22 March 2011

Wild Blueberry-Maple Pie (in a Cornmeal Crust)

A great pie to enjoy with coffee.

Ken Haedrich describes this pie as 'the best of New England' what with blueberries and maple syrup in it. I would think that some lobster, brown bread, and sharp cheddar cheese would be be required in addition, but that's a recipe for another day.

Aside from the lack of seafood, three things piqued my interest in this pie.

  1. The cornmeal crust. I've always liked cornbread, corn muffins, etc. - a cornmeal crust has got to be good, right? More on this later.
  2. The maple syrup. A wonderful flavor which does not tolerate imitation. Get the real stuff, folks.
  3. The blueberries. Not really a novelty, I know, but this is one of the simplest pies I've tackled so far, and except for a couple of basic apple pies (which I haven't officially gotten to yet), this is the first of my fateful Thanksgiving pies to replicate.
Haedrich warns that the cornmeal crust is challenging to work with; I found it to be relatively simple, and pretty to boot. I used plenty of flour and, despite a few cracks here and there, had no problems. I even managed to fix my double crust problems from a couple weeks back - no berry explosions (out the side at least) this time.

The partially thawed berries (yes, frozen berries are fine) are combined with maple syrup, a bit of granulated sugar, and some cornstarch, then poured into the chilled bottom crust.

The top crust goes on, steam vents are cut in, then into the hotbox for just under an hour. As I mentioned above, my double crust edge sealing worked this time, but I had leaks from the steam vents that resulted in my blueberry pie having a nice Glaswegian smile.

Why so serious?
The original recipe for the cornmeal crust also warns that the edge browns quickly and that a pie shield or foil is advised. I used neither and I don't feel that the crust browned too much.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of strong maple flavor. If I thought about it really hard, I could perhaps convince myself that there was a hint of maple in there, but it wasn't forthcoming. I'm not sure how to amp up the flavor - perhaps add maple syrup to the crust?

Regardless, this is a really good blueberry pie and the cornmeal crust certainly adds to the overall package. I think this will be my go-to blueberry pie recipe for the future and I commend it to you with limited reservations. Just don't include 'maple' in the name and we'll get along just fine.


Cornmeal Pastry Crust (adapted from Pie by Ken Haedrich)

(measurements for a double crust; halve all for a single crust)

2.25 cups all-purpose flour
0.5 cups fine yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

0.25 cup cold cubed unsalted butter
0.5 cup cold vegetable shortening (e.g., Crisco)
0.5 cup cold buttermilk (I used whole milk)

Combine drys, cut in fat, moisten with milk. I used about 38 cup of the milk to get the dough to a good consistency. Divide dough into two balls.

Knead dough a couple times, flatten and wrap, then chill at least one hour before rolling out.

This is a great crust with a definite cornmeal flavor and grittiness (in a good, rustic way). Haedrich suggests using this crust for harvest-type pies - pumpkin, cranberry, apple. I will certainly be trying some of those suggestions come the fall.

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