for the love of pie: heidi swanson
FOR THE LOVE OF PIE — a series that celebrates the simple things.
Today, Heidi and her Blueberry Lemon Verbena Pie.
Heidi is one of those people you like straight away.
One of those people who is both kind and passionate at once.
One of those people whose talent is inspiring. Always.
They felt to me then and feel to me now, real.
And I think, in the busy that is the internet,
that’s a pretty incredible thing.
We’ve yet to bake together, her and I.
We haven’t picked berries or peeled apples,
we haven’t rolled a chunk of dough.
But I know we will and I know that that
will be a good day.
Find out a little more about Heidi and her recipe below.
ps: both the photos and the recipe are heidi’s. plus, she’s working on an exciting new project. find out more here.
It’s a classic blueberry pie with a couple twists. I work a bit of lemon verbena into the filling – it’s amazingly fragrant, and I find it in the market at the same time blueberries are in season. And I (nearly) always make this rye crust for my pies – it’s rustic, golden, all-butter, and beautifully flaky.
Of all the sweet pies in the world, my heart goes to those of the berry variety. My all-time favorite is huckleberry, but they’re hard to come by here. Blueberry is a close second.
San Francisco, California.
In my mind, this is strictly a summertime pie. Best enjoyed on a picnic table, in full sun, the smell of the blueberries mixing with the scent of sunscreen. Throw in some fireworks later in the evening, and you’re really set.
BEST SERVED WITH?
Blueberries and cream were made for each other – whipped cream, ice cream, creme fraiche. It’s hard to go wrong.
ONE OR TWO THINGS?
I can’t say no to: old cameras, dosas, road trips, or yard sales.
Blueberry Lemon Verbena Pie by Heidi Swanson
I pile blueberries as high as possible here, until adding more causes an avalanche. That’s typically ~2 pounds worth, sometimes a bit shy of that. I grow lemon verbena out on the patio, but you can also often find it at farmers’ markets – it’s powerfully fragrant and works beautifully with the blueberries. Of course, if you can’t find it it’s fine to leave it out (or swap in a couple teaspoons of fresh lemon thyme leaves).
As far as the crust goes, this is my favorite rye crust – you can make it with water, but because I have an endless supply of home brew here, I make it often with that – in this case, porter. It makes enough for one 9 or 10-inch double-crust pie.
FLAKY RYE PIE CRUST
75 g / v. scant 2/3 cup rye flour
175g / 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4+ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
8 oz / 1 cup salted butter
1/3 cup / 80 ml cold water or beer
A few notes: You can make the crust using the quick and popular food processor technique. That said, I always make it by hand, using the above ingredients, and this technique. If you like a super-puffy crust, do the folding in Pim’s instructions 4x. I usually like mine less so, and fold & roll just 2 or 3 times, depending on how the dough is feeling. The pie crust in the photo was folded 3x.
BLUEBERRY LEMON VERBENA FILLING
2/3 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g natural cane or brown sugar
20 fresh lemon verbena leaves, chopped
1/3 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g flour
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 pounds of blueberries, rinsed (see head notes)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice & zest from that lemon
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, whisked
Large grain sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat your oven to 425F / 220C, with a rack in the bottom third.
Roll out your pie crust – top and bottom – on a flour-dusted counter. I tend to work the edges a bit first (particularly if I’m getting cracks) – roll and turn, roll and turn, dusting with flour when necessary. Flip once or twice. Work quickly and keep the dough moving. Place between unbleached parchment paper or Silpats, and refrigerate while you make the filling. If you’re nervous about rolling out the crust, have a look at the second part of Melissa Clark’s video. See how she’s not super fussy? Channel some of that. If you need an extra confidence booster, read this. It’s o.k. if your dough doesn’t roll out into a perfect circle – you can patch and pinch later if needed. Just shoot for 11 or 12-inch inch rounds.
Make the filling by grinding the lemon verbena and sugar together in a mortar and pestle – this releases some of the oils and fragrance in the leaves. Transfer to a large bowl and add the flour and salt. Stir in the wet blueberries, and toss gently until well combined. Set aside.
Line a 9 or 10-inch pie plate with the bottom piece of pie dough. Guide it into place without stretching. You want about an inch of dough extending past the rim of the pie plate, trim a bit with scissors or a sharp knife if needed.
Fill the crust with the berries, drizzle with lemon juice, and dot with the butter. Brush the rim of the bottom crust with a bit of egg wash, then top with the other piece of pie crust. Trim the top crust a bit if needed, then press the top and bottom crusts together at the edges. Working around the rim, tuck the overhanging dough under itself, and crimp with a fork or flute using your fingers. Brush the crust with more of the egg wash and place in the oven for about 45 minutes – until the crust is deeply golden. Check your pie regularly after 25 minutes. If you need to foil the edges of the pie – pull it out and do so – this way the edges wont get too dark and dry. I don’t have to foil in my oven for this pie, even at this temp, but your oven might be a bit different. I also sprinkle with large-grain sugar about 25 minutes in – for a little extra crunch and sweetness. Let cool a bit, slice and serve.