Can we please have one last fling with the berries??
Summer (vacation) is almost over, and I haven’t yet made a berry pie. Usually I make blackberry pie when Mark arrives in the States for his 2-week holiday, but this year I was obsessed with peaches at the time of his arrival, so we welcomed him with a single-crust peach pie instead. I think I made the mistake of calling it “cobbler” rather than “pie”… thus perhaps taking it down a tiny notch in my family’s culinary estimation. There is no question that they LOVE my pie, but they are never completely sure about cobbler. What exactly is cobbler, anyway? I admit that cobbler is a bit difficult to pin down- is it supposed to be made with pie crust? Biscuit dough? Sweet topping, or not? Truth be told, there are many variations on cobbler, but only one basic recipe for short-crust pastry: flour, fat, salt, and water.
I tamper very, very little with this recipe.
I do have a “healthy crust” recipe… but this is not it. This is the real thing: a flaky, tender, touch-it-with-your-fork-and-it-breaks kind of crust. The kind that you will fight your brother for before it’s even baked. Yeah, it’s that good. I learned how to make it from my Ma, who learned it from her Momma, who ran a bakery with her Momma during the Great Depression to help save her large family from starvation. Yes, Granny Cox had all the motivation she needed to learn how to make the best pie in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. And she did. And she continued to hone her skills baking pies for her large family and any hungry field hands on the dairy farm that she and my Grandpa owned in Bixby, Oklahoma.
I’m not biased or anything.
The one change I have made in the pie crust recipe is to use butter as the fat instead of Crisco shortening. Sorry, Granny, those trans fats in the shortening will just kill us!! But we didn’t know that until just recently. But butter has been around forever, so let’s just use that. It tastes better too. I use a soft European butter- Kerry Gold unsalted Irish butter is perfect.
I sweeten the filling only as much as is minimally required to bring out the flavor of the berries, and thicken it only as much as needed to keep the juices from running all over the place. I add lemon zest for brightness, and nutmeg for warmth. Some recipes call for dotting butter over the filling before adding the top crust, but I think this is overkill- you can’t taste the extra butter anyway, and besides, there is plenty of it in the crust already.
But I do brush the top crust with a bit of almond milk and sprinkle it with sugar before baking. Granny always did this, and so did my mother. It adds a sweet crispness to the top crust that will just drive you wild. Plus it looks beautiful.
To me, it’s the perfect pie: sweet, tart, rich, with a tender and flaky crust that soaks up the berries’ syrupy juices. It would have only been more perfect if I’d been able to make it the day before Mark went back to Manila, instead of the day after.
I think we’re looking forward to a pie made with frozen berries soon after I get back to Manila next week… just sayin.
What are you looking forward to when you return from your home leave?