making the pile of blackberries a little higher in the center than at the sides.
4) Cover with the top crust; decorate edges with a fork or your fingers.
5) Refrigerate the pie while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
6) When the oven is ready, place the pie on a baking sheet and brush the top with milk and sprinkle sugar all around.
7) Use a sharp knife to cut two to three 2-inch-long vent holes in the top crust to let the steam escape while the pie is baking (I always gravitate to what my mom taught me: a stalk of wheat.)
8) Place in the oven for 10 minutes and bake at 450 degrees F.
9) Reduce to the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 40 minutes until the pie is golden brown. Do not underbake.
10) Cool on a rack before serving warm with Vanilla Bean ice cream. Yum!

*I know I'm going to baker's hell for admitting that I used pre-made pie dough, but it's true. I still am learning the fine art and craft to making truly exquisite pastry dough. If you have tips, I'm all ears.

Hugs and high fives,


Anonymous said...

pie dough success = lard or 1/2 & 1/2 butter & shortening. food processor means I'm more likely to make it more often, but by hand is better.

my 2 cents. also, this pie is gorgeous!

Kella said...

Thanks, Nishta. Your two cents are very helpful. I think the other issue is I have hot little hands. The butter gets too hot... and the crust suffers. Yikes! I definitely need to practice.