Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kaya's Blackberry Pie

One of the best ways to end the summer!

Alright, time to get back on track, I think. Thanks again to everyone for your kind words and well wishes on my (or Grace's...) last post! I'm finally finding my footing a little bit and had some time to get back to the blog tonight, so I hopped right on it.

This pie left me with a lot of mixed feelings. It was tasty, and some things went really, really well. Others? Not so much. I've found I'm still not quite the pie expert I'd like to be, although I do think I'm making progress. I'll never forget that horrible sinking feeling when I realized my first ever attempt at an apple pie was totally soggy at the bottom! Talk about disappointing.

With a few tweaks, I think this pie might wind up being a big winner. Maybe that's all I need to encourage me to give this another try.

So, as I've discussed before, I have a special place in my heart for blackberries. Not only are they really tasty, but we used to have wild blackberry bushes all the way up our driveway. My siblings and old neighbors would check almost daily to see if there were any new ripe ones, and while we never had enough to make a whole pie, we did manage to gather enough to split pretty neatly between six kids.

Unfortunately, most of the plants were destroyed by other neighbors, but every summer I still look to see if there are any survivors. It looks like there's at least one that got berries this year!

Just looking at these pictures makes me feel a tiny bit homesick. It's been a lot of fun to have a new adventure, but I guess at the end of the day, I'm a bit of a homebody and I'll always miss my blackberry bushes.

In any case, we all also know that blackberries and other wild fruit were important staples for Kaya and her family. I guess the reason why I keep coming back to this kind of recipe for her is my own modest attempts at foraging for a tasty summer treat.

I don't really have a favorite recipe for basic fruit filled pies, so instead of just tweaking one I've made in the past, I hunted around for one that looked good and decided on Mario Batali's Mom's recipe. It sounded easy enough, while also looking totally delicious and hopefully providing a nice, thick filling that won't soak through your bottom crust.

She uses a shortening based crust, which I've done before, so I figured this was going to be a pretty straight forward adventure. I put 2 1/2 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt in a bowl, got them all mixed together, and cut in a cup of vegetable shortening. This time, I was good about how much ice water I used to combine the dry ingredients together and wound up with a crumbly, but put together dough. So far, so good, right?

Not exactly.

You see, after dividing the dough in half and chilling it in the fridge, as you're supposed to do with pie crust, it was super crumbly and really difficult to work with. I'm sure we all know at this point that you're not supposed to manhandle pie crust dough too much or you'll lose all the nice little pockets of shortening or butter, which is what makes the crust flaky rather than tough. I honestly didn't have a choice when it came to this! Every time I tried to pick it up off the island, even with the help of spatulas and a cookie sheet in an attempt to keep it in one piece, it totally disintegrated and had to be re-rolled.

I did manage to get the bottom crust in the pan okay!

Fortunately, the filling was a lot less frustrating. All you need is 2 pints of blackberries, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. The recipe says to mash up a couple of the berries, and between that and the sugar helping to draw out the natural juice, the filling starts to look a little soupy. The flour's in there to help thicken the filling, so this is definitely going to be more of a gooey pie than a soupy one.

That's really all you have to do before you put it in the pie pan.

Er wait, actually, you need to dot the top with cubes of butter. Just chop up a tablespoon.

Unfortunately, the top pie crust was an even bigger hassle than the bottom, and what resulted from it was probably the most homely looking pie I've ever seen. Or made. Ah well, this can be... rustic, right?

One thing I was really excited to try out this time was a tip someone told me to make sure your bottom crust doesn't get soggy. I put my baking sheet in the oven while I was preheating it to 375 degrees and put my pie on top of it. Because the bottom of your pie pan is immediately in contact with something hot, it should help seal the crust and prevent leaks. Pretty cool, right?

The pie has to bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The crust did look nice and golden when I pulled it out, but the filling made quite a mess, and was super, super thick. Don't get me wrong, that's fine, but it made me really glad I'd remembered to put the baking sheet in to help catch the spill!

Of course, the moment of truth was cutting into it and seeing if the crust and filling held up! I'm delighted to say that they both did!

So even though my pie looked a little weird, things actually turned out pretty well. The filling was maybe a little too sweet for me, but my taste testers enjoyed it. I was informed that the remains were eaten for breakfast over the next several days, which feels like a throwback to In the Night Kitchen, but hey. Muffins are just cupcakes, right? Why do they get to be breakfast?

I digress.

Despite my frustrating time with the crust, I think this was a fun learning experience, if only because I got to try out the trick of precooking the pie crust! I would definitely recommend doing this for any pie you're making from scratch... but maybe use a different pie crust recipe!

Even though this one was tasty, I don't think I'd feel comfortable serving this on the Great British Bake Off!


  1. We have huge blackberry bushes outside our apartment. I'm less of a pie person, since I'm the only person that eats them. But I might duck out Monday and see if there's enough to make me some jam. I love turning berries into jam.

    1. Ooh, now that's an idea! I should try tackling jam sometime. :)

  2. That looks SO good!
    Kaitlynrh1 from Kaits AG Crafts

  3. Welcome back kiddo! Sorry I missed this one. And boy am I happy you remembered the cookie sheet;)!

  4. We used to have blackberry bushes where we lived too, that is one thing I miss about our old house. It still looks yummy, even if it is messy.

    1. Looking over these pictures again made it grow on me a little more to be honest. It definitely could have been worse!

  5. I saw this recipe on Indian Country Today ( and thought of your Kaya. Would she have eaten things like strawberries or cranberries?

    1. I just looked it up and there were definitely wild strawberries in Oregon in 1764! That opens up a whole new set of possibilities. :D

  6. A former neighbor had blackberries that he would share with me. As a thanks,every year I would make him a crumble using only fresh blackberries, local honey and freshly picked sage topped with a streusel topping (just crumbled flour and butter with a tiny bit of sugar and cinnamon). I didn't even pre-cook the berries and they "sauce" up nicely without getting runny. I suppose you could use a more rustic flour for Kaya :)