Blueberry Ginger Pie with Three-Grain Butter Crust

Blueberry Ginger Pie with Three-Grain Butter Crust

Call me an old codger if you want, but serving homemade pie used to be such an uncomplicated affair: Pie makes grand entrance. Proud baker blushes and fusses amid a chorus of oohs and aahs. Pie is sliced, ice cream scooped, faces are stuffed. The only acceptable noise thereafter would have been an appreciative grunt or groan or heavy handed compliment.

But that was then and this is now, and serving pie – especially around holidays like the 4th of July when far flung relatives convene for family reunions – is no longer so uncomplicated, is it?  

Someone has a problem with wheat (or salt, Crisco, butter, or sugar…) Take you pick.

The renegade neice eats only organic food grown within a few miles of her home – a locavorganic, she proudly calls herself.

There are three fledgling vegans among the assembled, two others on a juice fast, and one who has sworn off desserts until all offshore drilling comes to a halt around the globe. At least that’s what you think his tattoo says.

Jeez, Louise! What’s a poor pie maker to do?

Stay true to your pie values, my friend. But…at times like these, a little accommodation – a nod toward pie wholesomeness – can go a long way, help you reach across the aisle and break down party fences.

Indeed, you’d be shocked at how many otherwise staunch vegans, hardcore juicers, and locavorganic types will fold like a rusty lawn chair when you launch this one simple question from your arsenal: How about a piece of my blueberry ginger pie with three-grain butter crust?

Blueberry Ginger Pie with Three-Grain Butter Crust

Three-grain butter crust. It just sounds so doggone virtuous that the words fall like magic pixie dust on the ears of renegades, hipsters, and dieters of every stripe. And that’s a whole lotta folks.

I go way back with this and its extended family of grainy crusts, so let me give you the lay of the land and a sense of direction here. (And by the way, if you decide to use another pastry, the blueberry filling is wonderful in any crust.)

We begin by making oatmeal flour from old fashioned rolled oats. This is not, technically speaking, the way store bought oat flour is made, but it’s just right for our purposes. The rolled oats are chopped in the blender; it takes a little doing to get them finely ground, but be patient.

We use a hybrid method for preparing the pastry, a combination of the food processor and the hand method. The fat is cut into the dry ingredients with the machine, then the mixture is transferred to a bowl and the water is added by hand, minimizing the possibility of overworking and toughening the dough. (It’s also easy to make entirely by hand; directions are included below in the recipe.)

The combination of oat flour and cornmeal makes this dough blessedly simple to handle and roll. You will wish all of your doughs were as cooperative as this.

Three-grain butter crust

As for texture, the crust has a tad more whole grain bite than your typical pie pastry made with all all-purpose flour. It’s slightly nubby, but still quite tender and flaky. Then there’s that ever-so-subtle oatmeal flavor, and equally subtle cornmeal crunch. You know you’re eating something wholesome. You just never imagined it could taste this good.

All in all a splendid July 4th dessert, with or without the crystallized ginger, a harmonious grace note that blends beautifully with the berries.

Now, having just come off a week of blueberry pie making, allow me to offer this refresher on the subject in case it’s been a while.

The Ten Principles of Blueberry Pie Mastery

1. Blueberries stain; aprons are advised.

2. Pick over your berries carefully and rinse them well. Better you find that stray pebble yourself than learn about it from your neighbor’s lawyer.

3. Blueberries are an awesome antioxidant, but a slouch in the sweetness department, so don’t skimp on the sugar.

4. Mash 1 cup of your blueberries with some of the sugar before adding the rest of the fruit. The resulting liquid will help kickstart the cooking of the berries inside your pie.

5. Don’t be greedy and add too many berries to your pie (like I always do.) The top of the berries should be more or less even with the top of your pan.

6. If you disregard #5 and fill your pan too high, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and slide it onto the shelf below the pie to catch the inevitable drips.

7. Five cups of berries will require 3 to 4 tablespoons of cornstarch for thickening. Use the lesser amount if you like a little juiciness in your filling; the greater amount for more firmness.

8. Don’t forget the lemon juice and zest. They’re BFFs with the blueberries and very sad and lonely and a little bland without them.

9. Cut out a small (1-inch) circle of dough from the center of the top pastry before topping the pie. When you can see the juices bubbling up there, you know your pie is done. (Watch this in the accompanying video.)

10. Every blueberry pie – indeed, every fruit pie – has that moment of absolute perfection, somewhere between 3 and 5 hours out of the oven, when the fruit has jelled just enough and the crust at its flaky apogee. Serve the pie then. And have a fabulous 4th of July week.

