# Blueberry night sky pie

Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yields Makes 1 (9-inch round or 8-inch square) pie
Print RecipePrint Recipe

Call it pie fate, something I have a little experience with. Recently I received two emails on the same day. The first: What did I think of talking to WNYC “The Sporkful” podcast host Dan Pashman about the merits of round versus square pie? On his podcast, Pashman often explores food construction as an engineering problem to be optimized, and we often debate the minutiae of eating (on KCRW, where I’m the host of “Good Food”), so this sounded like another great opportunity to engage on my favorite subject. The second: What did I think of the slab pie phenomenon? There was a strange moment, about three years ago, when suddenly pies showed up on Instagram in slab form. (We can blame or credit Martha Stewart for this.)

So I baked three pies, because that seemed the logical math for this: one pie each in the form of a circle, square and rectangle. Each pie was made with the same Pudwill Farms blueberry filling and the same crust, so that everything was constant but the shape — and, of course, the volume, which turns out to be very important in how we respond emotionally to pie. Because I’ve come to believe that pie holds our group identity as Americans within the confines of its defined shape. Not a bad excuse for a geometry lesson — or for a day of baking and eating pies.

The slab

Baking one big shallow pie in a sheet pan, rather than two or three individual pies, is a smart way to feed a crowd, and in an easy-to-transport form. True, if you make a fiddly butter-based crust, you might find it a bit challenging to roll out the large pieces you need without doing some cutting and pasting. But all that “rusticity” somehow makes your rectangle of a pie look more homey and delicious. Obviously the slab has hit a chord, given, you know: #slabpie. Maybe it’s the giant size, or that the shape looks great on Instagram, or that the vast expanse of pie implies (hopefully) that a lot of sharing is about to happen. Maybe people like that slabs are so easy to slice, and that you can forgo a plate and just munch from your hand with a napkin. Hand pies are pretty but tend to be underwhelming in the filling department; whereas a slab, while not as full as a regular pie, does give you a nice bite. But as practical and photogenic as these rectangular pies are, I can’t get over the slab’s resemblance to a tray of bar cookies. (If you use a crumble topping the bar cookie effect is even more pronounced, especially once sliced.) This isn’t necessarily bad — unless you’ve told people they’re going to be eating pie.

The square

Pashman says that the square fulfills pie parameters — with bottom, side crust and filling — and, to be fair to him, my crust did bake beautifully. And I agree that you do get this fantastic wall of crisp dough, as long as you bake your crust long enough. But, as a person who approaches food as culture, as a gestalt, it’s not a pie. Rather, a square pie is a cobbler with an unnecessary bottom crust, or maybe a very deep dish pie. Sure, you can create a lake of melting ice cream and thickened fruit in your tall box of pie, but then why not just make a cobbler? It’s faster. Also: Square pies make me think of casseroles. Also: I really dislike deep dish pie pans for sweet fruit pies and the resulting pies. Those oversized ceramic pans are terrible heat conductors and make a poor bottom crust. (That said, they’re perfect for sweet or savory cobblers, cream pies with cookie crumb crusts and ice cream pies.) It also makes me sad when I see the ruffled edge deep dish glass pans in the grocery store where the 9-inch standard Pyrex pan used to be. If you’re using farmers market fruit, it costs a fortune to fill that thing. And sorry, but there’s just too much filling to the amount of crust.

The round

This is a pie. Because, it’s what we expect when someone says pie. Pie is one of the more emotionally laden dishes we eat: It telegraphs the Americana of, well, Americana: mom, apple pie, “Little House on the Prairie,” whatever. Even if your mother doesn’t bake, never taught you and Mrs. Smith has been your goddess to this point, that image of a hot pie cooling on a windowsill is quintessentially American. We come from everywhere in the world, but when we take our fork to a triangular piece of barely thickened fruit, sitting in a buttery flaky crust cut out of a round whole pie, we are participating in a happy group ritual. For me, a round pie with a robust, not-too-thin crust has the golden ratio of flaky buttery goodness to just-sweet-enough thickened fruit. It is the Ur-pie, the pie meant to be sliced and served with a cup of nonartisanal, maybe even percolated coffee. I can’t help thinking this. And, as you can tell from my recent math experiment, I have tried.

## Evan's 3-2-1 ratio crust

1

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the fat into tablespoon-sized pieces and add them to the flour mixture. Toss the fat lumps around until they are coated with flour, then use a pastry cutter or your fingers to combine the fat with the flour until the fat is reduced to uneven crumbles, some as large as an almond and others as small as peas. Drizzle over the water and vinegar, and gently stir until the mass comes together (if using a high-fat butter, you might need up to 5 ounces of water). Don’t worry if the dough is a little shaggy; it’s all right as long as it sticks together.

2

Dump the mixture out onto your work surface. Use a bench scraper to gather the crumbs into the mass of dough. Use the heel of your hand to smear the dough away from you a third at a time. You are creating flat layers of flour and butter. After the dough is smeared out gather it back together with the bench scraper, using the scraper to layer the smears on top of each other, creating a mass of dough. Do it again. The dough should come together nicely, but you should still see pieces of butter.

3

Divide the dough in half and form into flat disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least an hour and up to two days. You can also freeze the dough for up to 1 month.

1

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the disks of dough until it is about 2 inches larger in diameter than the baking plate. Fit the dough into the plate and refrigerate. (If the dough is very firm, whack it a few times with the rolling pin to soften so the dough is easier to roll.) Roll out the second disk to make a top crust that is slightly larger than the diameter than the top of the pie plate. Cut out star and moon shapes from the top crust, saving the cutouts for decoration. (If you want to decorate the top with just cutouts, instead of a lattice, cut out more shapes as desired.) Refrigerate the top crust and cutouts.

3

In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, sugar, salt, lemon juice and cinnamon. Taste the mixture. If you think the berries need more sugar. add 1 tablespoon at a time, tasting after each addition until they taste good to you. Add the cornstarch to the seasoned berries and toss well.

4

Remove dough-lined pie plate from the refrigerator and fill with the berries, spreading so the berries evenly fill the pan.

5

Cover the pie: Remove the top crust and/or cutouts from the refrigerator and fit over the prepared pie. Crimp the top crust with the bottom crust if using. If desired, brush the top of the pie with egg wash, and sprinkle over sugar.

6

Put the pie on the lowest rack of oven and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, move pie to a rack in the middle of the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Keep an eye on the pie; if it begins to brown too quickly, loosely tent with foil.

7

Continue to bake until the crust is a deep golden color and the filling is bubbling throughout and the juices have thickened, about 25 minutes more. Carefully remove and cool on a rack until ready to serve. The filling will continue to thicken as the pie cools.

Variations:
If baking a “slab” pie, the amount of filling and dough will need to be increased depending on the size of the pan (we used double the filling and dough to bake a slab pie using an 18-inch by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet).