A Mid-Summer Day: Roller Coasters and Blackberry Pie for My Two Guys!

Today, my husband Kurt took our son Ken to King’s Dominion, the big amusement park here in the DMV (that’s District, Maryland and Virginia for those not from these parts).  Every summer, they drive ninety minutes to just outside Richmond to spend the day on roller coasters and other thrill-seeking rides while I have the day to myself, childless.  Awesome.  No nagging about summer reading, practicing the violin or doing chores.

What to do?  On the one hand, I have been working on decluttering, based on my friends’ rave reviews of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up;  it’s slow-going at best because I tend to get lost re-examining and reminiscing over every item I’m to decide to keep, donate or throw in the trash.  On the other hand, I had a few pints of blackberries from the farmers’ market and a bowl of pickling cukes from Kurt’s garden.  Locavores that we are, I reminded myself that the produce was at the peak of freshness.  Besides, I hadn’t even ordered the decluttering book on Amazon, and I didn’t want to declutter the wrong way.  (The subtitle of the book is The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing). 

Echoes of my guys’ parting words “We hope the pie will be ready by the time we get home” sealed the deal.  I closed the door to the man-cave, leaving for another day large plastic tubs containing potential keepsakes for every year Ken has been in daycare/school.

July is blackberry month.

Plump, juicy berries!

Plump, juicy berries!

Last year, Kurt bought a flat for me and I made not only pie, but enough blackberry jam to last the year.  It’s a huge hit with the family; in fact, during one of Grace’s visits over the holidays, she saw a jar in the fridge and told me I been holding out on her by not telling her about this culinary effort.  I sent her back to NY with two jars.

This blackberry pie is based on an internet recipe; it stood out among several online because tapioca flour is the thickener for the berries.  My husband, who worked in a bakery as a teen, will not eat any fruit pie made with cornstarch or flour as the thickener.  “Too goopy and gloppy and fake.” (I think McDonald’s fried pies may be an exception, but I’m not sure).

Tapioca flour binds the berry juices and fruit without producing any of that goo.  The first time I made this pie, I didn’t have tapioca flour so I ground  tapioca pearls in my repurposed coffee-grinder spice mill, and was quite nervous when I saw the little white bits among the blackberries.  Cutting into that first pie, however, we were all pleasantly surprised to see a thick blackberry filling without any accompanying glop.  Success and the beginning of myriad new fruit pie adventures.

Here’s what I did while the boys were tilting and twirling around and upside down:

Blackberry Pie with Cinnamon Almond-Oat Topping (adapted from Not Derby Pie)

1 recipe of your favorite pie crust.  My recipe is here; I added two tablespoons of sugar because this is PIE!

for the filling:

  • 6 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and any gross, moldy ones removed
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 TB tapioca flour

for the topping:

  • 2/3 cup oatmeal (I use old-fashioned style, not quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c almond meal
  • 6 TB butter, melted and slightly cooled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut a piece of parchment to line the pie crust and have pie weights or dried beans available.

Here’s my prepared (unbaked) pie crust with dried beans and parchment for lining:

Bake the crust for 25 to 30 minutes or until beginning to brown.  (This partial baking of the pie crust is known as blind-baking).  Remove pie tin to a wire rack (I use my stove top), remove the parchment and pie weights, and let crust cool completely.  I leave my oven on while I complete the pie; if you don’t, remember to preheat the oven back to 400 degrees before assembling the pie.

Blind-baked crust

Blind-baked crust

While the crust is baking, I make the topping:

The oats and flour,

The sugar (I’ve also done this with dark brown sugar and it is very good)

Brown sugar, lightly packed

Brown sugar, lightly packed

Cinnamon and salt,

Almond meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill because Wegman’s carries it and I plan to use it for French macarons when I get around to that recipe).

Almond flour - it's a little clumpy here because I keep it in the freezer.

Almond flour – it’s a little clumpy here because I keep it in the freezer.

Pulse these ingredients about 10 times; this is what it looks like:

I like larger oatmeal flakes, but feel free to process longer if you don't!

I like larger oatmeal flakes, but feel free to process longer if you don’t!

Pour the mixture into another bowl and add the butter, stirring with a fork until well blended.  There should be a mix of big pieces and little bits:

Everything's better with BUTTER!

Everything’s better with BUTTER!

Set the topping aside until it’s time to assemble the pie.

While the crust cools, prepare the filling.  Place the berries in a medium bowl:

These were so good that I had to leave a few out for my mom to enjoy!

These were so good that I had to leave a few out for my mom to enjoy!

Add the sugar,

I added a little less than a half cup because the berries were really sweet.

I added a little less than a half cup because the berries were really sweet.

cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon juice,

lemon zest,

Lemon and berries-- what's not to like?

Lemon and berries– what’s not to like?

and tapioca flour.

Looks like cornstarch, but is far superior for thickening!

Looks like cornstarch, but is far superior for thickening!

Mix gently and let rest for 20 minutes.

Let the flavors mingle!

Let the flavors mingle!

When the berries are ready, it’s time to assemble the pie.  Gently pour the berries into the blind-baked crust, evenly distributing throughout the pie tin:

It's OK if the berries are piled high.

It’s OK if the berries are piled high.

Spread the crumb topping as evenly as possible over the berries.  I like to have both chunks and bits.

The baked topping is crunch, nutty and sweet!

The baked topping is crunch, nutty and sweet!

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 and bake another 40 to 50 minutes until crust and topping are golden brown and filling is bubbling.  Note: If the topping or crust browns too quickly, gently place a piece of aluminum foil over the pie (do not crimp down).  Let pie rest at least half an hour before serving.

Let this rest to set the filling!

Let this rest to set the filling!

Berry goodness with no goo or glop– and the guys LOVED it!

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3 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts, Family

3 responses to “A Mid-Summer Day: Roller Coasters and Blackberry Pie for My Two Guys!

  1. Amy

    I’m glad you’re back in the blogging mode!

  2. Minnie

    Happy to see you blogging again. Will definitely try this pie.

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