Just kidding; no one asks that question. National Pie Day was January 23rd, but more recently, National Pi Day was March 14th. The head of the National Pie Council, a former math major, wisely decided to capitalize on Pi day and make it a Pi/e day. I hope you celebrated with a slice and some recreational word problem solving but if not, it’s never too late. I admit to being more of a pie eater than a pie baker. The crust requires a patience and precision I lack but heartily admire in others. Those others include my mother (Grande Dame of Pies), and sisters-in-law.
My SIL, Linda, remains unconvinced of the pleasures of the kitchen. However she once picked wild blackberries and made a pie that was three inches deep and that perfect deep purple color. I sometimes think about that pie when I’m having a bad day to remind myself that there is order and beauty in the world. SIL #2, Deanna, is a fantastic and fancy (Fancytastic!) baker. Her coconut cream pie with a chocolate crust, and her key lime pie, are gorgeous to behold and creamier than anything served on Gilligan’s Island. I have mentioned the island before but fear not, it is not my only available cultural reference! But when one speaks of cream pie, Maryanne’s are the gold standard.This Open Faced Fresh Blueberry Pie is from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible. My mother’s blueberry pies – those delicious, peak moments of my childhood – always had a top crust. Since I am not adept at crust, I deem this covering superfluous. My friend Meg introduced me to this recipe one hot summer day when she came to visit bearing a heaping box of berries, freshly picked. I realize it would be more seasonally appropriate to post this in late July or August when the bushes are groaning under the weight of so much luscious fruit, but pie waits for no one.
This pie is easy to put together and when you eat it you will think you have died and gone to heaven and just as you suspected HEAVEN IS FULL OF PIE. Ingeniously, this recipe requires blind-baking (baking a crust without filling), and then loading the crust with a barely cooked mixture of berries that will then set up, thanks to cornstarch. It’s fresher than the traditionally oven-baked variety and quicker to make. A dollop of whipped cream, vanilla Greek yogurt or – my favorite – sour cream, may not be necessary but may be longed-for.
The abundance and vast assortment of berries practically growing out of the cracks in the sidewalk from June to September are the reward for enduring the marine (soggy and dark) climate of Olympia. From strawberries to raspberries to an array of blackberries (Marion! Richter! Logan! so many types!) it’s a remarkable bounty. We even have salmonberries, red huckleberries and blackcaps growing wild.
I spend a few weeks of each summer in the blueberry fields at Leon Giles’ farm where his father planted the bushes in 1945. The fruit is cheap and plentiful with an assortment of varietals. It is not an organic farm but often Giles can’t be bothered to spray, so the berries are clean enough for me. You may run into a few stems in my pie – sorry about that. I usually manage to fish out the leaves, larger bird nests and squirrels (I am strict about squirrels) but otherwise, I am as imprecise as a mechanical picking machine. On the upside: I’m just as fast.
In honor of National Pi Day, a practical and speculative real-life story problem for you: If I eat a piece of the pie now and a piece at lunch and a piece at dinner, how many pieces will I have eaten by nightfall and how many pieces will I claim to have eaten when questioned by my husband? You do the math.