Thursday, July 30, 2015

Midweek Roundup: "Pie Fixes Everything"

Photo by Kristina
Eats N Drinks

It was a small but determined band of bakers who set out to bake the elderblueberry pie.  We all had one big disadvantage compared to Rose (besides not being world-famous bakers, of course).  None of us had a neighbor who delivered right to our door, without our even asking, fresh, perfectly ripe, in-season elderberries.  Some of us had never seen an elderberry and most of us couldn't find them in our farmer's markets or in our local grocery store's produce, frozen foods, or even canned fruit sections.

Did we let this deter us?  We did not.  We persevered.  If we combined all of the fruits that we used, we would have baked an ElderBlueberryMulberryCranberryGooseberryRaspberryCurrant Pie.  And that's quite a mouthful.

I think that only one person--Vicki--actually got fresh elderberries.  When Vicki started to wonder about how we were going to source our elderberries, I knew we were in for a ride because as those of you who have been reading Vicki's blog for years know, she is a) stubborn, b) curious, c) determined, d) all of the above.  I'll let her family and friends pick the appropriate answer.  She learned that elderberries grow wild in and around her urban setting, and she got permission, of a sort, ("Just don't be conspicuous!), to pick/poach them, and she did.  And she baked a pie, which she pronounced "delightful."  She doesn't say whether she gave a piece of pie to the park ranger who looked the other way.

Michele was a close second in the Search for the Elusive Elderberry, but the combination of the search and the actual pie-baking almost did her in.  Michele's husband found out that a local farm grew elderberries, and Michele was able to get a few packages of frozen elderberries from Ann, from Norm's Farm.  The trouble started when she tried to remove the tiny elderberries from their wispy stems.  They did not want to separate, and Michele did not want to give up.  Worse, when she tasted the elderberries, they tasted "like weeds."  But she persevered, and ended up with a pie that had the flavor Rose described as "hauntingly unique."  Michele, I don't know whether this will make you feel better, or drive you further round the bend, but Rose says "I also have to admit that when frozen the tiny brambles are near impossible to remove so I just added them and they seemed to disappear when the pie was baked."

A number of bakers, planning ahead, ordered dried elderberries, and reconstituted them.  Kristina got hers from a bulk food store, and reconstituted them in apple juice.  After they soaked for a while, she said "they didn't so much get plump and juicy as they got ... not dry."  That sounds like faint praise, but Kristina enjoyed the "unique texture" provided even by the dried elderberries, and made a very lovely pie as well.  See above photo.

Kim  also discovered reconstituted elderberries, as well as rediscovering the joys of making pie crust by hand.  For Kim, the plenitude of seeds was simply a "deal breaker," but she did find out that she loved the "unique character" of the juice.  She also enjoyed working the cream cheese pastry dough by hand and found that she was able to coax layers of flaky dough, almost like puff pastry, with the heel of her hand.

I think it may have been Joan who first suggested using dried elderberries for the pie, but when she opened her bag of freeze-dried elderberries (1 out of 5 that she ordered!), she discovered that most of them were red, not the dark, almost black, color that signifies that they're ripe.  So she immediately canned, so to speak, the whole idea of elderberries, and just made a blueberry pie.  Although it sounds like it was anything but "just" a blueberry pie--it was, according to her husband, the best pie he had ever eaten.  That kind of praise doesn't come your way very often.

Catherine may have veered as far from the actual fresh elderberry as she could and still remain in the elderberry family.  She used a mixture of 3/4 blueberries and 1/4 mixed berry and elderflower jam.  In what she called a "vote of un-confidence in the potential of the filling," she opted to make several small pies, getting more practice in fooling around with pastry dough and apparently more ready to scrap the whole enterprise if necessary."  She made some thick lattice strips for her small pies, which look very pretty, and was happy with her blueberry pie--which may have had an additional flavor that "maybe wasn't blueberry."

Rachel also opted for the all-blueberry version of the pie, because her experience with elderberries was limited to Manishewitz elderberry wine, which, she says, their website touts as "bursting with the flavor and aroma of elderberry pie."  Rachel searched in vain for elderberries, and, somehow not lured by the description of the wine, made a wine-less, elderbery-less blueberry pie.  (I have to say I really empathize with Rachel's "pie irregularities."),  She thought the pie was "tasty," and the crust was "fall apart tender" but "not flaky."  All in all, "more experimentation is required."  Perhaps with wine--one way or another.

The rest of us did combinations of motley berries.  Or maybe we did motley combinations of berries.

Aimee was in the spirit of the elderblueberry pie in that she used her neighbor's in-season seedy berries (rasp- not elder-) and blueberries (she also added in some frozen mixed berries to come to the full weight).  Despite a few not-very-serious mishaps with the crust, she ended up with a "yummy dessert" served with vanilla bean ice cream.  And she got to eat the raspberries as she was gathering them, something that's not likely to happen if you're picking elderberries.

