Got Alaska berries? Make a fresh berry pie with salty crust and maple cream

Over the last month or so, both my mom and my dad have separately mentioned a very memorable, quick, fresh blueberry pie recipe a friend gave them in the 1980s. My mom unearthed it recently, written on a well-loved piece of notebook paper, just as I was working on my own fresh berry pie recipe. It turned out the two were just about the same. Except hers *must* have a graham cracker crust. And, yours can too. The filling is really fast!

There are many versions of this fresh berry pie floating around in Alaska’s recipe boxes. The basics of mine are: a pre-baked salty butter crust, fresh berries tossed with a sweet gel made with cornstarch, topped with maple-cointreau whipped cream.

You can adjust the recipe to use just about any kind of Alaska berry. With a softer berry, like raspberries or akpiks, use more cornstarch and expect them to fall apart more. With a heartier berry, like a blueberry or coastal Alaska salmonberries, you can use less. Generally, it’s good to use lemon juice and zest unless you are using strawberries, which tend to be pretty acidic.

And, you want to reduce the sugar just a touch for sweeter berries, and increase a little for the tart ones. This is a recipe for store-bought blueberries, for example, but with tart, wild bloobs, I recommend adding a little more sugar (see ingredients). For the liquid in the pie, you might decrease just a little if the berries are pretty juicy or increase just a touch if they’re drier. You can sub in orange, apple or pomegranate juice for the water, but reduce the sugar by about one-third.

I use a food processor because it’s really great for making pie crust and it helps make it so your pie gel doesn’t get lumpy. You can absolutely make the crust by hand and crush the berries in a bowl and whisk in the cornstarch.

A note on whipped cream: DON’T WHIP IT TOO MUCH. This pie is best when topped with a pillow of soft, not-too-sweet whipped cream, so keep an eye on it when you’re beating it.

And one last note on pre-baking crust wrapped in foil. It works. But: if you want to line the unbaked pie crust with parchment and fill it with dry beans or pie weights like a traditionalist, go for it.

Fresh berry pies with salted butter crust and maple cream

Ingredients:

Salted butter crust:

One stick salted butter

One cup flour

½ tsp sea salt

2-3 tablespoons ice cold water or vodka

Strawberry filling:

5 cups strawberries hulled and chopped into quarters

¾ cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup water

Zest of one lemon

Blueberry filling:

5 cups blueberries

Zest and juice of one lemon (decrease juice by half for wild berries)

½ cup sugar (unless using wild blueberries, then increase to ¾)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 cup water

Maple cream:

½ pint heavy whipping cream,

½ teaspoon vanilla,

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon cointreau (optional)

Method:

For the salted-butter crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse butter, salt and flour to form a fine meal. Drizzle cold water or vodka into the running processor until the dough begins to coalesce. Remove from the food processor form into a ball, place in a plastic baggie and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the crust and then situate it in a 9-inch pie pan, folding the rough edges under and crimping them. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Next, cover the crust carefully with foil, pressing it to fit, and wrap it over the crimped edges, pressing it gently to fit around them, and tuck under the edges of the pan. This will keep your crust from slipping while it bakes. If you have time, freeze for 10 minutes. Place it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove when the edges are just turning golden.

For strawberry filling: Add one cup of berries, sugar, water, cornstarch to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. (You can also mash ingredients together in a bowl). Place that mixture in a small saucepan with the lemon zest on medium heat. Allow it to boil and then stir it carefully as it thickens, darkens and turns translucent. Fold it in with the fresh, hulled berries. Pour the mixture into your pre-baked crust and allow to cool before you top with whipped cream to serve.

For blueberry filling: And one cup of berries, sugar, water, lemon juice, and cornstarch to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. (You can also mash ingredients together in a bowl). Place that mixture in a small saucepan with the lemon zest on medium heat. Allow it to boil and then stir it carefully until it thickens, darkens and turns translucent. Fold it in with the fresh berries. Pour the mixture into your pre-baked crust and allow to cool before you top with whipped cream and serve.

For the maple-orange whipped cream: In the bowl of a mixer, whip heavy cream, vanilla, maple syrup and cointreau just until soft peaks begin to form. Spoon on top of the cooled berry pie to serve.

You can also find this recipe in the Anchorage Daily News.

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