Written by Thor Erickson
Photography by Tambi Lane
When I was about three years old, my parents emptied their savings account and bought a small bakery. For the previous forty years, this bakery had earned a reputation for producing all kinds of cookies, pastries, cakes and pies. As part of the sale, before hanging up his apron and retiring, Ernie, the original owner, agreed to train my father how to operate the business. Although my dad had a bit of kitchen experience, when it came to baking, he was a newbie.
Ernie prided himself on maintaining operating costs for the bakery. He bought flour, sugar and spices in large quantities, used bottled flavor extracts and pre-made fruit fillings packed in five-gallon buckets. With the exception of dairy products, none of the ingredients were perishable. With minimal storage, all of these items were stacked high and took up every last inch of space.
Despite the change in ownership, regular customers continued to flock in the door and my dad worked day and night to stay ahead, baking loaves of bread and pastries in the morning, cookies and pies midday, cakes in the afternoon and prepping for the next day in the evening. I would often go to work with my parents so they could learn the trade and stay ahead. I napped on sacks of flour, snacked on day-old fruit danish and rode my tricycle across the flour-dusted floors.
One day while my father was rolling out pie crusts for a special order, I entertained myself by climbing on the stack of flour sacks. I enjoyed the vantage point— farther above the ground than I’d ever been. Once my dad realized where I was and how high I had climbed, he came to help me get down. Before he could get to me, I slipped feet first onto one of the plastic, five-gallon buckets. The lid caved in instantly. I suddenly found myself up to my underwear in blackberry filling. This was the filling that was about to go into the pies. After a few curse words and a change of pants respectively, we were off to the produce market where dad bought fresh blackberries for the pies. I remember how wonderful they smelled as they baked and the dark juices that bubbled from beneath the golden crust as my father slid them out of the oven.
The customers raved about the pies and celebrated the new bakery ownership. My father began using fresh ingredients from then on, and our bakery became a great success. I will take all the credit.
FOR THE CRUST
FOR THE FILLING
FOR THE EGG WASH
Separate yolks and whites from 2 eggs. Keep the yolks. Save the whites for tomorrow’s breakfast.
FOR THE DOUGH
Mix flour, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut butter into ½-inch cubes and toss with flour mixture to break up the pieces. With your fingertips, smash each cube flat—do not overwork the butter. Stir in water, then knead dough against the sides of the bowl until it comes together in a shaggy ball. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
Cut the chilled dough into two equal pieces. Using as much flour as needed, roll one piece into a 14-inch circle. This size allows room to line the pie plate, with enough overhang to form a border. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. The dough should be easy to handle and not sticky. Dust off excess flour with a pastry brush, using it to nestle dough into the bottom of the pie pan. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim the edge, leaving 1 1/4 inches hanging over the edge all around. For a solid top crust, roll remaining dough as before. For a lattice-top pie, roll into a 9-by 15-inch rectangle and cut 1-inch lattice strips.
Transfer to a baking sheet or parchment-lined cutting board. (The parchment will prevent the dough from absorbing any savory odors from the board.) Wrap both portions in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
FOR THE FILLING
Mix all the ingredients together gently. Place filling into pie shell and dot with pieces of butter the size of your thumb nail.
ASSEMBLING THE PIE
Lay the pastry lid on top and crimp the edges together. Brush all of the exposed crust with egg wash. Evenly sprinkle a dusting of sugar over the crust. Refrigerate the pie for 1 hour.
BAKING THE PIE
Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 20 minutes until the top begins to turn golden brown. Lower the oven to 350. Continue baking until the top crust is golden and berry juice is bubbling and slightly thick. This should take about 40 to 45 minutes. Keep in mind that all pies and ovens are different.
Let the pie cool for several hours before serving with vanilla ice cream.