Though you wouldn't know it to look at Jeniffer's sweet little pies, this was her first-ever berry pie--a black currant and blueberry version.  In Australia, they go in for meat or other savory pies more than fruit pies, and although Jeniffer's research told her that, in fact, elderberries do grow in Australia, she had never seen them.  But she made her berry pie that was such a novelty she made individual pies so she could give them away to other fruit-pie-deprived Aussies.  She loved the cream cheese crust, but was not entirely a convert to the whole fruit pie concept.  But I have a feeling the peach galette may do it!.

Greenstein's Bakery's elderblueberry pie was made with a combinations of gooseberries, both red and green, blueberries, and red currants.  Perhaps not what Rose had in mind, but it sounds like a stunning combo.  Mendy described it as "delicious and tart and runny" (the gooseberries were very runny, and he added extra sugar because they were very tart), For that "unique" gooseberry flavor, he'll have to catch some "unsuspecting" elderberries.

Faithy also did a tri-berry pie, using mulberries, blueberries, and a few cranberries for tartness.  Faithy had a pie booth at an organization get-together, and she provided this mixed berry pie and the peach galette that's up in about 3 weeks.  People (being people) hit her dessert stand first, and cleaned her out before they even touched the salads.  "The pies were the centre of attraction."

I think we've provided some great ideas for Rose for the next time she writes about pie.  But if there's a Double Gooseberry Currant Blueberry Pie in some future book, you saw it here first.

Next up:  a non-dessert entry, whole wheat bread with walnuts.  Suggested use:  sliced thin and served with blue cheese.  I remember that there are some of you who aren't fans of blue cheese, but remember, that's just a suggestion.  I have mine ready to put in the oven right now.


  1. Aww.. thanks for using my picture! And the "pie fixes everything" quote from my friend Dave (check out if you'd like a really inspiring story).

  2. I'm guessing no one else has staked a claim on the double gooseberry currant blueberry pie yet so we're pretty safe there. This was a fun week even though there were very few actual elderberries involved. And a very funny write again. Thanks Marie. And congratulations Kristina on the great photo.

  3. Lol - a fun write up, as always - did you ever? as the song goes ... imagine all the creativity that would arise from a recipe for, of all things, an elderblueberry pie? It does sound almost as normal as an old blueberry pie, but - wrong -- I loved the way we pitched in together and got ourselves out of various puzzlements. I think we are a lucky bunch ... I am glad to be here for the fun and learning.

  4. LOL! What a great and fun write up! I was smiling to myself all the way while reading. Thankfully I have no one sitting around me, otherwise they will think I am! I like the way you named it.. "ElderBlueberryMulberryCranberryGooseberryRaspberryCurrant Pie".. so fun and also funny! LOL! You write the best writeup Marie! I always look forward to reading your writeups every week. :D. Do I sound like a broken record?..I know keep saying you write so well..but it is a fact!

  5. i so agree Faithy! it is wonderful getting to know you all through your baking. who would have thought an obscure pie could so define people's personalities!
    when my father was still alive living on his own in Grafton, NY and surrounded by wild elderberry bushes which he didn't even realize he had, i brought him a piece of this pie and he enjoyed it. he had never before tasted anything elderberry and, in fact, when i gave him a choice of cherry of elderblueberry pie he said both!

  6. Marie: You are such a delightful writer. Beautiful Pie, Kristina!! I can't believe the wide array of pies this week!! Smitty asked me what the consensus was on this week's pie...and I told him there wasn't enough common experience to even get a consensus!!! And Rose BAKED THE LITTLE BRANCHES INTO THE PIE?! I simply can't believe it!! Fastidious Rose??? I feel faint....

  7. LOL this is a wonderful roundup post Marie, so much fun seeing/reading about all the different fruits used this week. Michele's comment about Rose "baked the little branches into the pie" made me laugh and I now have "tasting an elderberry" on my bucket list! I can't get peaches, so no idea what is going to be in the peach galette. Great pie photo from Kristina. ---- Jeniffer

  8. I always love the write ups! The pies all sound amazing, and educational; I didn't know you could eat mulberries.,

    Rose mentioned this pie to me years ago when I wrote about foraging in the forest for elder flowers. It's quit a thrill to find a RLB comment on your blog. If I ever find elderberries, I'm baking it!

  9. Congrat's Kristina! Your crust looks so flaky and yummy. Very funny round up Marie. I plead the fifth.

  10. Beautiful picture! It's fun to hear about what everyone did for their pie, epecially considering a lot of us couldn't find elderberries. If I do find them though I will be making the "real" version of this pie.