Hold onto your hats, folks, because I’m about to confess something:
I used to not like pie.
I used to think that fruit was best enjoyed fresh, not cooked. And then I met Esther.
I moved to California in July of 2006, just months after graduating college. Since apartment leases didn’t start until September, I had to sub-lease a room in the interim. I rented a room in a 3-bedroom apartment with two other girls.
My parents drove me to California with everything I owned in my Honda Accord. (I wish I still owned so few things!) Three days later, I pulled up to apartment #106 and knocked on the door. Esther opened the door with a big smile, an apron around her neck and flour on her hands. I said “nice to meet you” and walked inside. She was baking an apple pie and watching Paula Deen on TV. Was it written in the stars that we would be best friends or what? Any doubts my parents had about leaving me in a strange state disappeared because of Esther’s friendliness.
Esther and I were instant best friends, and we have been ever since. Actually, everyone who lived in that apartment (including the girl whose room I rented and another girl who took the 3rd roommate’s room a month later) is still good friends. Over bottles of wine, we laugh about how apartment #106 brought us all together. Here we are today, in each other’s weddings.
Esther’s pies made me love pie. Her pies are the kind that drip butter when they are pulled from the oven. They are the kind of pies that taste even better with ice cream, but you still sneak a few bites without it so you can taste the crust and juicy fruit. The pie that made me a believer was her mixed berry pie. It tastes like a triumph. I asked for her recipe and she replied “oh, I just use a bag of frozen mixed berries and make my own all-butter dough.” Like that was an easy task!
I did just like she said, though. I took part of a bag of frozen mixed berries, stirred in some flour and sugar and tucked it into the pie crust. I dolloped sour cream on top, and crimped the edges of the dough closed. I put Paula Deen on the TV just to make sure everything turned out right.
And it did.
I used a 5″ mini deep-dish pie pan that Esther gave me for Christmas last year. Isn’t it darling? You can use a regular 6 or 7″ pie pan, too.
For the crust:
- 1 cup flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons cold water
- 1/4 tsp cornmeal
For the filling:
- 2 cups frozen mixed berries (do not defrost)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sour cream (use full-fat)
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest
- milk for brushing on dough
- extra sugar
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sugar. Cube the butter, then add it to the mixture. Cut it into the flour until coarse crumbs form and the butter is evenly distributed. Add the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of the water. Stir until a dough forms that sticks together when pressed in your hand. If it's not coming together, add the extra tablespoon of water. Chill the dough for 20 minutes before proceeding.
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- Next, divide the dough in half, making one half slightly larger. Roll out the slightly larger piece of dough on a floured cutting board. Fit it into the pie plate. Sprinkle the bottom with the cornmeal.
- Roll out the other half of the dough and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl. Stir until well combined (some loose crumbs may remain). Pour the filling into the pie crust, top with the other pie circle and crimp the edges closed. Cut a slit in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Brush the pie with milk and sprinkle with extra sugar.
- Bake the pie on a baking sheet for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 350 and continue to bake until the crust browns and the filling starts to bubble, about 25-28 minutes.
- Let cool pie completely before attempting to slice.