Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Maine Blueberry Crumble Pie

I was in Maine in July, which is officially National Blueberry Month in both the United States and Canada. On the culinary front, Maine is well-known for its agricultural and seafood bounty, but especially for lobster, maple syrup and blueberries. The state produces 25% of the blueberries sold in North America, making it the largest blueberry producer in the world.

Blueberries are native to North America and there are two types – “lowbush” blueberries which are smaller (and are often called “wild”) and “highbush” blueberries which are typically larger. In the last few years, blueberries have been marketed as health-promoting and disease-preventing because of high levels of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber. Bluberries contain various antioxidant pigments and phytochemicals that may have anti-cancer properties and may also play a role in reducing inflammation, reducing cognitive decline during Alzheimer’s disease, and lowering cholesterol.

As you can imagine, blueberry pie (and many other creative concoctions) were on menus everywhere in Maine. This recipe is inspired by a slice I had at a restaurant in Bar Harbor. The top crust is replaced with a crumble mixture (which uses less butter but more sugar).

Serves 8

1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , chilled
4-6 tablespoons ice water or chilled orange juice

5 cups blueberries (about 2 1/2 pints), washed and dried
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
half lemon, juiced
pinch of salt

3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled

1. To make the crust, in a large bowl mix flour, salt and sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and toss into flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, food processor or two butter knives, mix butter into flour until it resembles coarse meal.
2. Add 4 tablespoons of water or orange juice to the mixture, and with a wooden spoon start to gather the dough. Add more liquid as needed.
3. Once the dough has come together, place it onto a cool, floured surface and knead a few times. Roll into an 11-inch circle. Drape pie crust onto rolling pin to gently transfer it to a metal pie tin. Fold any crust hanging over the edge onto the tin rim, and use your thumb and forefinger to create a scalloped pattern. Put it into the refrigerator or freezer while preparing the filling.
4. I usually double the pie crust recipe. An extra pie crust should be left in a flattened disk (not rolled out), covered in saran wrap, placed inside a Ziplock bag, and frozen immediately. To thaw, place frozen dough into the refrigerator overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
6. To make the filling, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl (you can use the same bowl that you used to make the pie crust) and pour into the pie crust.
7. To make the topping, in a small bowl mix flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the mixture. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture. Pour the mixture evenly over the blueberries.
8. Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 60 minutes or until the berries are bubbling and the crumble mixture has browned. Check the pie after 30 minutes. If you think the crumble is burning, you can shield it by lightly covering it with foil.
9. Remove the pie and let it cool for at least 15 minutes. It will still be slightly warm if you serve it two hours later. Best served with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

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