Recent Posts

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

This pie recipe is for you to take advantage of the last of the summer berry harvests while you can – or to come back to in the cold and dreary winter months if you’ve planned well and stocked your freezer full of fresh summer berries. If you are using frozen fruit instead of fresh in a pie, then it may help to read this article with some tips for swapping fresh fruit with frozen, so that your pie will have great results!

 

I made this pie while visiting my mom on Vancouver Island in British Columbia in July. My mom, sister, and I spent a sunny afternoon picking blueberries from Blue Haven Farm in Comox with a vision of this pie in our heads. It was so peaceful to spend time in the rows upon rows of blueberry bushes, picking in a relaxed silence. Nothing makes you a more appreciative cook and eater than interacting with your food in nature – seeing how and where it’s grown and then harvesting it yourself. If you have a U-Pick farm nearby, I highly recommend checking it out before the end of the season and experiencing your food directly from farm to kitchen to plate.

 

After we picked enough blueberries for pie, snacking, and other delicious ideas, we enjoyed homemade blueberry ice cream at the farm before heading back home, where I gave my mom and sister a crash-course in making my all butter pastry dough. The pie crust is my go-to pie dough and works especially well with any fruit pie!  

 

If you’re a fan of citrus, I’ve included optional additions of lemon zest and lemon juice to the pie filling. I love the tartness of lemon paired with the buttery, rich pastry and the sweet berries. It’s an especially fresh and bright combination if you have less flavourful, or out of season, blueberries. If you’d prefer just a classic blueberry pie to highlight your sweet berries, then simply leave out the lemon ingredients for an equally delicious pie.

 

I hope you enjoy this pie recipe and make the most out of the remaining weeks of summer!

 

Blueberry Pie

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 9 inch pie
Author Brooke McMillan

Ingredients

Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup ice water (you may need up to 2-3 Tablespoons additional water)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 heaping cups fresh blueberries (if using frozen blueberries, do not thaw the berries first)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch (or 1/4 cup corn starch)
  • zest of one lemon (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon cream or milk

Instructions

For the Pie Crust:

  1. Cut the butter into 1” cubes and place them on a plate. Put the butter and 1/2 cup of water in the freezer to chill while you measure the rest of the ingredients.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, salt, and sugar until combined.

  3. Once the butter is very cold (not frozen), remove it from the freezer and add half into the bowl with the flour. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut the butter into the flour until pea-sized chunks of butter remain. Add the remaining half of the butter and continue to cut it into the flour, leaving some bigger-sized chunks this time.

  4. Pour in 1/4 cup of the ice cold water into the flour/butter mixture and stir with a sturdy rubber spatula or a spoon to begin working the water into the flour. If there is still a lot of dry, crumbly bits of flour at this point, begin adding more ice water and continuing to stir it into the dough. This is the most variable part of the recipe because you may not need to use all the water, and sometimes you may need even a couple Tablespoons more water. Use your hand to press the dough into a rough ball and when it can hold together without dry chunks of dough scattering everywhere then you know it has enough water. Don’t knead the dough like you would bread dough, just press it together a few times until it holds. It should not be smooth like bread dough or pizza dough, and you may notice chunks of butter throughout, which is excellent – this is what will make a nice flaky pie crust.

  5. Turn the rough dough ball out of the bowl onto the countertop and cut it evenly in half. Quickly shape each half of dough into a round disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. You can also freeze the dough once it is made if you don’t plan to use it right away and it will keep well for 2-3 months.

For the Pie:

  1. Preheat the oven 425°F and move rack to the lower third of the oven.

  2. Remove one of the discs of pie dough from the fridge and unwrap it from the plastic wrap. Place it on a lightly floured counter top and use a heavy rolling pin to pound the disc even thinner before you start rolling it out. I find this helps start off the rolling process much more easily than trying to begin just rolling out a cold, thick disc straight from the fridge.

  3. Roll out the pastry disc into a circle. I start from the center of the disc and roll up, then down, then left, then right. I will lift the disc up every now and then to make sure it isn’t sticking to the counter and if I need to even out the circle. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly round! Keep rolling until it is about 2” wider than your 9” pie plate.

  4. Place the dough in the pie plate, and trim the excess dough, leaving about a 1” overhang around the edge of the pie plate.

  5. In large bowl, stir together the blueberries, vanilla, sugar, tapioca starch, and lemon zest and juice (if using). Pour into the bottom pie crust. The crust will be very full! Mound the berries up in the middle of the pie crust like a little hill. They will sink down as the pie bakes and as the berries begin to release their juices. Dot the top of the filling with the small pieces of butter.

