I am a hater of reality TV. I mean, I religiously watched the first two seasons of MTV’s The Real World back in the early nineties, but I was in my early high school years and hey, Eric Nies was hot. As Survivor, Big Brother, and all of their clones hit the air I quickly lost interest in this so-called “reality” and don’t even get me started on competition shows (hello, Fear Factor!). No, I don’t watch American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. It’s just not my cup of tea. However, when fellow Chattanooga blogger Beth Kirby of local milk fame appeared on Season 4 of MasterChef, I started watching just to see her. After she went home, though….I just kept watching. And I got kind of hooked.
I’m pretty fascinated by the way that these people crank out recipes. They’re constantly having to make new and interesting things and make them better than everyone else, using strange ingredients and being sure to plate them in a restaurant-quality manner. The most enthralling thing is the fact that they can be given a baking challenge (“Make a citrus meringue pie!” “Make a perfect cheesecake!” “Bake a dozen perfect cupcakes!”) and even the people who emphatically declare that they are not bakers somehow manage to do this, often beating out the people who live and die by their KitchenAids. Ben Starr, season 2 contestant, blogged about seasons 3 and 4 (and has chosen at this point to disassociate himself from the brand, which makes me sad because I really did love reading his episode recaps) and said that the contestants indeed are not given recipes to follow, though in their downtime they are given access to a cookbook library to study.
I don’t know about you, but I am seriously impressed by the ability to remember all that info. I definitely consider myself a “baker” and I bake multiple times per week, but the only recipe I can make by heart is biscuits (boy, can I make some biscuits). Many-most-of the items they are given to make (this season so far they have made a dessert of their choice given a limited arsenal of ingredients, a blueberry pie, and donuts) are familiar but not so familiar that I could crank them out without consulting my Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, which is exactly what I did when I decided after drooling over the blueberry pies made on the show that blueberry pie was a perfect June dessert (the blueberry bushes in my yard are in full swing right now!) so I must make it.
I’ve made some very minor adjustments to the recipe, specifically that I used my cream cheese pie dough instead of the crust that Cook’s Illustrated calls for and I baked my pie with a lattice crust instead of the full crust with large holes cut in it that they recommend because tradition. No one has romantic notions of a blueberry pie with a holey lid. Sorry. The pie is thickened with tapioca, which took some detective work to find in my grocery store if only because the box was turned the wrong way (it’s near the pudding, no big surprise there) as well as grated apple, which lends pectin. Philip said he could taste the apple (which you definitely detect in the look of the pie) but I didn’t taste it at all. I thought this pie was practically perfect in every way and I almost cried when I went to cut the last of it for us and there was mold all over it. Moral of the story: refrigerate your pie. The end.
Blueberry Pie (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book)
makes 1 9-inch pie
prep time 30 minutes, not including pie crust
cook time 60-80 minutes
- 1 batch double-crust pie dough (I like my cream cheese pastry, but you can even use the store bought stuff if you don’t tell me about it)
- 3 pints blueberries (about 6 cups), rinsed
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and grated
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons instant tapioca (not tapioca pudding!)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- pinch salt
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1. Half the pie dough. Roll one half into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Press into a 9-inch pie pie, trimming and crimping the edges. Roll the other half out into a 12-inch circle as well and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate both for at least 30 minutes-until you are ready to use them.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups of the berries into a medium pan set over medium heat. Mash several times with a potato masher to release the juices. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes, until reduced to about 1 ½ cups.
3. While you are cooking the berries, place the grated apple into a clean dishtowel or several layers of cheesecloth and squeeze tightly several times to drain away as much of the liquid as you can.
4. Combine the cooked berries, apple, uncooked berries, sugar, tapioca, lemon zest and juice, and salt in a large bowl. Pour into the prepared pie crust and top with a lattice crust (cut strips from the second half of the crust and arrange in a lattice fashion). Place on a baking sheet to catch anything that might run out. Brush the crust thoroughly with beaten egg white. (Here’s a tutorial from Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes on how to make a lattice crust that’s much prettier than mine!)
5. Bake the pie for 25 minutes then rotate the pan and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 35-50 minutes longer until the crust is brown and the pie filling is bubbly. Cool for at least 4 hours at room temperature before serving.
Note: If you have leftover pie, store it in the refrigerator! Since it’s very moist and sugary, it will mold quickly, then you will be sad like I was.