My little sister, Anna, is a tiny bit obsessed with Chicago. I’m not sure how many times she has visited, exactly, though I know she’ll be making another voyage soon. For the past couple years, she’s been talking about a pie she saw featured on TV from a Chicago bakery called Bang Bang Pie Shop. What’s so intriguing about this pie is that it has both fresh and cooked berries.
Since my sister turned 23 this past week, I decided I’d give this pie a try. I did a quick search and found this video online, which shows the shop, and, lo and behold, [former] owner, Megan Miller, making the very blueberry pie in question! If I wasn’t due to give birth any day now, I might have decided to tag along with my sister to Chicago after seeing the video. The exposed brick is adorable, and who doesn’t love pie? Bang Bang, you’re on my “to visit” list, that’s for sure.
In preparation for the birthday pie, I went blueberry picking with both my sisters and my niece and nephew on July 4th. I chose my berries carefully, while Anna employed child labor to fill her bucket in half the time, but with many subpar berries. I’m convinced the real reason child labor laws got passed is because 2-year-olds make absolutely terrible workers. There’s no quality control! It’s anarchy.
Now, I have heard tell that Bang Bang uses leaf lard in their pie crusts. I wasn’t willing to track some down, so I stuck with my go-to all-butter pie crust, but opted to use Plugrá European butter because I wanted nothing but the best for my sissy. The pie crust has to be blind baked, because the filling is actually made on the stovetop. Unfortunately, my first pie crust shrunk dramatically in the oven, so I had to make a second crust. Not to worry; my husband and I broke up pieces of the first pie crust and mixed them with some leftover blackberry sauce I made a few weeks ago. It was makeshift bowl-pie! Waste not, want not, right?
I didn’t have time to control all the variables in a scientific way, but I believe the biggest factors that affected the shrinkage were the type of pie pan I used and also my pie weights. The first pie crust was baked in a Pyrex glass pie dish, and I used ceramic pie weights that I’ve had sitting around for a couple years. The pie weights only covered the bottom of the crust, and the sides slid down the smooth surface of the glass. With the second crust, I opted for a metal pie tin and filled the thing almost all the way up with dried beans. The beans pressed against the sides of the crust and helped secure it into place. Two thumbs up.
In the video about Bang Bang’s pie, they mention that the filling is comprised of blueberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and red wine. I thought it was curious that they didn’t mention using a thickening agent (e.g. flour, cornstarch, or tapioca starch). Based on my own experience with sauces and pie fillings, I decided to add some cornstarch to ensure a stable filling, and I do not regret that decision! I’ve never had a pie filling come out so perfect and un-runny. Stovetop pie filling is where it’s at. You can totally control the consistency, and I am all about control when it comes to dessert (and other areas of my life).
The crust was looking crispy and brown, the filling tasted bangin‘ (pun most definitely intended), so all I had to do was entrust that the fresh berries that go on the bottom and top of the pie wouldn’t muck things up. Luckily, the blueberries we picked were some of the best berries I’ve ever had. It’s always a crapshoot with storebought berries; they can be super tart, and it’s kind of frowned upon to sample out of the plastic cartons at the grocery store. At the blueberry patch, I was able to pop a few berries straight off the bush, so I had a pretty good feeling about them.
Luckily, by the time we cut into the pie the next day, everything was wonderful. We all left with our lips and teeth stained slightly blue, and my sister suggested that perhaps they get actors to eat blueberry pie before scenes where they have to play dead. I’m sure they use makeup, but I really think actors should start petitioning for the blueberry pie method. It is way more delicious.
- 1½ cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup (115 grams) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
- 3 tablespoons ice cold water
- 8½ cups (about 2¾ pounds or 1¼ kilograms) fresh blueberries, divided*
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 large lemon)
- ¼ cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)
- ½ cup (120 mL) red wine
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch
- Whipped cream (optional)
- To make the crust, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add butter cubes to flour and toss to coat. Transfer to food processor bowl and pulse until butter chunks are the size of peas. Dump back into your mixing bowl. Drizzle cold water over the top of the flour and fold with a rubber spatula until dough just starts to come together. Dump dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and quickly press the dough into a disc. Wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour and preferably overnight.
- Roll out the dough into a 13-inch round, then transfer to a 9-inch pie pan (preferably metal). Trim the edges so there is a 1-inch overhang. Roll the edges under and flute the edge into a wide, scalloped design. Poke holes all over the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Place pan in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
- When ready to bake the pie crust, preheat your oven to 400°F. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Make sure there are enough pie weights/beans to press against the sides of the crust so that it doesn't shrink! Bake for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the parchment paper with the pie weights/beans. Bake the naked crust for another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you make the pie filling.
- In a large saucepan, combine 6 cups blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, red wine, sugar, and cornstarch. Gently toss with a rubber spatula to coat the berries. Cook over medium high heat until the berries have mostly broken down and the mixture has thickened.
- Pour 1 cup of fresh blueberries into the bottom of your baked, cooled pie crust. Pour hot berry filling into the pie crust over the fresh berries. Top with remaining 1½ cups of fresh blueberries and allow to cool before serving. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- *If you can't get your hands on this many fresh berries, use 6 cups of frozen berries for the cooked filling, and just get 2½ cups of fresh berries for the bottom and top of the pie.