Blueberry pie puzzlement
April 14, 2017 10:47 PM   Subscribe

I’ve never made a blueberry pie from scratch. I’ve made other sweet and savoury pies and not had an issue, but I’ve been asked to make a blueberry pie for someone and after perusing some recipes, I’m considering pre-cooking the filling to avoid blueberry soup. Tell me why this is a bad idea.

The typical method seems to be taking fresh or frozen blueberries, tossing them with some sugar, spices and thickener then baking it in a crust until it bubbles up, and letting it stand so it will thicken on cooling. Awesome, got that. However, no matter what recipe I check out online there is always a considerable percentage of reviews complaining that they ended up with a pie that didn’t set. I assume this is owing to never quite knowing how much water your blueberries are holding. To me, the obvious way around such a problem would be to make the filling in a pot on the stovetop first (so you can have control over the final consistency, adding the minimum amount of thickener necessary) then maybe blind bake your pie bottom, fill it with your cooled filling, chuck a crust over top and bake as normal. So after I had this thought, I searched for recipes that followed this method instead and it seems like this is a very uncommon way to do it. Is this because there is a glaringly obvious reason baking a blueberry pie like this is a terrible idea and I shouldn’t do it? I’ll be making it with frozen blueberries which also draws me to making a stovetop filling first, because this whole “don’t thaw them first!” thing makes me super nervous. This may sound like a silly problem but blueberry pie is not a thing where I live and I’ve never eaten one myself, so I have little to go on. I found some interesting info on pie thickening on the King Arthur website but it doesn’t address my question.
Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
posted by BeeJiddy to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Don't pre-cook your blueberries: you will get soup. Also, a pie assembled as you describe will be overcooked on the bottom, although I'm sure someone somewhere recommends that technique.

Get fresh berries if you can. Frozen blueberries have lost their cellular integrity in the freezer and will turn into soup almost immediately. I have never seen canned blueberry pie filling (although I have seen canned cherry pie filling).

When I make a fruit pie, I use the technique Cooks Illustrated recommends, which is to add tapioca to the mix. It absorbs the fluid from the fruit and helps the pie filling set. I would toss the berries with some sugar and nutmeg and the tapioca, and bake the assembled pie as directed. Try to use a metal pie plate, and/or put the pie plate on a baking sheet that has been heating in the oven: that will help cook the bottom layer quickly and prevent it getting soggy from the fruit.
posted by suelac at 11:25 PM on April 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Cooks Illustrated actually does recommend cooking half the blueberries, iirc, in the recipe in New Best Recipes. You cook them and then mash them, and then mix with the other half, along with some other ingredients, including the tapioca granules.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:01 AM on April 15, 2017

Just do this and don't overthink it.
posted by athirstforsalt at 1:48 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like Stella Parks' version which also uses tapioca. The tapioca flour does a great job of preventing the soup situation!
posted by miratime at 2:43 AM on April 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Are we all quoting different Cooks Illustrated recipes? The one I remember adds a grated apple to the berries, so the pectin thickens the filling. And a ½ cup of vodka to the dough which makes it flakier!
posted by nicwolff at 3:50 AM on April 15, 2017

You really can't partially blind bake the bottom crust and then put on a top crust. They won't bind together right and the bottom crust will be burnt while the top crust is half raw.
posted by muddgirl at 4:13 AM on April 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yep, I checked Cooks Illustrated and they have several recipes that use the techniques everyone mentioned.

For the pre-cooked filling option, they cook half the blueberries on the stovetop first, but specify that if you're using frozen berries you shouldn't mash them.

They do have a recipe that uses grated apples, but it also includes tapioca as a thickener. I've had luck with the instant tapioca granules, so I would go with their simpler recipe for the filling - 6 cups berries (measure frozen but thaw before baking to make sure the tapioca incorporates well), 3/4 cup sugar, a little lemon juice and zest, 3-4 tablespoons of quick cooking tapioca granules and whatever spices you want. The tapioca should do an excellent job of avoiding berry soup.
posted by thejanna at 4:32 AM on April 15, 2017

The recipe athirstforsalt linked is the one I was coming here to post. If you don't want a soupy pie, it is perfect, even if it sounds weird. (Blindbaked single crust, cook about a quarter of your blueberries with cornstarch, sugar, and so on, mix with the remaining berries while still hot, and fill the crust). When I made it, I worried that it would just seem like a pile of uncooked berries in a crust, but it really didn't -- it's the perfect pie.
posted by LizardBreath at 4:34 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Put uncooked couscous on the bottom crust before you pour the filling--and use tapioca or something to thicken the fruit juifes.
posted by chocolatetiara at 5:03 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use the Joy of Cooking recipe thickened with instant tapioca.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:18 AM on April 15, 2017

my husband used this recipe to make one for NYE and it came out perfect. was gobbled up in minutes with some nice vanilla ice cream.
posted by supermedusa at 9:17 AM on April 15, 2017

I think that even if you did add what seemed like just enough thickener on the stovetop, it would thicken much more as it cooled, revealing you'd used more thickener than needed.
posted by daisyace at 11:11 AM on April 16, 2017

How to make pie with frozen berries, from Serious Eat (just up today)
posted by mumimor at 7:15 AM on April 18, 2017

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