Orange and blueberry do wonderful things together. Today, they’re going to join together in the glorious medium of pie. Because who doesn’t like pie?
As with all pies, this one starts with a crust. A delightful, flaky, orange-flavored crust. I know a lot of people don’t care about the flavor of the crust, and treat it more as a textural foil to the filling, but flavor is everything. I add sugar to my pie crust (unless I’m making chicken pot pie or something else savory). I try to flavor it to meld with the filling. A maple tart might get a pile of vanilla extract. A nut pie might get a nut extract. And berries love citrus, so this pie gets both orange extract and a healthy dose of orange zest. In other words, this crust stands out as all crusts deserve to do.
This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.
Crust Ingredients (makes one top-and-bottom crust for a 9-inch pie, with enough spare for a couple of single serving tarts)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 t salt
2 T sugar*
16 T butter (two sticks) cut into chunks and frozen
7-8 T ice cold water
2 t orange extract
zest of one orange (I know my orange looks a bit red and infected. Don’t be alarmed, it’s only a blood orange.)
*You can use brown sugar if you like. You may recall that I almost always prefer brown sugar, because it has a lovely complex flavor with which simple sweetness cannot compete. However, I sweeten this pie with honey rather than refined sugar, and in this instance I didn’t want the crust’s sweetening to compete with the flavor that honey brings.
Pour the flour, sugar, salt, and zest into the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. The goal is to avoid any large clumps of sugar or salt or zest that could be distracting.
Add the butter and pulse until the whole mixture looks like damp sand, as above.
Add the orange extract and then begin adding water just a bit at a time, pulsing continually, until the dough comes together into one great shaggy mass. Divide the dough into two balls and chill them in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes. We want that butter to never reach its melting point until it goes into the oven. Next, roll out half of your dough until it’s really thin. Don’t worry if it breaks off, just patch it with a bit of dough and a drop of cold water and keep going. Roll it bigger than you think you need. It’s easy to trim edges, not so easy to stretch out a crust that doesn’t fit.
Trim off that excess until you have only about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of overhang around the edge of the pie tin. Put the lined pie tin in the fridge while you make the filling.
5 cups blueberries
Juice of one orange
1/2 to 3/4 cups honey* (depending on how tart your berries are. Use more for tiny, sour, wild-type berries, less for plump, sweet, cultivated ones)
2 T cornstarch
2 T cream plus a bit for the top of the pie
2 T butter
*If you have orange blossom honey, you’re in for a treat. If not (I didn’t) it’s still delightful, just a bit less orange-themed.
Mix the blueberries with the honey and orange juice by turning gently with a spoon. You don’t want to bust up those berries. Mix the 2T of cream and cornstarch and add to the berry mixture. Fold that in as well.
Sorry about the close ups; those berries are just so pretty! Even after being bruised with a spoon. Pull the bottom crust out of the fridge and fill with a generous amount of filling, heaping it toward the center. I had a bit more than I wanted to use, so I saved it back. Dot the top of the filling with bits of butter.
Then roll out the other half of the dough for the top crust. This was the moment when I realized that I had no eggs, not even one, in the fridge. So no egg wash for me. It was the perfect excuse to actually trust Mr. Bittman about the use of cream as a wash instead, which I did try, but I think I prefer an egg wash in the end. Anyway, fold in the edges of the bottom crust so that it will overlap slightly with the top one. Drape the top crust over the pie, trim the edges, and pinch it down to seal it to the bottom one. (put an egg wash or at least a brushing of cold water between the two to glue the seal! I didn’t, and I got a great big mess out of it.)
Now cut a vent or two for steam, decorate with little crusty stars, brush with cream (or egg wash!) and bake at 400°F for 45-50 minutes.
But what about the extra dough and filling? I had enough extra dough for two individual tartlets, but only enough filling for one. That took care of the small blueberry pie for Mr. B, who would have been very sad to not get any pie because I took it all to work otherwise.
For the other one, I quickly chopped half of a granny smith apple, tossed it with one or two tablespoons of brown sugar and a drop of vanilla, and plopped a top crust over it. No real measuring, but my boss (who says he doesn’t care for blueberries. Weirdo. ) said it came out just fine. Even though I forgot the cinnamon.
The small pies have the same bake time and temperature as the big one, so just throw ‘em all in the oven together and enjoy!