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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blueberries for Sal

Back when my kids were little, one of their favorite books was Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey.  Kate, in particular, loved the book.  Perhaps it was because it was set in Maine and she knew even then, what an important role the Maine would play in her life.  (As I may have mentioned, Kate spent eight summers at camp in Maine.)

Anyway, it was a lovely little book and it was always at the top of the "must read" bedtime story list around here.  In fact, I'm sure that at some point, I would have been able to recite the text to you from memory.

When ever blueberries are in season, I think of Blueberries for Sal.  It's funny to me because, living in Pennsylvania, it's not as though we get those delicious little, tiny wild blueberries that grow in Maine and the rest of New England.  But I think of the book nonetheless.

Recently I made this blueberry pie.  I recently bought a cookbook called United States of Pie by Adrienne Kane.   In it was a recipe for a cornmeal pastry crust which I had been anxious to try.  I had a bunch of blueberries in the refrigerator, and a free afternoon.  Why not give it a whirl.

This turned out to be one delicious pie. The blueberry filling was sweet and the cornmeal crust provided a nice crunchiness.  In fact, this may become my preferred  blueberry pie in the future.  I know I'm going to use this crust again.  The cornmeal give it a little heft so it was much easier to handle  and it was really tasty.

The really great thing about things like blueberries and blueberry pie, is that they evoke memories.  In this case, it took me back to the time when I would lean back against the headboard and read Blueberries for Sal.

And, as delicious as this pie was, those memories are even sweeter.

Recipe:  Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal Pastry Crust
(United States of Pie by Adrienne Kane, 2012)

For the Crust:


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6-10 tablespoons ice water


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt until well blended and free of lumps.  Add the butter and shortening, and toss gently to coat.  With your fingertips, work the fats into the flour mixture, rubbing the larger pieces of butter and shortening between your fingers until the mixture resembles gravel.

Sprinkle on the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, starting with a total of 3 tablespoons and then gradually adding more water if needed.  Blend it in with your fingertips, as quickly as possible, pulling the mixture together and creating a dough.  The dough will become less sticky and more of a mass when enough water has been added.  Finally, knead the dough minimally in the bowl to make sure it has just enough moisture.

Divide the dough in half.  (One mound should weigh approximately 10 1/2 ounces).  Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap and seal it.  Gently form each one into a disk roughly 3/4-inch thick.  Place the wrapped dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling it out.  The dough can be frozen for up to q month, and defrosted in the refrigerator before using.

For the Blueberry Filling:


1 recipe Cornmeal Pie Dough
5 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt


1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar


Preheat the oven to 425.

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, sugar, flour, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.  Toss well but gently, keeping the berries intact.  Set aside.

On a well floured surface, roll out one portion of the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick and will fit a 9-inch pie plate.  Gently pick up the dough, center it over the pie plate, and ease it into the plate.  Let the excess dough hang over the rim.  Pour in the filling, and spread it out evenly.

Roll out the second portion of dough to the same size.  Lay the dough over the filling, and trim the edges of both layers to leave a 1-inch overhang.  Pressing the edges together, fold them under, and then decoratively crimp the perimeter.  With a sharp knife, cut 5 vents in the top crust.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 375 and continue to bake for another 35 to 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Let the pie cool to room temperature before serving.

1 comment:

  1. I just picked up a basket of blueberries specifically for baking pies. What a unique crust this is and your pie looks delicious. Hope mine turns out as well ;)