Though most of us think of fruit pies as having both a bottom and a top crust, this recipe is for an old-fashioned British pie, usually baked in a deep oval porcelain pie dish, with only a top crust. This eliminates the risk that the bottom crust may become soaked through with the abundant juices of the filling and remain underbaked, or become soggy after baking.
This recipe is adapted from Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book (Athaneum, 1982). Jane Grigson was one of Britain’s most gifted food writers of the twentieth century, and she has left us an outstanding legacy of excellent food and writing. This particular recipe cleverly calls for cooking half the blackberries with some water and the apple parings to take advantage of the abundant pectin in the apple cores and peels to thicken the juices of the pie. It is a pretty juicy affair, nonetheless.
Yield: One 12-inch oval pie, about 8 generous serving.
Cream short crust pastry:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
7 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Blackberry and apple filling:
2 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced (reserve the peels and cores)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 pound (about 3 half-pint baskets or one and a half 12-ounce bags frozen) blackberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Egg wash: 1 egg well beaten with a pinch of salt
Additional sugar for sprinkling the dough
One 12-inch-long enameled iron or earthenware gratin dish, about 2½ quarts in capacity
1. For the pastry dough, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse 4 or 5 times, or until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the cream and pulse 2 or 3 times, but do not allow the dough to form a ball. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Gently squeeze and press the dough together and form it into an oval. Chill the dough in plastic wrap while preparing the filling.
2. For the filling, in a large bowl toss the apple slices with the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the rest of the filling.
3. Put half the blackberries and the apple peels and cores in a large saucepan. Stir to combine and add the water. Cook over medium heat until the mixture becomes very juicy and liquid. Continue cooking until the juices are slightly reduced. Strain the mixture to eliminate the peels and seeds and measure it. You should have about 2/3 cup liquid. If you have too much, boil down the mixture. Stir the sugar into the strained juices and set aside.
4. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
5. Make a layer of about a third of the apple slices in the gratin dish and sprinkle about half of the blackberries over them. Repeat with another third of the apples and the remaining blackberries. Top with a layer of the remaining apples. Pour the cooked, sweetened blackberry juice evenly over the fruit.
6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured work surface. Flour the dough and press it with the rolling pin in gentle parallel strokes to soften it slightly. Roll the dough to the size of the dish you are using. Slide a cookie sheet or a 12-inch tart pan bottom under the dough and transfer it to the dish, sliding it onto the filling. Brush the egg wash on the dough and sprinkle it with sugar. Cut several 2-inch vent holes in the top crust with the point of a knife.
7. Bake the pie until the pastry is baked through and the apples are tender, about 40 minutes. Push the point of a knife through one of the vent holes to see if the apples have softened. When they are fully cooked they should offer no resistance to the knife.
The dish traditionally used for this pie is not readily available from American sources. I have chosen an oval gratin dish (you can also use a 9 × 13 × 2-inch glass pan). It makes a thinner pie, but it also increases the amount of pastry in relation to the fruit, which I think is best. Serve the pie warm or at room temperature. Use a large serving spoon to scoop out portions of the pie, first cutting through the crust into a portion-sized piece, then scooping under the filling to lift out a piece of the pie. If you don’t manage to get enough of the fruit on the spoon, pile more next to the portion of pie. Serve with thick liquid cream. Grigson says that clotted cream, sometimes available in American supermarkets, is the best. Failing either of these, whipped cream makes an adequate substitute.
Keep the pie at room temperature until you intend to serve it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep leftovers at room temperature.