Where did the summer go?! Some of you are probably throwing up praise hands because your kiddos have started back to school or have headed back to college. Some of you may be in my camp. The one where you feel a little sad that you didn’t get through as many summer reading books as you anticipated or take as many outdoor naps as you had hoped. Or maybe you didn’t try all the recipes you clipped that involved either a grill or summer produce (or both).
Maybe it’s best to celebrate the books we did read, the time we spent (and naps we took) outside, and the delicious food we ate this season. My personal favorite was a Maine Blueberry Pie with Gin Crust and Basil Whipped Cream.
Gin crust, you ask?
Why Use Alcohol in a Pie Crust?
I first learned about subbing booze for water in a pie crust recipe on an America’s Test Kitchen podcast. I consulted the interwebs and found a recipe (and a written explanation) in Cooks Illustrated, which is no surprise since Christopher Kimball was the host of the show and editor-in-chief of the magazine at the time. Here’s what he had to say about how and why alcohol works:
Our Foolproof Pie Crust recipe uses equal parts water and 80 proof vodka, yielding dough that is easy to roll out and bakes up flaky and tender. The key is the alcohol. Eighty proof vodka is 60 percent water and 40 percent alcohol. Unlike water, alcohol does not contribute to the formation of gluten, the network of proteins that can cause a crust to turn leathery. (Cooks Illustrated, January 2010)
It’s true. Magic happens when you add booze to a pie crust. The recipe is easy and the finished crust is remarkably flaky.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I often have berries at the center of my summer recipes. In late summer, I always buy quarts of Maine blueberries, usually from roadside vendors off of Route 1. They’re small, tart, juicy, and full of nutrients my body loves. Those berries, tossed with a little sugar and cinnamon, are perfect for pies.
And just a quick reminder about pies for you non-professional bakers (another one of my camps) out there:
I love the flavor combination of blueberries and basil, so I infused cream with a few basil sprigs and whipped it for a perfect creamy complement to the pie.
The Cast: Blueberry Pie with Basil Whipped Cream
Flaky, easy-to-make pie crust
Tart and juicy blueberries
Creamy, herbaceous basil infused whipped cream
- For the Pie Crust
- 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 Tablespoon sugar
- 12 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1½ sticks), cut into ¼-inch slices
- ½ cup chilled lard, cut into ¼ inch slices
- 4 tablespoons gin, cold
- 4 tablespoons cold water
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp of water
- For the Filling
- 4 pints of fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
- ¾ cups granulated sugar
- 5 Tbsp. of cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- For the Basil Whipped Cream: (needs 6-8 hours in the fridge before using)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, leaves torn or coarsely chopped
- Combine the whole wheat and all purpose flours.
- In the bowl of your food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine 1½ cups flour, salt, and sugar together. Give it a couple short pulses or until flour and sugar is combined.
- Add butter and lard and pulse process until dough just starts to form, about 10 seconds ( A note from Cook's Illustrated: dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour).
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape down sides and bottom of bowl to redistribute dough around dough blade.
- Add remaining 1 cup flour and pulse until mixture comes together. Add water and gin and pulse until well combined, about 4 more quick pulses.
- Divide dough and flatten into two 4-inch disks. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 2 days.
- When ready to bake, adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a foil-covered baking sheet on the lower rack while the oven preheats.
- Remove one of the dough disks from the refrigerator and roll out on generously floured work surface to 12-inch circle, about ⅛ inch thick. When ready to transfer to the pie plate, roll the dough loosely around a rolling pin and unroll into a prepared (either cooking spray or parchment paper) deep dish pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Ease dough into plate by carefully lifting dough with one hand while pressing into the pie plate with the other hand.
- Refrigerate, with the overhanging dough in place, until dough is firm, about 40 minutes.
- While dough is chilling, make the blueberry filling by combining the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes so flavors can merry and juices can render.
- Remove dough from fridge and fill with blueberry filling.
- Remove the other disc of chilled pie dough from the refrigerator. Roll the dough into a circle that is 12" diameter and ⅛" thick. Using a sharp knife or a pizza/dough cutter, cut strips ½ inches wide. Carefully thread the strips over and under one another to make a lattice top (see video below for hints). Press the edges of the strips into the bottom pie crust edges to seal. Use a small knife to trim off excess, overhanging dough. Flute the edges with your fingers or crimp with a fork, if desired.
- Place pie on the foil lined, hot baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°. Continue to bake, taking a peek at the 60 and 75 minute mark, until crust is deep golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling. Tent the pie with foil at any point if it's browning too much.
- Remove pie from oven and let sit until it is completely cool before serving, at least 4 hours.
- Serve with basil infused cream or ice cream.
- To make the basil infused whip cream, in a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup of cream over medium low heat until it just starts to simmer. Add basil leaves and remove from heat. Cover saucepan and let steep for about 30 minutes. Pour the infused cream through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar. Discard herbs. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight. When ready to whip, remove cream from refrigerator and whip with a whisk or hand mixer until cream sets.
How to Weave a Lattice Pie Crust: