In Louisiana, one of the most requested desserts in our family is blackberry pie. My grandmother has made her blackberry sweet dough pie since before I can remember. Many people have tried to learn her recipe and many people have failed with blackberry stains on the ceiling to prove it. Grandma cooks with no recipes. She makes bread dough without measurements, cooks without timers, and bakes without a measuring cup in sight. So whenever asked to make a blackberry pie at my house, I thought it was my perfect opportunity to watch and replicate her delicious dessert.
There is one other component that I forgot to mention. My grandfather. Since his retirement, Grandma has taught him the culinary ropes of making roux, smothering okra, and slow roasting a rump. He has become the Goose to her Maverick, the butter to her bread, and they are adorable to watch in the kitchen together. So adorable in fact that before I knew it, I had missed the first steps in making the pie. Grandma had already begun simmering the berries in their own juices. Only the sweet voice of my grandmother apologizing that she used the entire box cornstarch broke the memorization of watching them working together, while beaming and completely covered in flour. I smiled politely and told her to use whatever she needed, and she happily returned to her pot of berries, beating them together as if they has cursed and needed a fine spanking. “See how thick it gets,” she said to me while lifting up her spoon with the black mash clinging to it for dear life, “That’s when you know it’s ready.”
The next step: piecrust. Grandma has one of the best kitchen tools around: reliable, strong and sturdy. It’s Grandpa. In making the crust, it’s his job to stir and stir and stir the mixture until Grandma declares its doneness. I watched both of them roll out the dough and agree on the thickness. Grandma put the dough into the pie plate like mosaic tiles. She looked up at me and said, “It’s not the kind of pie that matters if it looks perfect.” A true statement for any Southern dish.
Then came the lattice topping. This was the only time where Grandma and Grandpa had a difference of opinion. He was in charge of topping off the pies with dough, until Grandma walked in. “No, no, that’s too much dough on top,” she sweetly stated. He turned around and looked at me, “I like the crust the best. It’s my favorite part. But Grandma likes the filling.” And I watched him, calmly sipping his black coffee and smiling, while watching Grandma take off the extra pieces of latticework. All of a sudden, I noticed that the first pie (out of the two her “recipe” made) was already in the oven, baking happily with “too much” dough. Everyone was happy with the pies, the filling lovers and the crust eaters. I never got her recipe, but this is my own. And don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out looking perfect, that’s ok. It’s not the kind of pie that matters about that sort of thing.
Recipe: Makes 1 8-inch pie
2 ½ cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 stick of butter, cold and cut up into cubes
½ cup of shortening, cut up in small pieces
6-12 tablespoons of ice cold water
1 egg, slightly beaten
In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Pulse to combine all of the ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the cold water, tablespoon-by-tablespoon, pulsing in between tablespoons. Seriously, pulse. You don’t want the heat from the motor interfering with the consistency of the dough. Add water until the dough comes together into a ball. The dough should not be sticky or crumbly. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
3 cups of fresh blackberries
1 cup of sugar
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and stir together. Let the berries simmer for about 30 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
*Note: Depending on the sweetness of the berries, you may need to adjust the sugar. Berries picked at the peak of season tend to be sweeter than the more tart ones supplied year round.
Preheat oven to 350o
On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of dough until 9 or so inches in diameter. Gently place the dough into the pie plate and crimp edges. Place in fridge for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, place the cooled filling into the prepared pie plate. Roll out the other disk of dough and cut into ½- inch to 1- inch strips. Place strips horizontally onto the pie. Start placing strips one-by-one vertically, lifting every other strip to create a lattice pattern. Brush 1 slightly beaten egg gently onto exposed piecrust. Place the pie onto a cookie sheet and place in oven for 25 minutes. Rotate and let bake for another 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.