Berry pies are a summer treat best served cold
Recently, a friend asked me to re-create a towering fresh blueberry pie she’d eaten at Helen’s Restaurant in Machias, Maine, two years ago. As she told it, in lieu of a lagoon of cooked, inky-purple filling stood a tower of whole cerulean berries barely clinging together in a glossy goo. It was nestled in a pastry crust and topped with a mountain of fluffy whipped cream — and it sounded, to me, like the most perfect thing to eat in summer.
To gel a pillar of fruit, I used cornstarch to thicken a simple syrup flavored with vanilla extract, lemon juice and enough salt to balance out the sweetness. I cooked a few blueberries in the gel to stain it blue, enrobed several cups of fresh berries in it, and mounded them into a simple blind-baked pastry crust.
While testing the pie, I went through a “what other fruit can I gel?” phase and a star in its own right was born: raspberry. Because raspberries are more delicate than blueberries, some of them fall apart while mixing the gel into the fruit and the result is a dense berry marsh that is at once the same and vastly different from the blueberry filling. Its intense tartness begs for a sturdier, sweeter crust — and a classic graham cracker version fits the bill.
Both pies are topped with plain whipped cream because its fluffiness perfectly balances the crunch from the crusts and sweet fruit fillings. Fourth of July, a summer picnic or a barbecue are great excuses to make these pies now but they’re perfect all summer long, anytime you need a cooling bite to mark the end of a hot day outside.
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