Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wild Blackberries Pie

Madrid is just beautiful in Autumn, the weather is perfect, the colors of the city start changing to offer  beautiful scenes throughout its streets and especially in its numerous parks. To top that, just few kilometers outside of Madrid you can explore the most amazing villages and mountains dotted with beautiful forests, rolling hills and much more. Pines, oaks, chestnuts  are some of the many trees you would find there, even more, scattered throughout these villages and forests you find lovely blackberry bushes. Blackberries are not only beautiful to look at but they have a unique acid flavor that's quite addictive. Picking them from the wild brings back many of my favorite childhood memories.

Not far from Madrid there's a small village by the name of Rascafria. Blackberries there seem to ripen later in the season and I couldn't pick any fruits until the first week of October. The first batches I picked were consumed fresh, as they were pretty hard to resist, however, I picked some more to use in a delicious and easy to make pie.

To make this pie you need a really nice and flaky pie dough and two main ingredients for the filling, that's it!
If you're feeling lazy or don't have enough time, you can buy a ready-made pie crust, but make sure that it is made with butter! However, once you master the art of making a good flaky pie crust you can never be satisfied with bought ones. Often, I make more dough than I need and I freeze the rest to be used later on.

For the crust you need
  • 400 g flour
  • 220 g very cold butter, cubed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ice water, between 4 to 6 tbsp   
To get a flaky and delicious crust you need to work with  ingredients that are really cold. I start by mixing the dry ingredients in the food processor and place the container in the freezer for about 20 to 30 minutes. You can omit this step, I have done so in the past and have gotten very good results, but it is worth the time investment as the dough will be even more crumbly and flaky when all ingredients are cold. Meanwhile, prepare the butter by cutting it into small cubes and then freeze them until they are very firm.
I then take out my ingredients from the freezer, add the butter to the flour mix and pulse for about 30 sec to one min maximum. Then I add the icy cold water, one tbsp at a time. This is where you need to be careful not to add too much water and not to overwork your dough. Once the dough just barely comes together stop mixing. It is acceptable if the dough does not come together in a single ball, that's not the aim.
Now, line a clean working surface with cling film (or aluminum foil if you prefer), remove the dough from the food processor onto the cling film. Work the dough slightly with your hands so it comes together and shape it into a disk. Cover it with the cling film and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. It is better if you prepare the dough one day ahead, which is what I usually do.
The amount of water that you will add depends on the quality of the flour and the water contained in the butter. Don't be tempted to put more water as the dough might seem dry at first, but when it rests in the fridge, it comes together nicely and the butter is absorbed  by the flour.

Now that you have the dough, it's time to prepare the filling and for it you need:
  • 300 g wild blackberries (or any other berries you prefer)
  • 60 g sugar (I don't like the filling to be too sweet, but if you want it to be sweeter, add more sugar)
  • The seeds of a vanilla pod or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • a dash of cinnamon (optional)
  • Cream and sugar for the top
Once you have all your ingredients ready, just mix together and you're done, the filling is ready to be poured into the pie shell.

Remove the pie dough from the fridge 10 to 15 min before you start working with it. Cut it into two portions, with a bigger one for the base and a smaller portion for the top. Roll out the base portion out until it's 6mm thick and it's big enough to cover the pie pan. Pour the fruit mix into the pan.

For the top layer, you can roll it into one single layer or you can get creative and create a lace effect like I did and cut some pie into nice leaf shape. Whatever design you might do, don't forget to leave enough room for the steam from the cooking fruits to escape or else the pie would be too wet.

Finally, brush the crust  with cream then sprinkle with sugar for  extra crunch!

Bake the pie in a preheated oven (180) for at least 40 minutes. Note that the top will bake faster than the bottom of the pie that's why cover the top with aluminium foil, and remove it after 20 to 30 min
of baking.

Serve the pie with some whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon! Enjoy!

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