Blueberry

A Genius Blueberry Pie Just in Time for the Summer Season

Courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum.

June 29, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

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.

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.

 

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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.

Rose Levy Beranbaum

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. 

"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 How to Make It

1. Make the Crust 

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. It takes a cue from our favorite parts of laminated dough—layers upon layers, absurdly delicate flake—and makes the process much more manageable (with all the upside).

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 (read: no soggy bottoms in sight), but you don't really need to.

pie dough  pie crust

pie crust

2. Make the Blueberry Filling 

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

3. Put it All Together 

Then you pour the cooked mixture 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. Get the full recipe for Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie here!

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie from Food52

A Few More of Our Favorite Blueberry Baked Goods

1. Blueberry & Rye Slab Pie

The addition of rye flour in the crust lends this jammy slab pie an extra nuttiness that works really nicely with the blueberry filling's juicy sweetness. 

2. Blueberry Lemon Cake

Serve this light and fluffy blueberry cake, scented with bright lemon zest and juice, with whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, for breakfast with a cup of coffee, or (our favorite) next to a glass of ice-cold milk. 

3. Mom's Blueberry-Coconut Muffins

Coconut and blueberry are a match made in heaven, and these tender muffins—which just so happen to be a contest winner for (you guessed it) Your Best Muffins—are proof. 

4. Blueberry Schlumpf

Ooey gooey and oh-so magical, this blueberry schlumpf comes together in just five ingredients. Enjoy a heaping spoonful fresh out of the oven with vanilla ice cream and you won't be sorry. 

5. Blueberry & Cherry Buckle With Cornmeal–Poppy Seed Streusel

Don't be shy about playing around with the ingredients in this summer-ready buckle: Use all blueberries if you like, or even swap out the cherries for small-diced peaches. 

 

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].

This article was updated by the Food52 editors in June 2020 to include more ways to use up all those fresh summer blueberries. 

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The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."

45 Comments

J May 17, 2020
I’ve been baking Rose’s blueberry pie (I make it as a tart) for decades, and it never fails to earn rave reviews!
 
Aminator June 12, 2019
My mother's recipe! I've never seen anyone else post it. Best and easiest way to do blueberry pie.
 
Elizabeth S. June 10, 2014
Yes, it definitely works well with strawberries. It's also delicious with peaches.
 
Martha H. June 9, 2014
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?
 
Anna P. January 27, 2014
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.
 
lorie B. October 16, 2013
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.
 
frugemel October 23, 2013
I used my berries frozen too! It worked perfectly, I just dusted the frozen berries with a little cornstarch in case they bled.
 
frugemel October 11, 2013
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?
 
Maya L. September 4, 2013
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 :-).
 
Sandra R. September 4, 2013
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.
 
jjc September 2, 2013
Arrowroot. Thank you! Julie
 
Phyllis S. September 1, 2013
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.com You might need to scroll down a bit. Worth the scroll stroll.
 
Marjorie W. September 1, 2013
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.
 
CARLA August 30, 2013
Today I will go to eat this pie!! I am happy, thank you! from Buenos Aires, Argentine!
 
jjc August 30, 2013
Many thanks, Kristen. One last question, if I may: Gluten-free flour will work in the crust? -- Julie
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 31, 2013
I haven't tried it, but I think it could work. It might be a little crumbly but it will probably still taste good!
 
jjc August 29, 2013
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.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 30, 2013
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!)
 
Sandy August 29, 2013
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!!
 
Mary E. August 29, 2013
what do you think would happen if I used frozen blueberries? Disaster? I have gallons and gallons that I froze earlier in the season.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 30, 2013
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.)
 
Jennifer August 29, 2013
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.
 
ergringle August 28, 2013

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!
 
1natalplum August 28, 2013
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.