Monday, August 16, 2010

Blueberries, Baby!

 This Sunday was all about the blueberries for those of us in the GTA. Well to be totally honest, I really should say for those of us in the know this Sunday was all about the blueberries. Why, you ask? Well, you'd have to ask the good folks of the Evergreen Brick Works for the answer to that one. They were the organizers and hosts of the first annual Wild Blueberry Festival held on the property, and let me tell you, it was a BLAST! Tons of stuff was all going on at once - from beer and wine tastings, to pancake making kids, to live entertainment - by the time I got there with my grandparents, who I wanted to introduce to the whole market's atmosphere. Being just this side of the "traditional" mindset, my grandparents were more than game to face the fairly "liberal" crowd that frequents the Brick Works - even if it did involve them making a few comments about the "hippies" and "hemp wearing and smoking" crowd they felt dominated the day (which then makes me wonder - I love that market, so what am I then?). At any rate, I was incredibly grateful to have them along, since not only did I want company for the day, but I needed my own cheer squad.

You see, I had entered their blueberry pie bake-off contest with my own kind of "crunchy granola", healthified version of the pastry. I know I've posted a blueberry pie already this summer, but for the bake-off I wanted something a little bit more "out there", something that would mirror the eclectic crowd at the festival's general ideals of healthful, natural, minimally processed and (preferably) organic food for the people. So instead of your traditional (albeit tasty, I'm sure - mind you I don't particularly like blueberry pie!) thickened sugar, citrus and berry filling in a buttery, lily-white crust, I went way out of left field when I wrote this recipe. I mean, the fresh, local blueberries were still the front and centre star of my pie, but other than that there was pretty much nothing "traditional" about it. However, just because it wasn't your commonplace pie didn't make it any less delicious - nor did it really reduce the whole "guilt" factor of the fat-laden crust!

I suppose if you really wanted to break the whole thing down, my pie was one of the more "wholesome" ones on the table of 17 - call it my obsessive nutritionist mentality if you will. My crust, while containing "evil" and highly "ungourmet" shortening (trans-fat free stuff, though) and regular unbleached flour, also had a hearty dose of wheat germ for colour, flavour, protein and fibre. Why shortening, with all that goodness? Well to be honest with you I grew up making shortening-based pie doughs. I've made all-butter and part-butter crusts before, and frankly they're way more hassle than they're worth. Heck - you're having pie anyways, you might as well go out all the way. I'll save my butter for shortbreads, thankyouverymuch. The filling of my pie was completely unlike any other that I've seen, and in my ever-so-humble opinion way more flavourful. In place of white sugar, good for sweetening but not a whole lot else, I decided to bring in two of the best natural sweeteners I could think of: luscious, local honey (from a Brick Works merchant, no less!) and sticky, rich dates. The combination of the three flavours in the partially cooked filling (I followed the same method I used before, cooking 1/4-1/3 of the berries with the thickener and sweeteners before folding in the rest of the fruit) was exotic, almost reminding me of a Canadian-esque baklava, and nobody in my taste-testing pool could place just what that flavour was, though they all declared it delicious.

In the end, my pie didn't find top favour with the "celeb" judging panel. The flavours, though delicious, were just "off" enough from the standard blueberry-ness of a blueberry pie to throw the votes, but the crust (I heard through the gravevine) was a favourite. You know what though? I may not have won the battle of the day, but I won the war in my own household: making a dessert that everyone I served it to liked!

Honeyed Date Blueberry Pie
Serves 12, one 10" pie 
7.5 oz (2 cups + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
2.9 oz (2/3 cup) wheat germ
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2.4 oz (1/3 cup) butter-flavoured shortening
4.8 oz (2/3 cup) "plain" shortening
5 tbsp Grand Marnier
3 - 4 tbsp ice cold water

1/4 cup water
4.3 oz (2/3 cup) sugar
1.6 oz (1/3 cup) diced dates
3.7 oz (1/3 cup) honey
2 1/2 pints (5 cups) fresh or frozen blueberries
1.6 oz (1/3 cup) tapioca flour
7 1/2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 egg, beaten (for brushing crust)

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  2. Cut in both shortenings with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Add Grand Marnier and stir in well, then add water by the tablespoon until a crumbly but workable dough forms.
  4. Turn onto a well floured board or counter and divide - one portion roughly 2/3 of the dough, the remainder 1/3 of the dough. Wrap the smaller portion of dough in plastic and chill.
  5. Roll remaining dough into a large circle and fit into a 10" pie plate. Place into the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
  6. Preheat oven to 400F and place rack on the bottom shelf of the oven.
  7. For filling, combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, dates and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes over low leat, stirring occasionally.
  8. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries and cook until they begin to burst - about 5 minutes.
  9. In a small bowl, whisk together tapioca flour and remaining water.
  10. Stir starch mixture into the cooking berries and cook gently over low heat until the mixture thickens.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, then fold in remaining berries and pour into the chilled pie shell.
  12. Roll out remaining 1/3 of dough into a rough rectangle and cut thin strips of dough with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
  13. Brush outside rim of crust with beaten egg.
  14. Weave a lattice pattern with the dough strips overtop of the filling, pressing into the crust edge to seal.
  15. Brush lattice with remaining beaten egg and place pie on a baking sheet.
  16. Place onto the bottom shelf of the hot oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 375F.
  17. Bake for 40 minutes.
  18. Cool for a minimum of 12 hours before cutting and serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 387.1
Total Fat: 17.3 g
Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Sodium: 10.5 mg
Total Carbs: 49.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 4.7 g


  1. That sounds incredibly rich and delicious! Love the use of honey & dates as your sweeteners, too.

    Sorry the judges didn't go for it, but I'm betting it was pretty darned close. :-)

  2. It really does sound like such a fun event. And your pie SHOULD have made the top three! Looks delicious. :)

  3. I *love* that you went so far away from the traditional pies. Wish I could have been there too - was reading the tweets on the plane on the way home! Next year, maybe they will choose something a little different!


Thanks for the feedback!