I’m home!! I finally get to do all that “being a kid” stuff I’ve been going on about. One of the things I’ve anticipated most, though, has been to finally bake for my family! I know you’re probably raising your eyebrows at that sentiment, given my history. However, my introduction to blogging and recipe development only began this summer, so my family has been forced to appreciate my original recipes from the lackluster confines of social media until now. I wasn’t home more than a few hours before creating a grocery list of baking ingredients, and I wasn’t home more than a few days before presenting them with two different desserts.
I wanted to make a solid first impression with what I made, so I chose to open with these pies; they had recently been very well-received at a community picnic and among my friends in Pittsburgh. As positive as the response to them had been though, I had an intense love-hate relationship with these things. When I began working on a blueberry pie recipe last month, I started with the crust. Tweaking the ingredients, I created three different versions: two of them had variations of the flour and/or liquids, and the third served as the control, a basic all-shortening pie crust. As soon as I pulled out my notebook, pen, and three pies from the oven, my roommates knew they’d be tasked with the taste-testing, as usual. (The fact that I fill the apartment with mass quantities of delicious, not exactly healthy baked goods causes a love-hate relationship with them, too 😛 ).
It was clear that the one with toasted flour and maple syrup was the winner. As thrilled as I was to have a crust recipe finalized, a part of me cringed at their selection. My mind wandered back to that morning when I’d made each crust, back to the extreme difficulty I’d had working with the winning dough. Pleasantly recalling the ease with which I’d rolled out the control dough, I tasted each pie for myself. I hoped I could somehow find flaw with that favored crust, somehow conclude that the basic recipe was superior. I kept tasting…and tasting…and half a pie later I finally accepted the fact that the nutty, bold flavor of the first just couldn’t be challenged.
Each time I recreated this dough, I experienced the same polarity of moods. As I formed the crumbly crust and struggled to keep it from breaking apart one day, I vowed to never do it again. I stopped humming Soft Cell’s Tainted Love as it played in my kitchen and instead violently sing-shouted the lyrics at each broken piece. “I’ve got to get away from the pain that you drive into the heart of me!!” But then I’d get over my dramatic outburst, finish the pies, and share them. Everyone who tried them raved about the look of them, the delicious flavor, and most of all…the crust. With each outward smile and expression of gratitude, I grimaced internally at the idea of doing it all over again.
It wasn’t until I made the pies for my family this week that I finally gave in to the dough and made some important realizations. First, I realized that it was simply unfair of me to expect a pie crust with essentially burnt flour and no water to magically become a smooth, pliable dough. Second, I realized that just because it wasn’t going to do that didn’t mean I should abandon it. A pie crust’s value is only established by what comes out of that oven, not what goes on behind the scenes. And as ugly as my preparations had been, the results were consistently dang good. As soon as I stopped trying to make my crust become something it just wasn’t going to be, I was able to enjoy all parts of the time we spent together. Our relationship was on the mend.
I’ve found that placing rigid expectations on desserts, on others, or on myself rarely ends well. It’s simply too easy to miss the beauty of individuality when focusing on a specific, desired outcome. These pies showed me that letting go of control–something I’m notoriously awful at doing–is often the best way to approach what I’m working on. It’s something that will be never be easy for me, but the more I can think about it, the less I’ll “feel I’ve got to *DUH DUH* run away!”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Mini Blueberry Pies (V) (makes 2 5″ pies)
- 1/2 cup toasted flour (see directions below**)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup very cold vegetable shortening (keep in freezer as long as possible before using)
- 2-3 TBSP very cold pure maple syrup (possibly more for rolling out)
- 2 cups frozen blueberries
- 2 TBSP pure maple syrup
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 TBSP vegan sugar
- 2 TBSP cornstarch
- Whisk together cinnamon, vegan sugar, and cornstarch in small bowl. In larger bowl, combine blueberries and maple syrup.
- Pour dry ingredients over blueberries and stir until evenly coated. Place in fridge while preparing crust. (You can do this step the night before and leave the blueberries to sit overnight if you have the time).
- Whisk together flours and salt in medium bowl. To ensure all ingredients are cold, I like to place bowl in freezer with the pastry cutter/forks sitting in it for a few minutes before continuing.
- Cut shortening into flour mixture using pastry cutter or forks until mixture becomes coarse, small pea-sized crumbles.
- Add maple syrup 1 TBSP at a time, using a fork to gently incorporate into dry ingredients after each addition.
- When enough syrup has been added for the crust to form a crumbly ball, remove from bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, forming a disc. Chill in freezer for at least 30 minutes.
- Unwrap dough and prepare counter top and rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough to about a quarter inch thickness. This is a VERY crumbly dough. If you’re having difficulty working with it, don’t fret. The recipe isn’t meant to make a smooth, thin sheet of crust, and the rolling is simply to flatten it to a semi-even thickness. Abstract patching/mashing into the pan is just as effective for this as long as you work quickly to avoid letting the crust get too warm. If dough seems excessively dry, try working a bit more cold maple syrup into it.
- Cut a circle of the dough large enough to cover one pie pan. Slide the circular section off the counter, drape it over the pan, and press into all sides. Again, taking small sections and pushing them into the pan works just as well. Patch any holes that remain–no one will ever know once it’s baked. Crimp top edge with fingers if desired.
- Repeat for second pan.
- With remaining crust, roll out to same thickness as bottom crusts and cut out shapes as desired. I use fondant cutters, but cookie cutters or a small knife can be used depending on the design. Carefully use spatula to lift shapes onto a tray or plate.
- Place prepared pans and tray of cutouts in refrigerator to cool for at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Fill each pan with half of the blueberry filling. Use a slotted spoon to avoid getting too much of the liquid released from the berries.
- Arrange cutouts on top of the filling, using a flat spatula or spreader to transfer them as they will be delicate.
- If your oven’s heat source is on the bottom, place pies on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. If it’s on the top, place them on a middle rack and bake for 10 minutes.
- Turn heat down to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until top crust is lightly browned. If your pies were on an upper rack, move them to the middle for this. If tops of pies begin to brown too quickly before 30 minutes (this is more likely with a heat source on the top of the oven), you can carefully cover them with foil for the remainder of the bake time.
- Remove pies from the oven and allow to cool in pans for at least an hour. (They can be eaten before this, but the inside will still be very runny).
**To toast all–purpose flour, place flour in a large, dry skillet over medium heat. I generally do this in larger batches, but always use a little more than the recipe calls for to assure you’ll have enough. Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or spatula, allow flour to toast until very nutty in odor, about 10 minutes. The flour may begin to darken in color a bit at this point. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Storing in freezer is best for use in pie crust.