Friday, March 15, 2013

Doubly Good Blueberry Pie

"Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover's Courtship, with Recipes" is the latest food memoir I've devoured.  It's a tale of romance, equal parts tender and wry, told charmingly by Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the NY Times.  At its heart, the book is about love and discovery: the excitement, conflicts, and (ultimately) acceptance that play out when two people meet, fall in love, and somewhere along the way figure out how to live in happy congruence.

"Mr. Latte," Amanda's suitor, is so named because of a culinary faux pas he commits very early in their courtship (on their first date, in fact): he orders a latte after dinner.  

That got me thinking: however they're interpreted by others, I have a few culinary quirks of my own.  One such quirk: I think cream cheese makes everything better.  It's one of my favorite baking ingredients.  And it's oftentimes what I like to have for breakfast.  Much like I'll order a salad just for the dressing (peppercorn and Caesar are my two favorites), when I'm in the mood for some cream cheese for breakfast, I'll eat a bagel, or better yet, a sweet cheese danish.
So, naturally, the first recipe in the book I wanted to try was "Helen Getz's Double-Good Blueberry Pie," a pie with a cream cheese filling.  I had just bought some blueberries, and as usual had some cream cheese at the ready, so I got to work.  The perfectly flaky crust, topped with two distinct layers of sweet cream cheese and fresh blueberries, make this pie the homey kind of dessert you want to reach for as soon as you've filled your belly with dinner.  What makes it doubly good?  The cream cheese filling, of course!

Helen Getz's Double-Good Blueberry Pie
Recipe adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser

For the pie dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 small egg
2 tablespoons cold water

For the cream cheese filling
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream

For the blueberry filling
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
4 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter

Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Cut in the shortening until it is reduced to tiny granules.  In a separate bowl, beat together the vinegar, egg, and cold water.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in this liquid.  Mix it until a dough forms.  Make a ball and flatten slightly into a disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Roll out the dough between lightly floured sheets of parchment paper into a circle about 1/8-inch thick.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with the dough.  Prick the base of the dough with a fork.  Line the pie dough with foil and pour in pie weights or beans.  Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 10 minutes more.  Remove the foil and pie weights and bake another 5 minutes.  Let cool complete before filling.

Prepare the cream cheese filling: Blend the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream until light and smooth.

Prepare the blueberry filling: Put the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium pan.  Add the water and 2 cups of the blueberries.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly.  The mixture will seize up and thicken and, after a minute or two, turn clear.  Take it off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and butter.  Pour in the remaining blueberries and stir until coated.

Assemble the pie: Spread the cream cheese mixture over the bottom of the cooled pie dough.  Drop the blueberry mixture over the cream cheese in large spoonfuls, then gently spread them around.  There should be two distinct layers.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour to set.  Let it come to room temperature before serving.

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