What’s the best thing about summer fruit pies, those made with the very freshest, sweetest berries? The just-picked goodness of the fruit, of course. The firm-yet-yielding texture and ethereal flavor of August berries just can’t be rivaled by the plastic clamshells of soft, insipid berries you buy in December.
And what’s the best way to sacrifice a lot of that texture and flavor? Put those berries in a pie and bake them until they’re soft and tending toward bland, their smaller nuances of flavor having vaporized in the oven’s heat.
Still, simply pouring fresh berries into a pie crust doesn’t work; at that point you might as well make shortcake and call it a day. No, we need some kind of compromise here, something that pairs a golden, buttery, tender crust with the alluring flavor and texture of fresh berries — in sliceable form.
Hello, Fresh Blueberry Pie!
The filling for this pie ticks all the boxes. Crisp-tender fresh berries, poured into a bowl, are swirled in a minimally cooked, barely thickened sauce of more fresh berries and sugar, then spooned into a prebaked crust. As the filling cools in the crust it sets, thickening further. The result? All the flavor and texture of fresh blueberries in traditional pie form.
Now don’t be misled; this isn’t a no-bake dessert, since you still have to bake the crust. But the resulting pie, with its super-crisp crust and tender-but-toothsome blueberries, is well worth turning on the oven — even in the dog days of August.
Let’s start with the crust. Any double-crust pie pastry recipe will probably do, but I prefer our Classic Double Pie Crust. With butter for flavor, shortening for structure, and enough flour to make a generous amount of pastry, it’s the basis for most of my pies.
Make and bake the crust
Prepare the pastry for the crust as directed in the recipe; again, I'm using our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe.
Once it's mixed, divide the pastry into two pieces: one two-thirds of the total, the other one-third. (For me, the pieces are about 360g and 180g; this will vary depending on how much liquid you use, of course.) The larger piece will be the bottom crust; the smaller piece, decorations for the top.
Roll the bottom crust to about 13" in diameter, and settle it into a 9” pie pan at least 1 1/2” deep. Crimp the edges, and prebake following the steps in this article: Prebaking pie crust. Give it a good, long bake; about 45 to 50 minutes total should do it.
While the bottom crust is baking, roll the remaining piece of dough about 1/8” thick and cut out the decorations of your choice: stars, hearts, or other simple shapes (in a variety of sizes if you like). Space the cutouts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them along with the crust for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they're golden. Need more detail? Check out the recipe.
Prepare the stovetop filling
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 7 cups (about 1020g, about 36 ounces) fresh blueberries*
- 2 tablespoons (28g) water
- 6 tablespoons (42g) cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 to 1 cup (150g to 198g) sugar, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
- 1 tablespoon (14g) butter
- 1 tablespoon (14g) lemon juice
*If you’re not picking your own berries, two 18-ounce clamshells of berries from the supermarket will do it.
Put 3 1/2 cups (510g) of the fresh berries into a medium heatproof bowl and set them aside.
Place the remaining 3 1/2 cups (510g) of the fresh berries into a medium saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Cook the blueberries and water over medium heat until they come to a simmer and release some juice. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, salt, and sugar. If you're at all unsure about the amount of sugar to use, start with the lesser amount (150g); you can always add more later. Stir this mixture into the simmering berries.
Cook the berries over medium heat, stirring frequently at first and constantly toward the end, until the filling is very thick; you should be able to see the bottom of the pot when you draw a spatula through the berries. Once the mixture comes to a simmer it only takes about a minute to thicken, so keep your eye on it.
Remove the simmering filling from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, butter, and lemon juice.
Pour the cooked berries over the fresh berries in the bowl, stirring to thoroughly combine.
Fill and finish the pie
Spoon the hot filling into the prebaked crust. Arrange the prebaked cutouts on top. Let the pie cool fully, then chill until ready to serve. Chilling helps set the filling quickly, meaning you can slice and enjoy your Fresh Blueberry Pie much sooner than you could its oven-baked cousin.
The nice thing about a precooked filling is that you can adjust the flavor before pouring it into the crust. Once you’ve added the cinnamon, butter, and lemon to the sweetened cooked berries, mix a spoonful of them with an equal-sized spoonful of fresh berries. How does it taste? Does it need more sugar, or a touch more lemon? How about a pinch of nutmeg or salt? Keep tweaking and tasting until it's just right.
Once you place your cutout decorations atop the hot filling in the crust, it can be difficult and a bit messy to move them around. Preview your design by first arranging the cutouts on a 9” parchment round; the parchment is just about the same size as the top of your pie and allows you to build out your favorite look easily. When you're satisfied, simply pick up the cutouts one by one and position them on the filling.
Speaking of design, try this: instead of making cutouts, weave a lattice atop a 9” parchment round. Spray with water, sprinkle with sparkling sugar, and bake along with the crust for about 30 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Carefully loosen the lattice from the parchment while it’s still warm. Once the pie is filled, slide the lattice on top; a giant spatula is very useful here. If the lattice seems at all fragile, stick it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to firm it up. Want to go beyond cutouts and a simple lattice? For a selection of super-fancy top-crust ideas, check out this article: Give cream pie a top crust.
Finally, eliminate the added sugar in your pie by substituting Baking Sugar Alternative (BSA) 1:1 for the granulated sugar in the filling. Wow! Who knew “sugar-free” could taste so good? Since I'm trying to cut back on my sugar intake, I'll make the switch from sugar to BSA in this pie (and all my fruit pies) a permanent one.
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries ... see what else you can make with fresh berries in our Classic Summer Desserts recipe collection.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook