I ate my first blueberry when I was 16. It was just days into my kitchen career. Ray was the pastry chef left with the new boy. He was a good natured Kiwi with a foul mouth and a permanent grin. As he scooped a mound of reddish-blue berries into a sweet pastry case, he winked at me. “Fuckin’ blueberries they call ‘em,” he said smiling, “but I call ‘em Yankee berries!”
Ray was right, sort of. The commercially cultivated blueberry flourished first in North America in the 1920s. The Yankees still have the market cornered. The wild varieties go way back. New England colonists called them hurtleberries and later, huckleberries. The Indians of North America dried them in the sun and used them like currants in sweet puddings. Even more, they pounded dried berries into a powder to flavour meat and soups.
It’s no wonder I’d never met a blueberry before Ray. Though the Australian-grown berries are now prolific, they were not cultivated here until the 1970s. Now, though, I love ‘em. So does my beloved. And if their regular placement right by the entrance to our local supermarket is any indication, we’re not alone.
Given the local varieties are coming to their season’s end here in Oz, I grabbed a couple of punnets just the morning and, in honour of Ray, I made my f*ckin’-blueberry pies. His were much better, but these aren’t too bad.
You could give them a go.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED
For the pastry
1/2 cup caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the filling
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups blueberries
HERE’S WHAT YOU DO
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Lightly grease 8 small, loose bottomed tart pans (approximately 9cm in diametre). You could always make one larger pie in a regular tart pan, but these little ones are much more fun!
- Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. You can do this in an electric mixer, but you and a decent wooden spoon will do just as well.
- Add in the egg and keep mixing until it’s well combined.
- Mix in the flour and baking powder. It should come together quite easily into a soft dough.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces and press each one into the bottom and sides of a pan with your fingers and thumbs. Once you are done, trim the edges so they’re nice and tidy. You could always roll the dough out and cut rounds to size, but the feel of the dough is lovely, and lovely is good.
- Sit the pans on a large baking tray and set aside while you make the filling.
- In a large bowl whisk together the creme fraishe, yoghurt, sugar, egg and vanilla until you have a smooth consistency.
- Pour the mixture into the tart cases and top with the blueberries divided evenly.
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry edges are lightly golden and the custard is set.
Let the pies rest to room temperature before removing them from the pans. Serve just as they are, or with a little extra cream. Either way, you’ll grin like Ray. 🙂