Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Blueberry Pie

For Pi Day, I baked a blueberry pie. But I didn’t want to make just any ordinary blueberry pie. I wanted to make the perfect blueberry pie, so I made America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Blueberry Pie.

This year’s Pi Day was particularly special. It took place on 3/14/15, which also happen to be the first five digits of pi. That’s something that won’t happen again for another 100 years. What also made the day really special was that I got to spend it with my close group of high school friends. We rented a house near Paso Robles for the weekend so that we could all be together and have a mini reunion. And of course, we ate pies.

And to really celebrate the occasion, we ate the pies at exactly 9:26:53, marking the first ten digits of pi. We had to do it at night because we actually weren’t all yet together at 9 AM. We made an exception for the kids though. They were so excited by the pies and they needed to go to sleep before 9 PM, so they ate their pies early.

This is the first Pi Day where I’ve eaten four slices of pie. It was glorious and I was so full. Afterwards, we attempted to play Trivial Pursuit, but failed to finish collecting all the pie wedges. And before it was midnight, nearly everyone was ready for bed. Boy, have times changed.

If you’ve ever made any of America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes, you know they have really precise steps and it can get quite complicated. I enlisted Mr. K to help me with this recipe and he grumbled the whole way through. It was the first time we were attempting the recipe, and we struggled quite a bit with the crust.

The crust is called “Foolproof Pie Dough.” It may be nearly impossible to completely ruin the dough, but it’s also a very difficult dough to work with because it is so soft. The recipe also instructs you to make very precise circle cuts into the top pie crust, instead of the lattice I usually favor. This made my pie crust come out looking quite rustic and I wish it had a prettier finish. I also really didn’t understand the 6 circles. Unless you are splitting the pie into only 6 servings, you end up having cuts of pie where half the top layer of crust is missing, which looks awkward.

So was the pie the best blueberry pie ever? I do think it was a pretty good blueberry pie, but I don’t know about the best. You know how sometimes you take one bite of something and you immediately think it’s the most amazing thing you ever ate? This didn’t happen for me with this pie.

I think this pie’s superior qualities are more subtle. As in, the initial bite might not stand out, but if you were to taste a line of pies and were grading each of the criteria, you’d find this pie having high marks for all the characteristics of a good blueberry pie: crust, filling gumminess, filling runniness, etc.

Because blueberries aren’t quite yet in season, I used frozen ones and followed the instructions for using frozen berries. I can’t help but think that the pie would be much better with fresh berries though because this pie was missing some of that juiciness I love in blueberry pies.

My favorite part of the pie was the crust though. It was the perfect amount of flaky, buttery, and crunch for my ideal pie crust. Another one of my friends pointed that out, so I’m glad I’m not alone in my thoughts.

Would I make this again? Yes. Now that I’ve gone through the it once, I think the next time around should be easier. I might tweak a few things, but it was pretty tasty.

You can view the original recipe in its entirety, along with explanations, here.

My notes

  • I don’t think the top pie crust needs to have the 1 1/2 inch circles. You can probably just use whatever top crust design you prefer like lattice or slits.
  • Don’t be afraid to use more flour on your pastry board surface than the 1/4 cup stated in the recipe. My dough was far too soft and I definitely needed more. But do keep in mind, the more flour you add, the tougher the crust becomes.
  • Lately, I’ve started using a marble pastry board for my pastry making, but for pies, I still prefer using my Catskill Pastry Board because it has all the measurements written right on the board.

Cook's Illustrated Best Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

  • Foolproof Pie Dough
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for work surface
  • teaspoon table salt
  • tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup vodka, cold (see note)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Blueberry Filling
  • cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
  • Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
  • teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 3/4cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground (see note)
  • pinch table salt
  • tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

Please go to America's Test Kitchen for recipe instructions. I recommend you thoroughly read all their notes before starting.

All images and content are © Kirbie's Cravings.

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8 comments on “Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Blueberry Pie”

  1. I love the ATK guys! Didn’t know you’re a subscriber. From the looks of it, you made it perfectly just like their original recipe. The idea for Pi day celebration with a group of friends is so neat! Though it sounded spontaneous, I bet you’ve actually planned long and hard for it, right?

    • The ATK guys are so great about really researching their recipes! Yes, the trip was planned for awhile. It wasn’t really meant just for Pi day, but the fact that this happened to be the only weekend everyone was free (several people even flew in from the East Coast), made it even better since our group of friends have always been slightly obsessed with Pi day. Though I imagine you can definitely get together with a group of your friends nearby and throw a little Pi day party. Eating tons of pies is so much fun!

  2. Nothing beats a slice of classic blueberry pie! All this needs is a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.. and I’m set!

  3. It looks absolutely perfect! I’d have eaten way too much of it!

  4. I’m a very accomplished baker and fan, usually, of ATK, but this pie was a huge disappointment.  Maybe I was spoiled living in Maine once where wild blueberries are available, but the frozen or fresh cultivated ones we get in the Bay Area can’t compare.  I’ve stopped making blueberry desserts…but I love pie.  I think I’ll try Martha Stewart’s recipe. (And look harder for frozen wild berries which we used to be able to buy.) I like her pate brisee for crusts much better than this one which we found  flavorless.  And I think the apple ruins the flavor and texture.  We dumped it in the garbage after a few bites.   

    • I can imagine the wild blueberry pies must taste magical! hmm, I found the crust very buttery. Also I couldn’t taste the apple. did you make sure to use a granny smith? it was there more for getting the thicker texture than anything, which is why they specify granny smith.

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