  6. Roll out the second disc of pie dough in the same way that you did for the bottom crust. If you would like to do a lattice top (pictured) then use a pizza cutter or paring knife to cut the rolled out circle of dough into strips. You can make them any width you’d like to, just aim for them to be the same width. If you just want to make a regular double crust pie, then roll the circle large enough to cover the top of the pie plate and overhang about 2” just like the bottom crust.

  7. Whisk the egg yolk with 1 Tablespoon milk or cream to make the egg wash to “glue” to top and bottom crusts together and for brushing on the top crust of the pie.

  8. Brush some of the egg wash over the edge of the bottom pie crust; arrange the lattice strips over top, then trim off the excess strips around the edges of the crust. Pinch the lattice strips and the bottom crust together. You can use your thumb, middle and forefinger to pinch the crust into a fluted edge, or you could also use the tines of a fork to press all the way around the crust – it is completely up to you. If you make a double crust pie with no lattice, just place the second round of pie dough on top of the filling, trim away the excess dough around the edges, and then use your fingers or a fork to pinch together the top and bottom crusts. Be sure to cut some steam vents into the top crust so that it doesn’t burst once it goes into the oven (a few pokes with your paring knife will do, or you can make a pretty pattern or design).

  9. Evenly brush the top of the crust with the egg wash. This will give the finished pie a beautiful golden shine. Sprinkle the top of the pie with coarse sugar or more granulated sugar.

  10. Place the pie on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil to catch any filling that drips out (this will save you sooo much hassle in oven cleaning). Bake on the bottom rack of 425°F oven until top is light golden, about 16-18 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F, then bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Cover the top crust loosely with aluminum foil if it is browning too quickly.

  11. Let the pie completely cool in pan to allow the filling to set, at least 3 hours is best. If you cut into it right away, the filling will still be warm and runny. Slice and serve as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’ve stored this pie covered on the counter for a day or two and covered in the fridge, and both ways work just fine to keep it fresh.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

There’s nothing that tastes more like summer to me than strawberry rhubarb pie! Growing up, my favourite summer treats were always my grandma’s homemade strawberry rhubarb jam, rhubarb crisp, and of course pie. Rhubarb grows abundantly where I live, so there is always plenty to use up every summer. In Fort McMurray, if you don’t have any growing in your yard, then you can almost guarantee your neighbour will and that they probably have more than they know what to do with. So, if you have a rhubarb plant, or a generous neighbour on your block, make sure to grab some before summer is gone!

 

I was surprised this spring when I introduced rhubarb to my junior high and high school students and found that many of them had never seen nor tried it before. We made a rhubarb crisp and some rhubarb breakfast muffins so that they could experience the taste of this tart reddish green stalk that I love so much! Many of them enjoyed it, but for some of them the tartness and the texture took some getting used to. I find the combination of rhubarb with strawberries is always a winner, and creates a bright and balanced sweet/tart pie or jam.

 

The crust recipe for this pie is my all-time favourite pie crust recipe that I use for every pie that I make. It is a pate brisee dough, which is simply just flour, butter, salt, sugar (sometimes), and water. It results in the most flaky, tender, buttery crust that can be used for both savoury and sweet pies. I am a huge believer that pastry is meant to be made with ALL butter only. No shortening. That stuff is awful. Never sacrifice the flavour of butter for shortening just because it is more forgiving to work with! You can get great pastry easily with all butter as long as you keep your ingredients and hands nice and cold, and don’t overwork the dough. I hope my pie crust recipe is detailed enough to give you successful results, but if you have any questions or if something goes horribly wrong, feel free to shoot me an e-mail and I’ll do my best to help troubleshoot! I don’t want anyone to be intimidated by making a homemade pie from scratch, because truly nothing can compare to a homemade, all butter pastry. The more you practice and a get a feel for working with the flour, the butter, and the water, the better your technique will become. And remember, if your pastry doesn’t look pretty but still tastes delicious, then that’s all that really matters.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Author Brooke McMillan

Ingredients

Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup ice water (you may need up to 2-3 Tablespoons additional water)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 cup sliced fresh rhubarb
  • 3 cups chopped fresh strawberries
  • 3/4-1 cup granulated sugar (adjust to your preferred sweetness depending on the ripeness of your rhubarb and the sweetness of your strawberries)
  • 3 Tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • few pinches of cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons butter cut into small pieces

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons water

Instructions

For the Pie Crust:

