Getting over fruit-pie shyness

A from-scratch fruit pie wasn't something I would have made for a once-a-month dinner group get-together until I saw a picture of Rose Levy Beranbaum's (the author of the legendary "The Cake Bible") single-crust blueberry pie.

My experiences with scratch-made pies in general and blueberry pies specifically have not been good, which is why I've never shared a single recipe for pie crust, let alone a scratch-made fruit pie of any kind.

The last standard blueberry pie I made, around 14 years ago, tasted great with fresh-picked North Carolina blueberries but the filling just didn't thicken and ran all over the plates. And, the crust wasn't sufficiently baked either and had a raw dough texture and flavor. See, fruit-pie shy.

I considered that it would be easy for me to try Beranbaum's pie since I already had a pie crust left over from a no-corn-syrup pecan pie I had successfully made for Thanksgiving.

Yes, I know, blueberry season's months away, but that blueberry pie picture looked sooooo good I just had to make one. And, I wanted to eliminate the half-cup added sugar (387 calories) Beranbaum used. Bottom line: I wanted a slice of fresh, homemade blueberry pie right now; not months from now.

Since I already had a crust, I skipped Beranbaum's pie crust recipe, which seemed a little fussy.

If you're willing to try to make a scratch-made pie crust know that the shortening, whether you're using butter or the classic, lard, or vegetable shortening like Crisco, all need to be just the right temperature. Too soft and the shortening blends completely with the flour, at which point you're making a large cookie. If the shortening's too hard, it's almost impossible to blend it properly with and into the flour.

For my Thanksgiving pie, I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe and methods for that crust. The end results were impressive; beautifully golden brown and almost perfectly flaky. Feeling adventurous? Here's CI's crust recipe:

Beranbaum's recipe required blind baking the crust. Blind baking means that the crust is baked before filling until it's golden brown using pie weights.

Pie weights? Yes. Pie weights can be a pound of dried beans, like kidney beans or purchased ceramic or metal pie weights.

Once baked and cooled slightly I painted my crust's bottom and sides with egg white to keep the filling from making the crust soggy.

Beranbaum's filling is a breeze to make and went together beautifully, even though I used stevia instead of sugar. I poured the filling into my pre-baked crust and let it sit for two hours and then whisked it off to the party.

Even though there were several chocolate desserts provided, my fresh, single-crust blueberry pie disappeared quickly, long before any of the chocolate desserts.

Winner, winner; fresh blueberry pie for dinner.

If you don't want to make your own crust, I like Trader Joe's pie crust because it contains no trans fats, as some others can.

Email Don Mauer at

No-Sugar-Added One-Crust Fresh Blueberry Pie

1 Trader Joe's Pie Crusts -- Gourmet, 9-inch

1 tablespoon egg white, lightly beaten

4 cups blueberries, rinsed and dried

1/2 liquid cup and two tablespoons water, divided

2 tablespoons cornstarch

13 packets organic stevia or other natural sugar substitute

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Pinch of salt

Place the oven rack in the middle position and begin heating the oven to 425 degrees.

Bake the crust: Follow the pie crust's package directions and place in a 9-inch pie pan, crimping the crust's edges. Line the pie crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil (it keeps the pie weights from sticking) and fill with dried beans or ceramic pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the beans or weights with the parchment or foil. With a fork, prick the crust's bottom and sides, and bake 5-10 minutes, or until pale golden. Check after 3 minutes and prick any bubbles that may have formed.

Cool the crust on a rack for 3 minutes, so it is no longer piping hot, then brush the bottom and sides of the warm crust with the egg white.

Make the filling: Measure out 1 cup of the blueberries, choosing the softest ones. Place them in a medium saucepan together with the 1/2 cup water. Cover and bring them to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Set it aside.

When the water and blueberries have come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring constantly for 3 to 4 minutes or until the blueberries start to burst and the juices begin to thicken. Re-whisk the cornstarch mixture (it settles) and then, stirring constantly, add the cornstarch mixture, stevia or natural sugar substitute, lemon juice, and salt. Simmer for a minute or until the mixture becomes translucent. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and with a large rubber spatula, quickly fold in the remaining 3 cups of blueberries.

Spoon the blueberry mixture into the baked pie shell, smooth out the top and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 8

Nutrition values per serving: 242 calories (45.8 percent from fat), 12.2 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 29.9 g carbohydrates, 9.5 g sugars, 3.8 g fiber, 2.8 g protein, 5 mg cholesterol, 64 mg sodium.

Based on Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie recipe.