Blueberry Ginger Pie

PS – We’ll be giving you periodic updates, but at this point we still do have some slots open for The Pie Academy’s first and much anticipated Lowcountry Pie Getaway this October in Savannah. If you’re interested, I wouldn’t wait too much longer to get in touch. Just send Bev an email – bev@thepieacademy.com -and she’ll get you everything you need to know. We hope to see you there!

Blueberry Ginger Pie with Three-Grain Butter Crust

Ingredients

    THREE-GRAIN BUTTER CRUST
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant oats)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons fine yellow cornmeal (such as Quaker)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup ice water, plus 1 to 3 additional tablespoons, as needed
  • FILLING
  • 5 cups fresh blueberries, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional, but nice)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • pinch salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • dash of heavy or light cream, for glaze

Instructions

    FOR THE CRUST:
  1. Put the rolled oats into a blender. Process for as long as it takes to make a finely textured flour with just a bit of coarseness to it. It will help to stop the blender from time to time to "stir" the flour with a fork, to loose in up. Measure out 1/2 cup of the oat flour and transfer it to a plastic freezer bag. Reserve the remaining oat flour for pancakes, muffins, or another use.
  2. Add the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt to the bagged oat flour. Mix it with your hand then seal and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. Cut the butter into tablespoons, then cut each tablespoon into 4 equal dice. Place all of the butter on a lightly floured plate and refrigerate along with the dry mixture.
  4. When you're ready to proceed, transfer the flour mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times, to mix. Scatter half of the butter over the flour. Replace the lid. Give the machine 5 1-second pulses followed by a straight 5-second run.
  5. Add the remaining butter to the machine. Replace the lid, then give the machine 5 or 6 1-second pulses, until the largest pieces of butter are a little smaller than the size of baby peas. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Pour 1/4 cup of the water all around the edge of the bowl, not all in one place. Using a pastry fork or other large fork, quickly combine the mixture, stirring it in all directions and scraping it up from the bottom of the bowl for about 20 seconds. Don't try to compact it; just spread the moisture around. Add another 1/4 cup water and repeat; it will still be crumbly. Let the mixture rest for 2 minutes.
  7. Drizzle 1 additional tablespoon of water over the mixture. Mix again, then take a handful of the mixture, rub it between your fingers and see if it holds together. If the mixture seems a bit dry, stir in another tablespoon water, drizzling it over the top.
  8. Now reach your hands into the mixture and start rubbing it between your fingers, like you would do if you were making a streusel. Rubbing will help make the dough cohere without adding additional flour. You can also "smear" the dough firmly down the sides of the bowl to accomplish the same thing. The goal is to form the mixture into a cohesive mass. Use another tablespoon of water only if necessary.
  9. When you have rubbed and smeared the dough into a solid mass, divide the dough in half, making one half a little larger than the other; this larger one will be for the pie shell (the bottom crust.) Gently knead each portion once or twice on a lightly floured surface, to smooth. Flatten each piece of dough into a 1-inch thick disk, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling.
  10. (Note: to make the dough entirely by hand, chill all of the ingredients as above, but take the butter out of the fridge about 8 minutes before you use it; it should not be rock hard. Cut the first half of the butter into the flour with a pastry blender, until the butter is in small/fine pieces and everything seems to be "touched" by the butter. Add the rest of the butter and continue to cut until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of small peas. Then add the water and start mixing, picking up the action in step #6 above.)
  11. FOR THE FILLING:
  12. Combine 1 cup of the blueberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Crush with a large fork, pastry blender or other masher. Add the ginger, if using, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Set aside for several minutes, then add the remaining 4 cups blueberries.
  13. Mix the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and the cornstarch in a small mixing bowl. (See The Ten Principles of Blueberry Pie Mastery above). Add to the blueberries and stir well. Set aside while you roll the pastry. Preheat the oven to 375°. Move your oven rack one position above the lowest setting.
  14. Roll the larger portion of dough into a 13" to 13 1/2" circle on a floured work surface, sheet of parchment, or wax paper and line a 9" to 9 1/2" deep-dish pie pan with it. Tuck it gently into the pan so you don't stretch it, leaving an even overhang all around. Refrigerate.
  15. Roll the other half of dough into an 11" circle. Using a small round cutter of some sort, cut a 1" hole in the center of the dough. Get out the chilled pie shell and add the blueberry filling. Dampen the outer edge of the shell with a wet fingertip.
  16. Drape the top pastry over the fruit, center it, then press along the edges to seal them. Using scissors, trim the dough to an even 1/2" all around. Turn the overhang back and pinch it to form an upstanding ridge. Flute the edge as shown in the accompanying video. Brush the top lightly with cream, to glaze.
  17. Bake the pie for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake another 35 to 40 minutes, until you can see the juices bubbling thickly through the hole. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for at least 3 hours before slicing. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
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