Apple Blueberry Pie + Pastry Tutorial

The Sneak Peek

A couple of days ago I put the above photo on my twitter as a sneak peek for this recipe.  At the time, there was still some of this pie left in our fridge, and looking at it now, I’m REALLY sad we’ve eaten it all already.  Can we agree on something? Namely that one’s own website is not the appropriate locale for false modesty? Yes? Good.  Because I make RIDICULOUSLY GOOD pie.  I’m not sure if the above was the best pie I’ve ever made, but it definitely ranks.  While we were eating it on Saturday, Thomas commented around a forkful that, “If we weren’t already married for other reasons, I would marry you for this pie.”  Take note, ladies (and gentlemen), this is magic-commitment-forging pie.

Also, let’s all just sail right past the fact that I just admitted the two of us ate an entire pie this weekend.

I was talking to my friend Erica recently (hi Erica!) about making pie and she expressed something that I encounter again and again in people’s attitudes to pie-making: that pastry is too hard, and ergo not worth attempting.  This always baffles me, because pastry – classic pie pastry anyway – is actually pretty straightforward.  I’m not going to get into puff pastry, or croissants, or phyllo, because I buy those in the frozen foods aisle; and I can see from those examples why people might jump to a blanket conclusion about all pastry types being too difficult.  I’m also not going to deny that practice is helpful when it comes to pie-making.  I’ve been making pastry since I was a kid, helping my mother and grandmother make holiday pies, and in that time I’ve caught on to some tricks.  However, none of this is anything you can’t glean from a good step-by-step demo, which is what I’m offering here: I’ve got 30 or so pictures that will make you an expert just like that *snap*.

Here’s the first one:

flour, shortening, salt, stand mixer

Okay, first off – don’t be intimidated by the stand mixer.  Everything it’s doing can equally be done with a pastry blender, or two knives crossing each other in a cutting motion (imagine: held with tips facing inwards, one knife cuts right, one cuts left).  If you do use a mixer, use the flat beater.

In the bowl there is: 2 cups of all purpose flour, 3/4 tsp of salt, and 1 cup of shortening.  I use the original Crisco “No-Fail” pastry recipe.  They changed it a couple of years ago so it’s no longer the one  on the package.  That made me sad :( and I had to scramble around to find an old package and record it for posterity.

With your mixer, or your pastry blender, or your knives, you’re going to GENTLY work the shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles “coarse crumbs.”  When I was little, that term always confused me in its ambiguity.  So to be specific, you want it to look like this:

what your "coarse crumb" state should resemble

You don’t want to over do it, but you don’t want to UNDER do it either – err on the side of getting all the flour involved with the shortening.

The heavy lifting is done! Now for the finesse:

egg, vinegar, water

That’s an egg! Plus 1 tbsp white vinegar, and 2 tbsps COLD water.  The colder the better.  Don’t want the shortening to get melty or anything.  Whisk all that together, and then pour it over your “coarse crumbs,” like so:

pouring the egg mixture over the flour mixture

The next part you want to attempt with a fork, because you want to work the wet stuff through the flour mixture just enough to bring the dough together.  If you mix it too much, you’ll end up with cardboard-y pastry – blech.  We want to keep some air in here because that makes the pastry stay nice and light and flaky.  More mixy = less flaky.  Here’s what it looks like when you’re done:

pastry mixed with fork

Grab all that good stuff, form it into a ball, and wrap it all up in plastic wrap.  Stick it in the fridge until we’re ready to deal with it again.

While you’re in the fridge, grab a big bag of apples.  If you’re at my house, this action will elicit the following reaction:

Piper seese the apples

“Hey… are those apples you’re getting out there? Did you get them out for me? Did you maybe want to perhaps give me one… or the whole bag?”

Piper has a thing about apples.

Apples, peeled

You want to peel and slice about 8 of them for this pie.  For a straight up apple pie you’d want at least 10.  My rule of thumb is to keep going until you’ve filled a big bowl to the brim.  If you end up with extras you’ve got snacks!

