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Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie

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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).


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].

Tags: Blueberry, Fruit, Dessert, Summer, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes