I took this pie to work with me, fresh out of the oven, in a cake carrier. My Uncle Mark requested it. He’s not the kind of man who eats a lot of dessert–a boxer who prefers Earl Grey tea to coffee–so when he confessed his love of raspberry pie, it was basically an invitation to write a recipe. Who am I to deny this health-conscious person a little pie, especially when it’s the season for fruit pies? This one’s made with good butter, and lemon, and vanilla bean.
He asks for raspberry pie, pure and simple, with no bells and whistles, but I can’t help giving the raspberries a small lift. It’s still early in the season, and the raspberries I find at the market are tiny, and not as sweet as they’ll be in a few weeks. So I use a whole vanilla bean, and a whole lemon, too. They marry well with the all-butter crust. Feel free to substitue (or add) other summer berries, or even stone fruits, as they come into season.
Did you know that cake carriers are not leak-proof? On the subway, with no space to maneuver, I hold the cake carrier to my chest. As the train jangles forward, I watch helplessly as raspberry juice breaks free from the confines of the pie tin, and pools into the floor of the cake carrier. Where is all this juice coming from? Can one pie really contain it all? In the interminable, underground minutes between Brooklyn and Manhattan, I watch futilely as a bright red stain appears, and grows and grows, on my dress. It’s like I’ve been shot in a school play. By the time I tumble off the train, several stops too soon and out of desperation, the cake carrier has become a ring of dripping raspberry droplets.
When I get to the office, I dump the cake carrier in the sink, and lock myself in the bathroom. Off comes my dress. I wash the entire upper half in the sink, scrubbing it with hand soap, and then ring it dry. I wash my shoes and feet. When I emerge from the bathroom, I’m sporting a mostly damp dress, but the day is so humid, it actually feels pretty good. I clean up the cake carrier and arrange the pie prettily on a plate. By the time my Uncle Mark arrives to the office, everything looks as it should.
I present him with the pie. I think he might show it around the office, or offer to share–he’s a generous person by nature. But instead he whisks the pie into his office, and wraps it in foil. Later, I watch him sneak it out of the office. I guess this raspberry pie really is for him, and him alone.
*The Frenchman and I are back from France. We had a spectacular time with his family and friends, and I think it was a most successful birthday gift. In this post, I’m including some shots I took in his town of Angoulins, as well as some shots of Paris.
This is from my Thanksgiving apple pie, but it bears repeating:
A note about butter temperature: Here’s how it is: The colder the butter is going into the crust, the flakier the end result will be. I’ve tried various methods. Most recently, I’ve been slicing butter thinly, then moving said butter to the freezer for a while. However, I just came across this method, courtesy of the smart and kitchen-savvy people at Food52, and it seems both easy and practical.
A note about making the crust: At this point, I’ve tried various methods of crust making: mechanically in the food processor, and manually, with a pastry blender. This time around, I used Saveur’s “techniques for the perfect pie crust“. Since, sadly, I don’t have a chilled marble countertop, I used a baking sheet to make my dough. (I let it sit on top of the air conditioner for a few minutes. Just wipe away any moisture before you start working.) To be honest, no particular method stands out to me, so feel free to make the dough how you’re comfortable. The only important bits are: use the coldest butter and water you can, and try to keep them cold; don’t handle the dough more that you need to; and let the dough rest and chill before you roll it out.
A note about the vanilla bean: If you don’t want to make the vanilla sugar, or don’t have a food processor, simply scrape the vanilla bean, and use your fingers to rub the pod and seeds into the sugar, to perfume it. Alternatively, if you don’t have any vanilla beans, skip this ingredient: I wouldn’t use extract instead. The idea for this vanilla sugar came from Poires au Chocolat, who in turn got it from 101 Cookbooks.
A note about the raspberries: This is a pie for top of the line, peak season, summer farm berries. Nothing else will do.
A note about the juiciness of this pie: I tested this pie twice, the second time adding more cornstarch than the first. It mattered not: I pulled two very wet, juicy pies out of the oven. (The crust absorbs some of this juice, and the pie is less wet on the second day.) I’m choosing to post it anyway, because I think the flavors are delicious, and what’s a little messiness in the summer? However, in the future, I might try different methods of making this pie more portable: tapioca as a thickener, or mixing in natural pectin in the forms of kiwi or apple. This macerate-simmer method also seems promising.
Yields dough for 1, double-crust pie, or 2, single 9-inch pie
- 2.5 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1.5 tablespoons + 3/4 heaping cups sugar, divided
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 5 tablespoons ice water
- 5 cups raspberries
- 1 vanilla bean
- the juice and zest of 1 small lemon
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 2 tablespoons turbino sugar
1. You want the butter to be really, really cold. You can cut it into slivers, into little cubes, or grate it (with a box grater) like in the Food52 video above. Either way, do this cutting about 30 minutes before you’re ready to begin pie making: move the butter to the fridge, or even to the freezer, especially if you’re short on time.
1. Move the flour, the salt, and the sugar to a cool work suface, like a marble countertop. (I used a chilled baking sheet.) Use a whisk (or your fingers) to sift the flour/mix all the dry ingredients together. Deposit the butter on top of the dry ingredients, and, working quickly, use your fingers to squish the butter into the dry ingredients. Do this until you have little butter “pebbles”, about 5 minutes. (It’s not the worst thing if you still see pieces of whole butter; these will bake into flakey, buttery bliss bites.)
2. Pour on the ice water, and work the dough until it forms a cohesive ball. (Try not to overwork it–like I said, the colder the dough stays, the better.) Split the dough into two equal disks, and dust each lightly with a little extra flour; wrap them well in plastic wrap. You want to chill the dough for at least 1 hour in the fridge, but overnight works better. (You can store the dough in the fridge for 1 week, or in the freezer for several months.)
3. Meanwhile, prepare the vanilla-lemon sugar: Cut the vanilla bean into small, 1/2-inch-ish pieces, and move them to the bowl of a food processor. Zest the lemon right into the food processor. (Since my vanilla bean was a bit dried out, I whizzed the vanilla and lemon zest alone for a good 2-3 minutes, then added the 3/4 cup sugar.) Blitz the sugar with the vanilla and lemon zest, until the vanilla bean is largely broken down into flecks and small shards. (Don’t stress if you’re left with tiny pieces of vanilla bean–these will break down in cooking and become soft.) Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl every so often, as the vanilla bean and lemon zest have a tendency to travel up the sides of the bowl, away from the sugar. My total food processor time was about 5-7 minutes, but I reckon it would have taken less time, if my vanilla bean had been plumper. You can make this sugar several days ahead, and store it in an airtight container.
4. Take 1 disk of dough out of the fridge. (I find it’s easiest to roll dough between two layers of floured plastic wrap, but do what works for you. An able-bodied Frenchman is also useful in these situations. You’ll want to roll out both dough disks so that they extend about 1.5 inches larger than the pie plate.) Roll out the first disk, and then lower it into a greased pie plate; use your fingers to press it gently into the contours of the pie dish. Move the pie plate/rolled dough to the fridge. Roll out the second disk and move that to the fridge also, while you prepare the berries.
5. Add the raspberries to a large mixing bowl. Fold in the lemon juice. Fold in the vanilla-lemon sugar. Fold in the cornstarch, until all the raspberries are equally coated.
6. Take the pie plate out of the fridge, and spoon the raspberries into the pie dish. Top the pie simply with the second, rolled out sheet of dough, or get fancy. (Either way, you’ll need cuts in the top of the pie, for steam to escape while cooking.) Crimp the edges of the two sheets of dough together however you like. (If it turns out that you aren’t Martha Stewart, and your dough doesn’t roll into perfect circles, fear not: I always end up patching my pies with extra scraps of dough; you can, too.) Brush the top with the cream, and sprinkle on the turbino sugar. Move the pie to the fridge for 20 minutes.
7. Heat the oven to 375F. When the oven comes to temperature, take the pie out of the fridge. Move the pie to the oven, and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the crust is golden, and the fruit is gently bubbling. Allow the pie to cool before serving.
This is optional, but no one would fault you for serving the pie with: a dollop of crème fraîche-soured whipped cream, maple-sweetened Greek yogurt, or vanilla ice cream. It’s pretty great all on it’s own, though.