I once found them dull, but they’ve grown on me, the blueberries. They’re the stray marbles populating the bottom of my basket, rolling across the red cottage oak floor, staining the soles of my bare feet. No, they aren’t as brash as blackberries or succulent as summer peaches, but their mild mannered disposition plays well with others. They don’t upstage, and when baked they burst into a sweet, sticky jam.
Plentiful and thus affordable this time of year, I stock up on them weekly at the market, and they find their way into everything from smoothies to ice cream to whatever baked good I’m playing at that week. Yes, they’ve grown on me, but it’s not just because they’re delicious or because they please the man I love (thought the latter reason alone was enough to possess me to buy them in bulk…) but because in addition to all of that they contain an abundance of powerful phytonutrients that possess magical healing properties.
The blue of the berry comes from a high concentration of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant. These are responsible for the vibrant blue pigmentation. Blueberries also contain a host of other antioxidants, those crusaders of the blood stream that combat dangerous free radicals. If you’re compelled, as I am, to buy them in bulk when they’re in season, take note: they freeze well, retaining their nutritional properties. Shown to improve overall cognitive functioning and combat the effects of aging, blueberries are commonly cited amongst the “super foods” for good reason: these unassuming berries holistically mend our literal hearts and minds.
So. I put some in a pie. Which arguably nullifies the above accolades. That said, there’s no doubt that blueberry pie (most especially tiny blueberry pies) mend, at the very least, our figurative hearts and minds. And, in my defense, more often than not, our blueberries find themselves in the illustrious company of brewer’s yeast, flaxseed oil, and raw goat’s milk in breakfast smoothies, but it being the season of picnics and patriotism, I give you these all American blueberry hand pies…with, naturally, a twist.
Blueberry, Basil, and Goat Cheese Hand Pies
makes about 10-12 4″ hand pies
These rustic, blue-blooded hand pies possess both the physical health benefits of the blueberry and the spiritual benefits of pie. The berries play harmony to the melody of creamy, tart goat cheese & buttermilk and the sweet anise lilt of fresh basil. For a more traditional comfort, omit the cheese and basil and substitute heavy cream for the buttermilk and sugar for the honey. Flavor to taste with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla extract.
For Thomas Keller’s Buttery Pastry Shell
(via Smitten Kitchen)
2 cups (250 g) all purpose flour, divided + extra for dusting
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks / 225 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice cold water
1 pint (about 2 cups) blueberries
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp honey (or to taste)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
small pinch of salt
about 2 Tbsp flour to thicken
1 Tbsp whole milk
raw sugar, for sprinkling
Prepare pastry crust. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix 1 cup of the flour with all of the salt. Then, with the machine on low speed, add the bits of butter, a handful at a time, until the butter is completely incorperated. Add the remaining flour until just blended, then the cold water until thoroughly incorporated. Dump dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, divide it equally in two, and form each piece of dough into a flat, round disc. Wrap them with the plastic and chill for at least one hour and up to two days. It can also be frozen for up to three months.
Heat oven to 400° F.
Prepare filling. Mix blueberries with all of the ingredients except the flour. Sprinkle flour gradually over top and mix well until desired consistency is reached and mixture is smooth. Cover and chill while you roll out the pastry.
Generously flour your work surface. Place one chilled, unwrapped dough on the flour and flour the top of the dough. Keep the other disk refrigerated while you work. Gently roll your dough out from the center until about 1/8 inch thick. Re-flour your surface as needed, continually lifting and rotating your dough to make sure no parts are sticking. If the dough becomes difficult to work with at any point, chill for a few minutes in the freezer on a baking sheet before continuing.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut an even number of circles in desired size using a floured biscuit cutter or the base of a small bowl. (I made 4″ pies using the base of a rice bowl.) Lay circles on parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly beat egg with milk for wash in a small bowl.
Top half the circles with a small amount of filling, brush edged with egg wash, top with another round, and seal edges by crimping with a fork. Brush top with wash, sprinkle with raw sugar, and cut to vent. When completed place in the refrigerator to chill and repeat with other disc of dough and remaining filling.
When second sheet of pies are formed, put in fridge and remove the first sheet. Bake for the first batch for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom. Repeat with second batch, allowing all pies to cool on a rack.