Mind and Body

On blueberry hill

A recipe for berry picking and blueberry pie, perfect for parenting during a pandemic

Photo by Molly Shaffer Parr

A slice of homemade blueberry pie, made with fresh-picked blueberries, with a dollop of whipped cream.

Photo by Molly Shaffer Parr

Blueberry pie, made with fresh-picked blueberries, with heart-shaped cut outs for the crust.

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By Molly Shaffer Parr
Posted 7/27/20
A perfect parenting recipe for berry picking and blueberry pie.
How can innovative curriculum, with plans for reopening school up in the air, integrate all the great lessons that can be learned from activities such as berry picking, following recipes, and cooking? Do you know where the berry farms are located near you that offer opportunities to pick your own blueberries, blackberries and raspberries? Did your mother teach you how to bake pies?
Connecting children with the process of cooking and sharing with them the process of gathering food at a farm, rather than a grocery store, is an important tradition that teaches more than the ability to follow a recipe. It teaches both patience and persistence in picking, and creates an opportunity for gratifying rewards, tasting the success from the fruits of your labors.

FLORENCE, Mass. – Parenting during a pandemic has its challenges, and I’m not even talking about our school plans for the fall. My girls would happily build blanket forts in our living room in front of the television all day long. My urge to get them into the fresh air is always tempered by the knowledge that there are other people, with their own sets of germs, right outside the door.

However, we have found one activity that they enjoy that does get them outside and socially distanced from other folks: berry picking.

While we have some wonderful berries out back, blueberry picking at a nearby farm was a successful outing. The girls could work on a bush while being distanced away from other families also looking for some fresh air and room to enjoy it in.

When my youngest was a toddler, berry picking was challenging; she didn’t fully understand what ripe meant. Now that she is five, she ended up picking the best of all the berries. I think it had something to do with how close she can get to the bushes. I will admit that she is slower than the rest of us, but quality over quantity in her case.

With our berry bounty - over 2 pounds worth - it became clear a baking project was in order. Time in the kitchen together means time away from the television, something I fully embrace, so we put on our aprons and got to work.

I ended up choosing this Martha Stewart recipe for blueberry pie. It starts with an easy pate brisee that you whip up in a food processor. It was very similar to Jacques Pepin’s galette recipe, which has proven over and over to be a slam dunk in the kitchen, especially when working with small children.

While Martha wanted us to use a knife to design and cut leaves for the lid of the pie, my seven-year-old and I used a cookie cutter to create heart shapes. It was much easier and proved to be very adorable.

Even if you don’t have small children in the house, the pie was easy to make and had delicious results.

Blueberry Pie from The Martha Stewart Cookbook

Ingredients for the Pate Brisee

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
One-quarter to ½ cup ice water


Directions:
Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add ice water, drop by drop, through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds. Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add a bit more water.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press the dough into a flat circle. This makes rolling easier than if the pastry is chilled as a ball. Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Ingredients for the pie
3 pints fresh blueberries, washed, drained and picked over.
One-third to ½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with ½ cup heavy cream


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out half the pastry dough into a circle large enough to fit a 2-inch-deep, 11-inch tart pan. Line the pan and refrigerate.

Roll out the remaining pastry to a thickness of one-eighth inch and cut out leaf shapes using a sharp paring knife; or, use cookie cutters of your choice to cut out shapes that appeal most to you. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Put the blueberries in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with flour, 1 cup sugar, and the butter. Gently toss so that the berries are completely covered.

Brush the entire pastry crust [edges and bottom] with the egg wash and pour the blueberries into the shell. Decoratively arrange the leaves or cut outs on top of the fruit, covering it almost completely. Brush the leaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake the pie for 50 minutes, or until the blueberry juices have bubbled and thickened. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Molly Shaffer Parr lives in Western Massachusetts and loves to spend time in the kitchen with her young daughters. For more of her food writing and stories from her mostly-vegetarian kitchen, check out Cheap Beets, her blog that she has maintained for 10 years, come August.

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