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Best Blackberry Pie

I do my best to keep up with the kids, to stay in the know about what’s new. I caught wind of the microbrew trend a couple years back, and I even went so far as to buy a beer-of-the-month club subscription for D. (She loved it so much, she told me to never think again about birthday presents: it’s beer club from here on out.) But every so often, a new tidbit of knowledge seems to sweep the food world by storm while skipping me completely, Passover-style. This time, it was tapioca flour, which has quickly supplanted corn starch as the best thickener, ever. Unlike corn starch, tapioca is undetectable in every way. It thickens up pies without any of that milky, gloopy, corn starch texture. It also doesn’t threaten to leave a raw-flour taste if it doesn’t cook completely. In short, it’s basically foolproof. Cook a pie with tapioca, and you’ll think there’s no thickener in it at all – until you cut the first slice and see that there is no puddle of murky fruit liquid swamping your pie. It’s an amazing feat. Your guests will ooh and ahh.

So how did I miss the trend? I don’t know. But I blame being late to the tapioca party for not sharing this amazing pie recipe until now. This, my friends, is the best blackberry pie. Ever.

Blackberries are in season right now. If you haven’t had any over the past couple of weeks, carpe diem, people. They’re tangy, sweet, and complex. They pair well with cinnamon and lemon, both of which are in this pie recipe. Oh, and butter. They go well with butter. We’ve got that here, too.

If you’ve been following along, I recently settled on my ideal pie crust recipe. I used that here, and it’s as good as I remember. But I’m also a sucker for a good crumb topping, and I usually find double crust pies to be a little too crusty. For this pie, I riffed on Deb’s crumb topping for sour cherry pie, which calls for ground almonds and ground oats. It’s got great flavor, and it pairs perfectly with blackberries. If you don’t have oats or oat flour, you can substitute whole wheat or even white flour here.

We had plenty of blackberries for this pie, and Elise’s pie filling fit the bill just perfectly with only minor tweaks. If you’d like to mix blackberries with another summer berry, this pie is a great place to do that. Also, if you’re not a cinnamon person (strange, I know, but there are such people), omit. And if you’re the type who loves orange zest, blackberries, cinnamon, and orange are a trio made in heaven. Do it.

Once you’ve made a pie with tapioca flour, you may never go back. And you know what? It’s pretty good on this side of things.

Best Blackberry Pie
Adapted from recipes from Simply Recipes and Smitten Kitchen (thanks, Elise and Deb!)

1 recipe best all-butter pie crust

For the pie filling:
5-6 cups blackberries, rinsed, picked clean, and patted dry (if using frozen berries, defrost fully and drain)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but it plays off the almond crumble really nicely)
3 Tbsp tapioca flour (I found it in the baking aisle of a natural foods store; Whole Foods and many supermarkets carry it, too)

For the topping:
2/3 cup whole oats, ground to a flour in a food processor (or, if you have it, 1/2 cup oat flour)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (you might want to first read up on kosher salts)
3/4 cup unsalted whole almonds, coarsely ground in a food processor (or, if you have it, 1/2 cup almond meal)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Prepare the crust: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the chilled pie dough into a 12-inch disk. Gently lower into a 9- or 9.5-inch pie dish. (I do this by gently folding the dough into quarters, lifting it into the dish, and then gently unfolding it, as pictured above.) Trim the edges of the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Crimp the edges, line with foil or wax paper, fill with pie weights or rice/beans, and bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove pie crust from the oven, remove weights and lining, and allow to cool completely. Meanwhile…

Prepare the filling: Put blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, extracts, and tapioca flour into a large bowl. Toss gently to coat berries evenly, and leave to macerate for 20 minutes. While this is macerating…

Prepare the crumb topping: Combine flours, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and almond meal in a medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir until mixture resembles wet sand.

Make the pie: Spoon blackberries into bottom crust. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over the top of the pie. Set the pie on a baking sheet (to catch any juices that drip, avoiding that whole smoking oven thing), and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake another 30-35 minutes, until juices are bubbling and crumb topping is browned. Let cool at least 30 minutes before eating.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, FTW.

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  • la domestique August 10, 2011,

    Thanks for the tapioca tip -I missed the party on that too! Blackberries are my favorite and this pie looks like heaven.

  • I missed that trend too! 🙂
    This looks wonderful. I am waiting eagerly for blackberry season here in New Jersey. I think just another week or two.

  • Anita August 11, 2011,

    riv, this looks awesome! what do you think about using this recipe, but with a blackberry peach combo?

    • rivka August 11, 2011,

      Totally – peach/blackberry is one of my favorite combos. Lemme know how it goes!

  • Anne August 11, 2011,

    Hi R! It’s your 9th floor baking competitor and new reader here. Gorgeous blog! I have a funny story about tapioca flour, and a friend who misread a cherry pie recipe and just used regular tapioca (she also thought it would be a good idea to experiment with a whole wheat crust on this same pie). Pretty Terrible Pie ensued, complete with the little white tapioca balls in the filling (the cook: “I can’t figure out what I did wrong!”). Anyway. Tapioca flour: yes. Tapioca: no.

  • Trish August 16, 2011,

    Sounds good, Rivka! What is the conversion ratio of cornstarch to tapioca flour for thickening things like pudding?

    • rivka August 17, 2011,

      Hi Trish: the conversion ratio is 1:1. Pretty easy, huh? 🙂

      • Trish August 17, 2011,

        Yes, I think I can handle that. Thanks!

  • Liz August 17, 2011,

    I used your tapioca trick for my (failed) nectarine pie. Yum!

    • rivka August 19, 2011,

      Oh no, why failed?

  • Kathryn | Dramatic Pancake August 18, 2011,

    You’re not the only one who missed the boat on the tapioca flour! Looks delish. Kind of wish I could scoop it up off the computer screen, but might just have to make some myself! 🙂

    • rivka August 19, 2011,

      That’s the thing about computers. Sadly, you can’t reach into the screen. But definitely make this pie – it’s awesome.

  • Hannah August 20, 2011,

    Late to the party, too…I just discovered tapioca flour this summer and love it! We are getting lots of blackberries right now and your pie looks divine! The oatmeal crumble topping sounds perfect with it.

    • rivka August 22, 2011,

      It really is. 🙂 The oatmeal goes so well with the blackberries, I may have to make this pie again as individual tartlets.

      • Hannah August 22, 2011,

        No question, I think you should! 🙂

  • Amy September 7, 2011,

    I made this tonight and it was a huge disaster! Delicious, but disastrous. The filling didn’t firm up, even though I used the tapioca flour and it worked for peach hand pies last week. The crust was a soggy mess. I’m a little sad that I used 5 cups of the most delicious blackberries ever in this mess, but it is tasty. I’ll just have to close my eyes while I eat is.

    • rivka September 23, 2011,

      Amy, yikes! how sad. Did you macerate the blackberries with the tapioca? I wonder why it didn’t firm up at all. At least it tasted good….but I’ll have to look into this the next time I make pie….bummer.