Recipe quick takes: Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ Lavender Blueberry Pie

Blueberries are one of the finest flavors of summer, and even though they’re not yet in season here, big containers of them have been showing up in the supermarkets lately, imported from other states with earlier seasons. Meanwhile, it is lavender season. I’ve never used lavender as a food ingredient before, but Lavender Blueberry Pie from the “Summer” section of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book (by Emily and Melissa Elsen; Grand Central Life & Style, 2013; p. 117) looked like a pretty easy and tasty pie to use some of those blueberries I picked up at the market — and so it turned out to be. The most complicated part of it was finding a source of food-grade lavender oil; I ended up having to mail-order it after I struck out at all my local sources. (Whole Foods carries lavender oil in the “body” section, but it’s not labeled for food use; of the other places I tried, Williams-Sonoma had dried lavender flowers, but not the oil, and none of the other retailers had either one.)

This pie uses the standard pâte brisée that most of the Elsens’ other pies use; I’ve already covered that recipe in full detail so won’t repeat it here. I’ve also covered the construction of lattice-topped fruit pies with another example from this same cookbook, which is why this is just a “quick take” and not a full walkthrough.

Mise en place
The mise en place is pretty standard for the Elsens’ fruit pies: lots of fruit, a baking apple (to be peeled and grated), arrowroot, fresh lemon juice, and sugar. The spice here is allspice, along with a couple dashes of Angostura bitters, and of course the aforementioned lavender oil — just a couple of drops, it’s very strong and goes a long, long way. There are two whole pounds of blueberries in this pie!

Completed pie with lattice top
All of the ingredients are mixed together, with some of the blueberries being crushed by hand — if the Test Kitchen people got a hold of this recipe, I’m sure they would have cooked down half of the blueberries, driving off excess water to make a jam. The lattice top is painted with egg wash and then sprinkled with demerara sugar for browning. Like any double-crust pie, there’s no opportunity for blind baking the bottom crust, since it has to get crimped together with the top crust after the filling goes it; to make up for this, the Elsens say to preheat a half-sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven at 425°F (220°C), and after 20 minutes of cooking, reduce the temperature to 375°F (190°C) so the top doesn’t burn.

Fully baked pie, cooling
And there’s the result. My pies — at least the ones I bake using the Elsens’ high-butter pie crust recipe — always tend to leak a lot of butter into the pan, and the crimp on this one didn’t quite stay up, so some of the filling leaked as well, thus the paper towels to keep the mess from dripping through the cooling rack and onto my countertop.

Pie minus one slice
I took a slice for myself after the pie had completely cooled. As you can see, the filling was quite runny, but most of the blueberries had remained intact — I’m not sure if that meant I should have crushed more of them, or if this recipe is just expected to be that way. I would note that the top crust shown in the cookbook is not a lattice, like I made, but a fancier pattern that covers less of the filling, perhaps allowing more evaporation — but the instructions say you can even use a solid top.

Single slice of (somewhat messy) pie on plate
This was my slice. The pastry was a bit weak where the lattice met the crimped edge, so the sides had a tendency to fall away, but it was still very tasty, with a noticeable (but not unpleasant) lavender scent and good blueberry flavor. I brought the rest of the pie into work (I took some time off from my vacation to attend a group lunch and our weekly staff meeting), and everyone who had some loved it — and they particularly liked the fact that there were still a lot of whole(ish) blueberries in the filling, rather than blueberry jam. As usual, they loved the crust; I’ve always had better response to this crust than my own opinion of it.

Nutrition

The recipe headnote says “8 to 10” servings, but I made this pie as 12 servings. Some of my coworkers took rather more than that, though!

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/12 pie
Servings per recipe: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 334 Calories from fat 136
% Daily Value
Total Fat 15g 23%
 Saturated Fat 9g 47%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 48mg 16%
Sodium 199mg 8%
Potassium 120mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 48g 16%
 Dietary fiber 3g 12%
 Sugars 24g
Proteins 3g 7%
Vitamin A 12%
Vitamin C 13%
Calcium 2%
Iron 7%
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