That morning, just as Wilbur fell asleep, Avery Arable wandered into the Zuckerman's front yard, followed by Fern. Avery carried a live frog in his hand. Fern had a crown of daisies in her hair. The children ran for the kitchen."Just in time for a piece of blueberry pie," said Mrs. Zuckerman."Look at my frog!" said Avery, placing the frog on the drainboard and holding out his hand for pie.
Charlotte's Web, E. B. White, An Explosion
There's nothing more comforting than a good fruit pie. In fact, even before I had a re-read Charlotte's Web to find a recipe, I felt sure that there was a blueberry pie in there somewhere. A subconscious remembering, perhaps, or just a sense of certainty that a story set on a farm, focussed on a wholesome American family (and their pig) must include some sort of pie. I have a great love for pigs - if I lived on a farm, rather than in a tiny flat, they're the first animal I'd want to house - and have always longed to visit the Zuckerman farm with Fern.
The pastry here is a deliciously sweet casing for pretty much any fruity filling you can dream up. However, because of the high sugar content, it's a little tricky to work with. If you fancy a more stable pastry (one that can be more easily transferred from dish to plate), you could replace the cherries in this recipe with some blueberries. In my mind though, the rich, sweet pastry in the recipe below is worth the slightly less beautiful slice on the plate. And, to be honest, you're going to be covering it in custard anyway...
Recipe adapted from one by the incomparable Nigel Slater.
2tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp cornflour (heaped)
150g golden caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
20g ground almonds
1 egg beaten with 1tbsp milk
Sprinkling of caster sugar (for the top of the pie)
2 mixing bowls
Electric hand whisk
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and place a baking tray on the middle shelf to heat up. Place the blueberries in one of the mixing bowls and sprinkle with the lemon juice and cornflour. Toss with your hands and leave to sit while you make the pastry.
2. Cream the butter and sugar using the electric hand whisk until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Once incorporated, sieve the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture and fold in until you have a soft dough.
3. Flour your bench and knead the dough lightly for a minute or so. Split the dough in half and place one piece between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Roll out until around 0.5cm thick. Place into the pie dish (allow the pastry to overhang the edge a little and press it lightly into the corners, to ensure there is no air under the pastry. Sprinkle with the ground almond, which will soak up some of the blueberry juice as the pie cooks. Roll the rest of the pastry into a circle (again using the greaseproof paper) that will fit over the top of the pie dish.
4. Pour the blueberries into the pie dish and paint the edges of the pastry base with the egg and milk mixture. Place the pastry top over the blueberries and press the edges together to seal the pie. Cut two small holes in the top of the pastry and run your knife around the edge of the pie tin to trim the edge. Paint the top with more of the egg and milk mix and sprinkle with sugar.
5. Transfer the pie to the oven, placing it on top of the baking tray to prevent the pie from having a soggy base. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden on top. The pastry has a lot of sugar in it, so keep an eye on it, covering it with foil if it browns too quickly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before serving in large slices, with custard.