Genius Recipes

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie

By • August 28, 2013 • 44 Comments

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Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A brighter, lighter blueberry pie for Labor Day.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie from Food52

If you've ever cooked a blueberry for more than a minute, you know their fatal flaw.

A blueberry is really just a sack of tart-sweet juice, barely contained by a thin, taut orb of skin. It's nature's tiniest water balloon, and like any good water balloon, it wasn't designed to last.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie from Food52

So when we want to bake them into a pie, we know they're going to swell through their skins and surrender all their juice, which then needs to be jammed up with sugar and thickeners. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that -- throw on a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it's not not going to get eaten.

But there's another sort of blueberry pie, one that uses a lighter touch, managing to preserve fresh blueberries in their natural state and ensconce them in a sauce -- made, of course, from more burst blueberries. Fannie Farmer has one, and Sara Moulton does too. Evan Kleiman even took blogger Dorothy Reinhold's on TV to declare its genius.

I'm particularly fond of Rose Levy Beranbaum's version from The Pie and Pastry Bible. The filling has only 4 ingredients, and the highest blueberry retention rate of any I've tried -- using the least sugar, the least cornstarch.

Rose Levy Beranbaum  Pie & Pastry Bible

"Here is what my thinking was behind it: Blueberries are such a great burst of flavor when raw but when cooked become soft and bitter requiring quite a bit of sugar," Beranbaum told me. "I also noticed that blueberries turn brilliant navy blue when heated only slightly, so my theory was I could just heat most of them and use the rest to bind them. And it worked as I had envisioned."

Here's all you have to do:
Make whatever single pie crust. You can use your go-to ratios, or I've included Beranbaum's recipe, which is excellent, and has all sorts of clever tricks.

Making pastry  Making pastry

She uses pastry flour and vinegar for less gluten development and a more delicate crust, baking powder for a little extra lift. She freezes part of the butter, and bashes it into the flour with a rolling pin.

How to make pie crust

Whatever dough recipe you use, you'll just roll one out, crimp it or not, and blind bake it. You can brush on some egg white for extra insurance, but you don't really need to.

pie dough  pie crust

pie crust

Then you'll take a quarter of your berry haul -- this is your chance to weed out the soft ones -- and cook them in a little water until they explode (about 3 minutes).

blueberries

As they're bursting into a syrupy pulp, you whisk in a slurry of cornstarch and water, plus lemon and salt.

  blueberry pie filling

The rest of your berries get folded in next, off the heat, and they light up -- from a low dusty blue to shimmering indigo in seconds.

blueberry pie

Then you pour it in your pre-baked crust. And you're done.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie from Food52

The only hard part is waiting two hours to eat it.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie from Food52

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie

Adapted slightly from The Pie and Pastry Bible (Scribner, 1998)

Serves 6

Basic Flaky Pie Crust for a 9-Inch Pie

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 1/3 cup + 4 tablespoon pastry flour or 1 1/3 cups (dip and sweep method) bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar (optional)
1/8 teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder (if not using, double the salt)

Open-Faced Fresh Blueberry Pie

1 tablespoon egg white, lightly beaten (optional)
4 cups blueberries, rinsed and dried
1/2 liquid cup and two tablespoons water, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup whipped cream (optional)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Rose Levy Beranbaum photo by Matthew Septimus, all other photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Jump to Comments (44)

Tags: Rose Levy Beranbaum, pie, blueberries, summer, fruit, dessert

Comments (44)

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6 months ago Elizabeth Small

Yes, it definitely works well with strawberries. It's also delicious with peaches.

Martha_amazon

6 months ago Martha Hopkins

I've made Rose's blueberry pie numerous times, always to great results. I just carted a half a flat of super-rich strawberries home from Santa Barbara to Austin. Think this half-cooked/half fresh technique would work with strawberries?

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10 months ago Anna Pieta

I'm a baker and although the pie looked beautiful, this recipe didn't do it for me. I did however use frozen berries. Not sure if it is what made the difference though. I think I prefer "goopy" berry pie.

Moi_with_tiara

about 1 year ago lorie brand

This pie is absolutely amazing. Made it a few weeks ago and gosh, I may be making more pies! I did in fact, end up using berries I froze and had no problems. I did not thaw them. It turned out amazing. The crust was well worth the effort. The non bake method turns out a pie bursting with flavor.

