Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HypFoods Very Special Blueberry Pie

Clearly, we are not the only ones who love this delectable dessert. The Divine Ms. M, Bette Midler, devoted an entire number to the treat and you can download the Blueberry Pie audio file from Amazon any time. Or better yet, send it to your Amazon Cloud server & you'll be able to access/enjoy it anywhere you go!

It's the hands-down, all-time FAVORITE pie for Hubbers. He likes it MORE than Lemon Meringue and he REALLY likes Lemon Meringue. For this reason alone, it must be a special pie. For ever so long, I used the Peach Blueberry pie recipe (minus the peaches) from Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville.  This is a collection of recipes for vegetarian dishes and it is all about the flavors of the featured fruits and veggies. I baked it in her Tart Shell crust. We LOVED that pie. It was perfect bliss at any time of year.

Then came the gluten dilemma. I tried a few crusts sans wheat and gluten, but we were underwhelmed with the results. For us, the whole point of pie is that meltingly tender, flaky and delicious pastry wrapping, the crust. Lacking the knowledge to reproduce this delicacy in the absence of gluten, I became discouraged. I stopped making pie. Hubbers bought a few pies in various shops, but invariably decided that they contained too much sugar to be really delicious OR really, truly healthy.

One day, I met Jeanne Sauvage (@FourChickens) after she had collaborated with Seattle's own superstar of home-baked pies, Kate McDermott. She told me she had nailed the flaky pie crust without gluten. I invited her to show me. We videotaped the project. She was RIGHT! She makes an excellent, very flaky crust using various flours, mostly various rice flours.

There is nothing lacking in her recipe or technique, but when you are livin' la vida loca GLUTEN-FREE, you eat a LOT of rice flour. I get bored with the flavor. I also think it is much better for our postmodern human gut to mix it up a little in the region of the tummy. Same old, same old, day after day is just not good for the innards. No one ever ate like that before the 1950s, a.k.a. back when you had to eat what you could get based on seasonality.

My search continued, with a recently added special twist. One of my most beloved tango belles is allergic to all things CORN. So out goes the cornstarch we gluten-free bakers like to use for fluff and binder. Oh well, I never liked cornstarch that much anyway. But, now what?

A little research and Voila! Hat-tip to the geniuses at Google Search and I had convincingly assessed that arrowroot is the logical replacement for cornstarch and oftentimes better than this particular corny villain. It doesn't play nicely in sauces made with dairy, but arrowroot is superior to cornstarch in most other recipes. So I learned. And my CORN-FREE friend confirmed.

Scanning through my various gluten-free cookbooks and recipes, I was seeing a lot of rice flour. Not what I wanted. Eventually, I returned to my current favorite, Blackbird Bakery by Karen Morgan, where I found the flavor profile I was looking for in a pie crust. With just a few modifications to her overall approach, I traded my blogging time that Monday for a romp in the kitchen with a rolling pin. Here's what ensued:

I rinsed 3 pints of fresh, organic blueberries in a large (2 gal) Ziploc bag with a solution of filtered tap water, freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon and about a tablespoon of Sovereign Silver.

You may be wondering about the Sovereign Silver. It is a very effective antimicrobial that kills numerous unpleasant antagonists like Salmonella and E.Coli. It comes in solution with distilled water, about 10ppm. It has been developed for oral administration. I keep a little spray bottle on the kitchen shelf, along with a dropper bottle of the same product. This way I can add a little to my rinse water for produce or spritz my fresh salad greens right in the bowl. Tasteless and odorless, it's "all good" and by using a little Sovereign Silver, I don't need to worry about organisms that I cannot see on my fruits and veggies. (Not recommended for folks with chronic kidney disease.)

By the way, did you know that there is a way to recycle Ziplocs and other plastic bags? Please watch the following 2+ minute video to learn more about this new initiative:

These blueberries were shipped from California since our local berries are not yet ripe, but I HAPPILY collected them for $1.99/pint at our local Whole Foods Market in a special one day sale. I let them stand in solution for about 10 or 20 minutes while I gathered the items that I needed to make my crust, then rinsed the fruit through a colander.

I lined my large jelly roll pan with Bounty paper towels and turned the berries into the pan, then placed them in a slightly warm oven with the convection fan running. There they remained until it was time to fill our pie.

With only the very slightest adaptation to Karen Morgan's Short Crust Dough (p.98), we were well on the road to fresh dessert happiness. I fitted my SideSwipe blade onto the grand dam of our kitchen, an old and highly functional KitchenAid stand mixer, plain white in color. I filled the stainless steel mixing bowl with the dry ingredients:
3/4 Cup Tapioca Flour
3/4 Cup Arrowroot
1/4 Cup + 2 TBS Sweet Rice Flour
1/4 Cup Sorghum Flour
2 TBS Coconut Flour
1 TBS Granulated Baker's Sugar
1 TBS Zero Low Glycemic Sweetener
1/4 tsp finely ground kosher salt
1.5 tsp guar gum

All of these dry ingredients were combined thoroughly using a stainless steel whisk. Next, I ADDED:

1 Cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted *cultured* organic butter, diced into small cubes

and beat with the mixer until the ingredients looked more like coarse bread crumbs, but not long enough to warm up the butter and smooth out the dough. Again, an ADDITION:

3 large organic eggs, which I had previously cracked one by one into a small bowl, ensuring that each was unspoiled.

I mixed everything on high speed until the dough began to fold down from the sides of the bowl. My dough was a lovely and alluring soft schmear when I stopped mixing. It seemed to literally invite me to try a small sample. Heavenly!

As instructed in Blackbird Bakery's recipe, I turned the dough out for kneading. I had prepared a GLUTEN-FREE bamboo cutting board that was generously dusted with Sweet Rice Flour. I kneaded the dough gently until it held together in a way that approximated a traditional pie crust, then divided it in half and kneaded a bit more, adding more dusting flour as necessary. When I had two balls that seemed relatively crease free, I formed the two traditional disks and wrapped each in a bit of parchment paper. These were set into a less cold area of the fridge to rest and develop flavor as well as firmness for the next steps. I timed the resting at 2 hours and forced myself to meet that goal, although Hubbers lobbied heavily for a finished pie sooner!

I learned two SUPERB secrets to successful gluten-free pie crust from Jeanne Sauvage (@FourChickens) when we shot her pie crust video (coming soon). She used a French Rolling Pin in a very Zen style on her gluten-free dough. You want a cold dough and a light hand. You don't MAKE gluten-free pie crust flatten so much as you ENCOURAGE it to shape-shift so that it will cover your pie plate. Take your time. Be gentle. Imagine butterflies in fields of wildflowers and flutter gently over your dough with the lightest touch that you can manage. Almost magically, the dough begins to cooperate and you have a 12 - 14" round that is as beautiful and whole as anything you ever made using wheat flour.

I placed a large sheet of parchment over the circle of dough and inverted the cutting board so that the dough was on the paper. Then I aligned the cutting board with the edge of the counter and slid the paper back onto the flat board. At this point, I positioned the inverted glass pie plate over the round of dough and flipped the whole affair. Tah-Dah! My pie plate was lined with a lovely GLUTEN-FREE crust and I had only to trim and patch the edges.

I covered the pie plate and set it in the fridge to chill while I prepped the berries. Since I am not a fan of heavy, syrupy doses of sugar in my desserts, this was a fairly simple project. I transferred the berries from the jelly pan in the oven to a medium sized mixing bowl. Following our favorite filling recipe from Fields of Greens (1993 edition), I began mixing:

3 Pints blueberries
2 TBS organic cane sugar
1.5 TBS Zero low glycemic sweetener

Since blueberries do not release much juice, I thought about how to increase the fruity goodness of the pie filling. I set the bowl of berries aside and retrieved a jar of Bionaturae Organic Wild Berry Fruit Spread from the fridge. This delicious fruit spread has no added sugar or chemicals and adds a healthy pop of flavor to everything from oatmeal to gelatin without pumping up the calories or glycemic levels.

I scooped a few tablespoons into a small bowl and warmed it gently in the microwave until I was able to spread it with a pastry brush. Then I brushed the bottom crust with the spread and added the berries. I rolled out the top crust and flipped it onto parchment as before. I brushed the inside face of the crust with more of the Wild Berry Spread and inverted it onto the filled pie. (Next time, I will probably just mix it right in with the berries before they go into the crust.)

I crimped the crusts together and brushed the top with a mixture of egg yolk and almond milk. I placed the pie onto a small cookie sheet lined with foil and baked it in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, I folded the edges of foil up around the outer rim of the pie to protect the crust from carbonizing. And with that, a STAR was born!

I am trying to wait for the next sale of fresh organic blueberries, but I don't think that we will make it. Still, if I can hold the cost of the homemade pie at under $20 each, I think we are well ahead of commercial products in all categories: cost, health benefits AND flavor!

What is YOUR favorite summertime fruit pie?

This post spans the topics for 
2011 Q2/Week 11 Local/Organic and Week 12 Gluten-Free.

Up next: 2011 Q2/Week 13 Holiday Spotlight.

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