Blueberries, anyone?

What is it about blueberries that I find so addictive?  For me every summer is a continuous parade of blueberries into my kitchen and back out as pies, tarts, muffins, scones, jam, and just about anything else I can cram them into.  Maybe it’s my New Jersey roots – the modern blueberry was born in Hammonton, New Jersey just about 100 years ago – or maybe I’m just hopelessly addicted.  And I’m excited about just getting an assignment from Saveur magazine to write about blueberries, New Jersey, and of course, recipes that use them.  It won’t appear until next year when the official 100th anniversary of cultivated blueberries takes place, but I’ll be celebrating with plenty of blueberries before, during, and after that.

August 2011 003 
Summer is chugging away toward its inevitable close and last Sunday was one of those summer-is-ending milestones – this year’s last session of Summer Fruit Pies and Tarts at ICE.  We had an enthusiastic and friendly group as you can see from the photo – they’re holding the deep dish blueberry pie they had just made.

The pie is easy, delicious, and quick to prepare.  Like a classic British pie it only has a top crust; it’s like a thin baking powder biscuit and the filling is mercifully free of thickeners.  It’s a little soupy, but the juicy filling and tender crust are a perfect match; they send a clear message that they’d like a big spoonful of whipped cream to join them.  Try this now that blueberry availability is high and prices are low. 

DEEP DISH BLUEBERRY PIE WITH CREAM BISCUIT CRUST

There isn’t much difference between this pie and what we normally call a cobbler except for the fact that this has much more fruit in relation to the crust.

CREAM BISCUIT CRUST

3 cups/14 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons/1 1/2 sticks/6 ounces unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 cup half and half or light cream

BLUEBERRY FILLING

4 pints blueberries, rinsed, drained, and picked over

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

More cream and sugar for finishing

One 3-quart gratin dish or a 9 x 13 x 2-inch glass baking dish

For the dough, place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl and rub in butter until fine and mealy; stop before it becomes pasty.  Use a fork to stir in the cream, and continue stirring until the dough starts to hold together.  Scrape the dough to a floured surface and fold it over on itself a couple of times.  Cover and allow to rest while preparing filling.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the lower third.  Toss the blueberries in a bowl with the remaining filling ingredients, except the butter.  Pour filling into your baking dish.  Distribute pieces of the butter evenly on the filling.

Press the dough out on a floured surface until roughly the size of the baking dish – a little smaller is better than larger.  Slide dough onto filling using a thin, flexible cookie sheet to move it, and cut several vent holes in top.  Brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the pie until the crust is deep golden and the filling is bubbling, about 25 minutes.  Cool slightly on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.