We actually decided we had a need for pie because we had all these McIntosh apples taking up space in our fridge.  As you can see, they weren’t the nicest apples ever – a bit on the small, dinged-up side, and they weren’t very sweet.  Luckily, you don’t want apples to be too sweet when making pie; however, McIntosh are not the optimal pie apple.  In Ontario, where I grew up, my grandmother maintains that Northern Spy is the best variety for pie.  I don’t know what the conventional wisdom in BC is, but I’ve had the best luck with Jonagold – which have been unfortunately hard to find of late.  If you can’t find Spy or Jonagold, your criteria should be as follows:  very crisp flesh, because you want them to hold their shape through the baking process, and a fairly tart flavour, because you’re going to add sugar to the filling and you don’t want it to become sickly.  Size doesn’t really matter… ahem *skips inappropriate joke*… but you’ll have to peel and slice less if you get larger apples.

Here is what your slices should look like:

apple slices

You want them nice and thin, and fairly uniform so that they’ll bake evenly.  For this pie, I’m adding about 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries.  Throw those on top and give the fruit a toss:

apples and blueberries tossed together

Lovely.  Now we’re ready for the dough.

The Crisco recipe makes enough for a double crust pie, so I cut my pastry ball in half, and put it cut side down on my floured surface.  I top it with a bit more flour, and I also flour my rolling pin.  No sticksies!  Notice the blue thing?  That is my fantabulous silicone mat that I found gathering dust at the back of a bottom shelf at the grocery store.  It does double duty as a pastry mat and a cookie sheet liner (replacing parchment paper).  It’s dishwasher safe, it rolls up tight, and it always unrolls flat – no curvy edges.  Can you tell that I love it? Yes I do.  BUT, don’t despair, for these purposes, a piece of wax paper works just as nicely.  You can roll your pastry out on a clean counter or board or whatever, but I strongly recommend using something like my mat or the wax paper, for reasons which will become apparent momentarily.

Ready to roll!

Rolly, rolly, and voilà! Here’s my pastry all rolled out to about 1/4″ thick… maybe a bit thinner:

Rolled pastry

Yes, I’ve exceeded the edges of my mat – but that’s okay, my counter is nice and clean, and the important thing is to have it roundish, so that it will fit nicely into your pie plate.  Let’s just give that a measure:

measure pastry against pie plate

Looks pretty good to me.  You want it rolled out large enough that it will come up the sides of your plate and flop over a little bit.

Now here’s the tricky part, and the reason why you’ll love me for suggesting the mat/paper:

transfering pastry with a rolling pin

I transfer pastry in two ways.  Either I roll it around the rolling pin, as shown above, and then unroll it over my pie plate, OR I fold the pastry lightly into a square with all the edges meeting in the middle (imagine: right edge folded to centre, left edge folded to centre, then top and bottom edges folded into centre over the first folds – a neat little package).  In either scenario, it is indescribably useful to have something underneath the pastry that will help it to lift easily, like I’m doing with my mat here.  If you don’t have this, you have to rely on your finger, and probably a butter knife to slide under the pastry and loosen it off your surface.  My way, gravity does the work, and it’s seamless.  Conclusion? My way is better.

Moving on:

pat bottom crust into pie plate

Once you have the pastry centred over your plate, gently press it in to the corners.  If you’ve got any splits in the pastry, don’t fret.  Use a bit of cold water to “paste” the edges together.  No problem.

Now it’s time for the first trim.  As a brief segue, it was the pastry trimming part that initially attracted me to pie making in the first place.  And this is why:

Snow White was the first movie I ever saw in theatre, and I was always mesmerized by the way she trimmed that pie, and the way the animals helped – don’t even get me started on the birds pinching the edges at the end.  Come to think of it, I have a pretty complicated relationship with the whole Snow White story.  But this segue was supposed to be brief.  So let’s look at some real life pie being trimmed.  And oh yes, she is singing in Greek. *shrug*

trimming the shell

Here’s me trimming with my left hand – I haven’t worked out yet how to take photos with my left so I can work with my right.  Not sure it’s actually possible.  Anyway, you want to trim right at the edge of your plate or even a bit beyond it.  This is for two reasons: a) your pastry will shrink down a smidge, and you want it to still look nice in the plate, and b) you need to have enough edge on your bottom crust to smush together with the edge of the top crust.

