Photo by Gentl & Hyers
Add more fun to a homemade blueberry and blackberry pie by serving it upside down — with plenty of ice cream, of course. The photo and recipe are from “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen.
Some people equate the word “pie” with coconut cream or lemon meringue or pecan. These are “winter” pie people. Then there are those who think of rhubarb or peach or apple. These are the three-season pie people — the fruitpie people.
For members of the fruitpie tribe, almost nothing says summer more than a toothy smile stained midnight blue from a forkful of blueberry pie, or the spectacular sight of vanilla ice cream melting into the filling.
So it was with glee that I encountered this recipe for an “upside-down” blueberry and blackberry pie in “Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” by Emily and Melissa Elsen, owners of the Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop in Brooklyn in New York. The baked pie is upended on a serving platter, smashed and topped with vanilla ice cream. It turns a pie, they write, into a pie party.
The sisters have what The New York Times called “serious pie-making cred.” They grew up in Hecla, South Dakota, where their mother and aunts ran a restaurant for which their grandmother made all the pies. After several years pursuing big-city careers (Melissa in finance, Emily in the arts), they heeded the siren song of the pie plate and opened their bakery.
Their upside-down pie has some surprising ingredients. An apple is one; the pectin in the apple helps keep the pie from becoming too runny. Ground arrowroot, a starch obtained from the roots of tropical plants, serves the same purpose; it can be found in the baking aisle of most supermarkets. The bitters are an unusual element, but they add what the sisters call “a special something,” enhancing the flavors of the fruit.
The pie can be served in the traditional manner (rightsideup) but that, as the sisters write, “may be a little less fun.”
Black and Blueberry Upside-Down Pie
Pastry for a two-crust 9-inch pie
1 small baking apple (such as Northern Spy or Golden Delicious)
2 to 3 cups blackberries
2 to 3 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar (or more if the berries are tart)
3 tablespoons ground arrowroot
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch ground cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon water
Demerara sugar, for finishing
Vanilla ice cream
Line a pie plate with the bottom crust. Roll out the top crust and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. If you are planning on serving the pie upside down, a disposable aluminum pie plate will make turning out the pie easier.
Peel and shred the apple on the large holes of a box grater. In a large bowl, combine the apple, blackberries, blueberries, lemon juice, sugars, arrowroot, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, salt and bitters. Stir until well mixed.
Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, arrange the pastry round on top, and crimp as desired. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry.
Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Make the glaze: In a cup or small bowl, beat the egg white, water and salt together with a fork. Use a pastry brush to brush this onto the top crust. Sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar. (Demerara is an unrefined, large-grain sugar with a golden yellow color.)
Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 30 to 35 minutes longer.
Allow to cool on a wire rack, but if you are serving this upside down, you will want to serve it warm. Overturn the pie on a large (15- to 20-inch diameter) tray, break the “top” (actually, what was the bottom) of the pie open with a fork, and top with at least four large scoops of vanilla ice cream. Set in the middle of the table for sharing.
If you are not serving it upside down, serve warm or at room temperature, or cool completely and store at room temperature for up to two days, or refrigerated for up to three days.
(Recipe from “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen; Grand Central Life and Style, 2013)
Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.
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