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about 1 year ago frugemel

I used my berries frozen too! It worked perfectly, I just dusted the frozen berries with a little cornstarch in case they bled.

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about 1 year ago frugemel

So has anyone tired this using frozen blueberries? I've got a ton leftover from summer! Does it work if you just thaw them or do you have to make concessions for extra watery berries?

Marysmallportrait

about 1 year ago MaryFrancesCooks

Hi Kristen! I made this pie and added some blackberries too!! It was so delicious! I'm never going back to baking a blueberry pie again, thanks to you and Rose! You can see it here: http://lovethesecretingredient...

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about 1 year ago Maya Laine

I made this pie twice over Labor Day, I used half and half fresh orange and fresh lemon juice and a bit of spicy cinnamon. IT WAS A HUGE HIT BOTH TIMES!! Thanks for the great recipe :-).

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about 1 year ago Sandra Rittenhouse

I have her book and had never tried this pie until this article...OMG...I will never ever make a blueberry pie any other way!!! Thank you for pointing out this marvelous way to have the fresh berry taste.

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about 1 year ago jjc

Arrowroot. Thank you! Julie

Stringio

about 1 year ago Phyllis Segura

I love Berenbaum but not cornstarch. I came up with a blueberry pie that uses none. I make a custard with creme fraiche and eggs, a bit of vanilla. Dust the blueberries with some arrowroot powder. It all holds together mah-vel-lous. Check out the recipe at: www.cookingontheriver.blogspot... You might need to scroll down a bit. Worth the scroll stroll.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Marjorie Walker Hansen

I made this today. I had real worries that it wasn't going to set up. I was prepared to have blueberry "soup" in my pie plate. How wrong I was! This is so delicious and exactly what I was hoping for. I've had two pieces so far and am trying hard to not have 3! It's so good I might want to marry it.

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about 1 year ago CARLA

Today I will go to eat this pie!! I am happy, thank you! from Buenos Aires, Argentine!

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about 1 year ago jjc

Many thanks, Kristen. One last question, if I may: Gluten-free flour will work in the crust? -- Julie

Miglore

about 1 year ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I haven't tried it, but I think it could work. It might be a little crumbly but it will probably still taste good!

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about 1 year ago jjc

Could a sugar substitute work? Diabetic issues in my house. Also, and sorry for the dumb question, but do the sugar and cornstarch both act as thickeners (so you don't need both)? Thank you.

Miglore

about 1 year ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I think whatever sugar substitute you like would work -- I would just add it to taste when you're cooking the filling. Sugar and cornstarch both work as thickeners, but you may still want some sweetening in the filling. (And not a dumb question at all!)

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about 1 year ago Sandy

This is similar to the great blueberry pie recipe from Amanda-- I think it's called Helen Gurtz's double blueberry pie with a little bit of sweetened cream cheese (and I always add a tablespoon of rum) swirled on the baked pie crust before you add the filling. I usually use waaay more fruit than called for and mix it up with chunks of peaches, sliced strawberries, raspberries -- whatever is available in addition to lots of blueberries. it's FABULOUS!!

Stringio

about 1 year ago Mary Essig

what do you think would happen if I used frozen blueberries? Disaster? I have gallons and gallons that I froze earlier in the season.

Miglore

about 1 year ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I think if you allowed them to thaw completely and then dried them off well, that might work! (Though I haven't tried it myself.)

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about 1 year ago Jennifer

Why use cornstarch at all? Check out Julie Rosso's double crust blueberry pie recipe in Great Good Food--1/2 cup sugar (as with this recipe), 2 T. flour, spices (which I vary depending on what odds and ends I have carted to beach to use up). Light, and EASY.

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about 1 year ago ergringle


I have a recipe for Michigan Blueberry Pie that uses 2 cups of cooked berries and two of fresh. It's the best! I use a combination of 1/3 cup white sugar and 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed plus 1 T butter, 2 T lemon juice,3T flour, a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. No added liquid. Scrumptious!

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about 1 year ago 1natalplum

I make something like this with huckleberries...the main difference is that I paint the cooled pie shell with white chocolate to make it juice-proof. The berries burst in your mouth like sweet-tart caviar...mmmm.

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about 1 year ago Sylvia

This is the blueberry pie I grew up with and still make today. I like to add lemon curd to the whipped cream. Yum!