Consummate bakers are drawn to the craft because we love alchemy; the act of manipulating common ingredients, transforming them into something brilliant and magical. The other day, as I was baking what could have been my thousandth blueberry pie, I realized that this particular item is the perfect example of baking alchemy.
The crust of any good pie on its own can be considered magical. Dough that is raw, floppy, and fragile before it has been baked becomes flaky and tender, melting on your tongue. And blueberries undergo a unique transformation when baked into a pie. In raw form, they're blue-black on the outside, with a seedy, mealy, greenish white pulp in the center. Over time, when baked with a bit of sugar, starch, and some lemon zest, they turn deep purple inside and out, their flavor brightened and intensified. As the juices run down our chins, we are suddenly children again.
Domestic, fresh blueberries are readily available in stores and markets for most of the summer, though wild varieties may be available in your farmers' market for a shorter season. Look for berries with deep, consistent color and tight skins. Avoid berries with shriveled skin, green or yellowed skins, and packages containing any decayed, squished, or moldy berries (rotting spreads quickly within the packaging). Store your berries in the fridge, and only wash them right before using.
Like all of my fruit pie recipes, this one is minimal and designed to highlight the fruit. I've added just enough starch to thicken the juices without altering the flavor, plus the zest of a lemon, which helps bring out tangy brightness in the blueberries. I've sweetened the berries just a bit, but if you feel that your berries are particularly tart, feel free to add additional sugar.