I have been seduced by the big box of blackberries at the store- seduced by their navy color and their promise of sweetness. I tell myself it is March- almost Spring, practically Summer!- and a berry party is deserved, is basically required, season be damned! The box is bought.
At home, the blackberries taste of disappointment. That is, bitter, imbued with a touch of sweetness and only faintly like their glorious summer fullness. A part of me knew this would happen, but I console myself with the promise of pie. Blackberry pie!
I start this pie like all the others. At this point, I think I can do it in my sleep. I make an all butter pie crust, the only one I’ll ever need, and leave it to chill and firm up. From there, I roll, crimp and chill.
I have decided to top this pie with a crumble, instead of the lattice I often find myself leaning towards. I think it will be glorious: crumbly, slightly salty, and with the addition of fatty walnuts and crispy oats, a textured delight. It comes together quickly and chills in the fridge, in big fat clumps, near the pie crust.
Last but not least: the filling! I am excited about the prospect of straight up, undiluted blackberry pie. I combine the berries with lemon juice, which enhances their tartness, and cinnamon, which adds warmth and makes me think of sepia tinged summers and cobblers. The berries turn syrupy and thicken when combined with sugar and starch, and I spill them into the pie crust, scatter the top with crumble, and shove it all into the preheated oven. Now, I wait!
Pretty soon, the kitchen smells like heaven. The cinnamon mingles with the sugar and the berries and the scent is like a mix of winter comforts and summer treasures. I have bypassed spring entirely, and I am not mad about it.
When the pie comes out, I shoo away the panting onlookers. “Not yet! It needs to cool. Go read a book or something!”
Finally, three hours later, books have been read and errands have been done. I ready the plates and the ice cream, cut in. A stately, juicy piece of pie comes up on the server, and is quickly topped by a scoop of vanilla. It’s still warm- and it’s also tart, spiced, and just sweet enough. It tastes like how blackberries are supposed to taste: sun warmed, vine ripened, and bursting with purple. My friend licks her plate. My mom goes for seconds. The ice cream gets finished, as does the pie. And I decide, well, I have no choice but to share it with you.
Happy Pi Day! ♥
Yields: one 9″ pie
Filling and crumble adapted from this book
Why I love this recipe: here, tart blackberries are made juicy and sweet with sugar and warmed with a touch of cinnamon. The rye and walnut crumble topping is toothy and nutty, adding texture to the soft, bubbly pie, and my favorite all-butter crust stays crisp and keeps its shape beneath the fruit, adding to the deliciousness of this crumble/pie hybrid.
For the pie crust:
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 stick butter, frozen
- 1/2 stick butter, cold
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 ounces ice cold water
For the blackberry filling:
- 6 cups fresh blackberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup tapioca or corn starch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the rye walnut crumble topping:
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup rye flour
- 4 tablespoons butter, chilled
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
- To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Use your fingers to cut in the stick of cold butter until it is the size of peas. Then cut in the frozen butter, leaving it in bigger, visible pieces.
- Add the apple cider vinegar to the water and make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix the water into the flour until just combined.
- If the dough seems dry, add more water a couple of teaspoons at a time. Press the dough together, form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough overnight in the fridge or in the freezer for an hour, minimum.
- If you froze the dough, let it defrost on the counter until it’s defrosted but still cold. If you didn’t, simply remove it from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled pie dough to a 12-inch round and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate.
- Trim the overhang to 1 inch, fold it under and crimp decoratively, using the thumb and forefinger. Refrigerate the pie shell until chilled and needed.
- Now, make the crumble topping: in a medium bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, salt, walnuts and oats.
- Combine with the butter until well combined and clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.
- Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, toss the blackberries with the lemon juice and salt. In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the cinnamon and starch, then stir the sugar into the fruit.
- Pour the fruit into the chilled pie shell. Top with the crumble, mounding it in the center and covering all the fruit, even at the edges.
- Set the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling; cover the pie loosely with foil if the top is browning too quickly.
- Let cool for a minimum of 2 hours before slicing, to ensure a filling that has stabilized nicely. Serve with vanilla ice cream.