Here’s a close up.  That’s some Snow White worthy edge:

trimmed bottom crust

Okay, now we’re ready for filling.  Some people get the filling all premixed.  We’ve sort of done that with the fruit, but some might go even further and toss the fruit with flour and sugar.  I prefer a layered approach.  Probably because I’m lazy, but I like to think it yields better results.

Here’s your filling mix:

cinammon, sugar, flour

That is equal parts sugar and flour (I went a little overboard, and grabbed about 1/3 cup of each), with about 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.  This is the stuff that is going to glue our filling together and stop it from getting all watery when the fruit cooks, so don’t skimp!  This right here is the major downfall of most store-bought pies – the excess liquid that happens when they bake.  Blech! Who wants pie soup?

Here’s what you’re going to do:

butter and cinammon mix in the pie shell

Cut up about 1/2 tbsp of butter and put it in the bottom of the pie shell.  Sprinkle a nice amount of filling mix over that as a base.


layer of fruit

Add a single layer of fruit – enough to cover the bottom, but not a super thick layer.  No more than a couple of apple pieces thick.


layering the pie filling

Sprinkle more filling mix (about 2 tbsp at a go) and another cut up 1/2 tbsp of butter.  Continue doing this (if you’re not big on butter, you can dispense with that step after the 2nd layer) until you’ve used all or most of the fruit.  You want the filling to be piled pretty high, because the fruit will cook down, and nobody wants a concave pie for dessert!

Here’s what it should look like, a nice big pile o’ fruit & filling mix:

completed pie filling

Then you’re going to repeat the whole pastry-rolling process to end up with your top crust:

top crust rolled out and transfered

Then guess what happens! More trimming!  You might want to sing a jaunty tune while you do it – doesn’t necessarily have to be in Greek – but I don’t really recommend holding the pie aloft the way Snow White does, just trim around it on the counter with your butter knife, remembering you want to have enough edge that you can pinch together the top and bottom crusts.

Here is what the pinched crust looks like:

top crust trimmed and pinched together with bottom crust

You can also press the edges together with a fork to get an effect not unlike the Snow White birdie feet.  I prefer the pinching method because my pie plate, although it’s nice and deep, doesn’t have much of a lip to accommodate that.  Experiment!

Okay we’re on the home stretch now (phew!).  Your pie needs to breathe while it bakes, so you have to make holes in the top crust to let the steam out.  Otherwise, kablammo!  Well, probably not that dramatic, but it won’t look as pretty as this:

decorative air holes

Your openings don’t have to be complicated.  It could be as simple as a hole in the centre, and some slits on the sides.  Whatever you’re in the mood for.  Since this is a springtime pie, I went with petals.  I use a steak knife to cut out defined shapes.  (I should also mention that you can do the cut out part while the pastry’s still on the mat, but I find it too much of a bother to try and centre it once the pastry’s on the pie.)

Here comes the optional part:

brush pastry with egg

To really gloss up your pastry, you can brush the top with beaten egg, and sprinkle it with sugar.  I used to not bother with this, because I thought it was a waste of an egg, but I started doing it for pies I made for special occasions, and the effect is just so beautiful that now I figure you’ve spent all this time on it already, might as well go the whole 9, right?

Here’s the sugar:

sprinkle pie with sugar

Now you’re ready to bake!  Pies like this one go in the oven initially at 425° F for 15 minutes – this is to kind of “set” the pastry.  You then reduce the heat to 350° F and continue baking for another 40 minutes.  You will know when it’s done because it’ll look like this:


And then if you’re like me, you’ll just want to stand over that pie breathing in for a while.


Because it smells amazing.  But it’s too hot to eat yet.  Gotta give it some time to coalesce.

BAKED! The pie... that is.

Ça, c’est vraiment bon.

Ca, c'est bon

So I just want to point out a few things that we’re aiming for here:

Piece of the pie

The pastry breaks apart in flakes, that means it’ll melt in your mouth.  The apples have kept their shape, and you can still see the layers in there.  Thanks to the filling mix, there’s no wateriness – although there’s plenty of juiciness – and the crust stays crisp as a result.

Happy baking!

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  1. By Trevor on July 28, 2014 at 4:23 am

    landscaping@studious.filles” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    tnx for info!!…

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