I made a terrible mistake. Followed by another.
First, I bought Martha Stewart’s new Pie and Tarts book. Then, at my favourite discounter of housewares, a ceramic pie dish.
Next thing I knew, all the ingredients for a pie showed up in a grocery bag, and my husband fixed me with a look that required no words to pass between us. Just pie.
There are two reasons I haven’t made a pastry crust for almost twenty years. (A figure that puts me all the way back in high school Home Economics class.)
My first excuse for shying away from pastry crust is that there’s a seat at the next Weight Watchers meeting, with my name on it, if I do.
Second, pastry is tricky. It requires patience. That you both stalk up to it with a certain swagger, yet treat it like the diva of the bakeshop that it is.
Pastry, in other words, has personality. It requires all ingredients and implements be ice cold, suffers no one with warm hands, and if over manipulated even a little, turns irreversibly tough.
But for someone who spends as many words as I do, writing about food as though I know exactly what I’m doing, twenty years without producing a single crust is a shameful amount of time.
It came to an end yesterday, though, when a Fieldberry pie emerged from my oven at 8 o’clock in the evening. Seven hours after first setting a bowl and pastry blender in the fridge to chill.
Then, with butter almost too cold to work with, and a package of cream cheese to predispose the dough towards a bit of forgiveness, I cut the fat into the flour and salt until no crumble was larger than half an inch.
Correcting for a typo in Martha’s recipe (two tablespoons of liquid simply cannot bring together anything that begins with three cups of flour: A fact confirmed by her other recipes) the crumble was sprinkled with ice water and cider vinegar, pressed together, patted into two disks, chilled and rolled. Folded into the pie plate, filled with sugared berries, covered, crimped, vented, egg washed, sugared, chilled again and finally baked until golden brown.
For five more hours the pie sat cooling. Overnight in the fridge. Back on the countertop to reach room temperature before dessert the next evening.
And how did it turn out?
Flakey, tender perfection.
Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner.
Oh right. Reason #1.
4-6 tbs ice water
2 tsp cold cider vinegar
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 oz cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Cut in butter and cream cheese using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with pieces up to 1/2 inch.
Combine vinegar and ice water. Sprinkle over crumbs, stirring, until mixture just begins to hold its shape when squeezed. Divide crumbs in half and place each amount on a length of plastic film and wrap tightly.
Press wrapped dough into a disk using a rolling pin. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
On lightly floured surface, roll out the first disk to 13-inches. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate.
7 generous cups frozen mixed blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 large egg yolk
1 tbs light cream
sugar for sanding
In a large bowl, toss frozen berries together with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon. Allow to thaw. Stir and heap into pie shell.
Roll out second crust and fit over top. Trim and crimp or flute edges, then cut six 3-inch vents in crust.
Beat together yolk and cream. Brush over surface and edges of pie (some will be leftover: discard). Sprinkle generously with sugar. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Transfer pie to a baking sheet and into oven. Bake 20 minutes, reduce temperature to 350F and bake 55 more.
Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
– Words and photo by Darcie Hossack