Well, here it is, people: the blueberry pie I made for you was just okay.
I used my very favorite pie dough recipe, which is usually a real pinch-hitter. I bought pints of in-season blueberries, perfect little blue marbles of sweetness. I virtuously passed on fresh-from-the-oven ollalieberry pie offered at a small town restaurant down the coast, all in anticipation of this non-event. (There’s a lesson in that: accept all offers of pie, particularly in small town restaurants.)
Don’t get me wrong, I finished my slice. We all did. Not-so-great pie is still pie, after all. But when my husband gently delivered his assessment a few hours later, I knew there wasn’t much point in sharing the recipe with you. It was good, he said. I guess blueberry pie just isn’t my favorite. Okay, so not the most scathing indictment, but this is coming from a man who goes crazy over nearly every thing I feed him. (I wonder if I cook as often as I do because Matt’s so deliriously appreciative. It adds an extra layer of reward to the proceedings to have such an enthusiastic audience.) And if he’s not thinking about a second piece, you can be sure that nobody else is, either.
It looked promising. Flaky browned crust, an inky-blue bubbling of molten fruit and sugar. The slices had nicely crisped bottoms, jelled and jammy interiors crammed with fruit. But when fork lifted to lips, all I could think was is that it?
And I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to lovingly roll out pie dough, fill it with the season’s finest fruit, watch it for an hour and later go to the gym to burn off the calories, I want that pie to be amazing. Whirling dervish fits of rapture, Hallelujahs from the chorus, toe-tapping happy dance a-ma-zing. And it just wasn’t. It needed more sweetness, more tartness, more oomph, more something.
So that’s the bad news. Let’s silver lining this, shall we?
I did pick up a nifty trick from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking, which I’d never tried before: scatter a handful of crushed graham crackers on the bottom of a fruit pie to help absorb the juice and keep the bottom crust from getting soggy. Maybe you knew that already, but I was impressed. It worked. So there’s that.
There’s also the humbling reminder that things go wrong in the kitchen all the time. Sauces break, risottos scorch, salt gets mixed up with sugar. Sometimes the pot boils over. Sometimes the willful family dog jumps up on your mother’s beautifully set table and devours a good portion of the Christmas spiral ham. (That would be Codie the Wonder Dog. She’s in heaven now, snatching whole loaves of bread from the celestial countertops.) And sometimes you end up with mediocre pie.
In those cases, there’s nothing to be done except dust ourselves off, shake out any lingering twinge of disappointment and try again. (Or order a pizza and try again tomorrow.) It’s a good approach to life in general, really.
So beautiful summer blueberries, this cook remains determined and undeterred. I’m not done with you yet, no way. In fact, I’m thinking about cobbler, so watch out.
Quick Blueberry Sauce
- one pint blueberries
- about 1/4 C sugar, to taste (use superfine, if you have it)
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1/4 C water
- pinch salt
Sprinkle cornstarch over the berries & toss. In a small saucepan, heat all the ingredients over medium, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries start to break down and let out their juice, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly to thicken.
Serve over vanilla ice cream with shortbread cookies and pretend you’re having pie at a small town restaurant down the coast. This fruit sauce is also really lovely with lemon pound cake or as an alternative to syrup on pancakes (omit the cornstarch).