  1. Cut the butter into 1” cubes and place them on a plate. Put the butter and 1/2 cup of water in the freezer to chill while you measure the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, salt, and sugar until combined.
  3. Once the butter is very cold (not frozen), remove it from the freezer and add half into the bowl with the flour. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut the butter into the flour until pea-sized chunks of butter remain. Add the remaining half of the butter and continue to cut it into the flour, leaving some bigger-sized chunks this time.
  4. Pour in 1/4 cup of the ice cold water into the flour/butter mixture and stir with a sturdy rubber spatula or a spoon to begin working the water into the flour. If there is still a lot of dry, crumbly bits of flour at this point, begin adding more ice water and continuing to stir it into the dough. This is the most variable part of the recipe because you may not need to use all the water, and sometimes you may need even a couple Tablespoons more water. Use your hand to press the dough into a rough ball and when it can hold together without dry chunks of dough scattering everywhere then you know it has enough water. Don’t knead the dough like you would bread dough, just press it together a few times until it holds. It should not be smooth like bread dough or pizza dough, and you may notice chunks of butter throughout, which is excellent – this is what will make a nice flaky pie crust.
  5. Turn the rough dough ball out of the bowl onto the countertop and cut it evenly in half. Quickly shape each half of dough into a round disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. You can also freeze the dough once it is made if you don’t plan to use it right away and it will keep well for 2-3 months.

For the Pie:

  1. Preheat the oven 425°F and move rack to the lower third of the oven.
  2. Remove one of the discs of pie dough from the fridge and unwrap it from the plastic wrap. Place it on a lightly floured counter top and use a heavy rolling pin to pound the disc even thinner before you start rolling it out. I find this helps start off the rolling process much more easily than trying to begin just rolling out a cold, thick disc straight from the fridge.
  3. Roll out the pastry disc into a circle. I start from the center of the disc and roll up, then down, then left, then right. I will lift the disc up every now and then to make sure it isn’t sticking to the counter and if I need to even out the circle. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly round! Keep rolling until it is about 2” wider than your 9” pie plate.
  4. Place the dough in the pie plate, and trim the excess dough, leaving about a 1” overhang around the edge of the pie plate.
  5. In large bowl, stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca starch, lemon zest, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour into the pie shell; dot the top of the filling with the small pieces of butter.
  6. Roll out the second disc of pie dough in the same way that you did for the bottom crust. If you would like to do a lattice top (pictured) then use a pizza cutter or paring knife to cut the rolled out circle of dough into strips. You can make them any width you’d like to, just aim for them to be the same width. If you just want to make a regular double crust pie, then roll the circle large enough to cover the top of the pie plate and overhang about 2” just like the bottom crust.
  7. Whisk the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of water to make the egg wash to “glue” to top and bottom crusts together and for brushing on the top crust of the pie.
  8. Brush some of the egg wash over the edge of the bottom pie crust; arrange the lattice strips over top, then trim off the excess strips around the edges of the crust. Pinch the lattice strips and the bottom crust together. You can use your thumb, middle and forefinger to pinch the crust into a fluted edge, or you could also use the tines of a fork to press all the way around the crust – it is completely up to you. If you make a double crust pie with no lattice, just place the second round of pie dough on top of the filling, trim away the excess dough around the edges, and then use your fingers or a fork to pinch together the top and bottom crusts. Be sure to cut some steam vents into the top crust so that it doesn’t burst once it goes into the oven (a few pokes with your paring knife will do, or you can make a pretty pattern or design).
  9. Evenly brush the top of the crust with the egg wash. This will give the finished pie a beautiful golden shine.
  10. Place the pie on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil to catch any filling that drips out (this will save you sooo much hassle in oven cleaning). Bake on the bottom rack of 425°F oven until top is light golden, about 16-18 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F, then bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 50 minutes.

  11. Let the pie completely cool in pan to allow the filling to set. Slice and serve as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I find that the flavour of the filling and the texture of the pie crust improve over time, so this pie is even better the day after it is made! I’ve stored this pie covered on the counter for a day or two and covered in the fridge, and both ways work just fine to keep it fresh.

Recipe Notes

*Here is a tutorial video for how to make a lattice-top pie crust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ5GUvXhQN0

Coconut Yogurt

Coconut Yogurt

Humans have been making yogurt for thousands of years as a means of preserving milk. Now that we have reliable refrigeration, we tend to buy yogurt in a colourful tub at the grocery store and enjoy it more for the tangy and sweet flavour, as well as the beneficial probiotic bacteria. Homemade yogurt is great place to start experimenting if you’re interested in making your own fermented foods. It only requires two ingredients and a little patience, and you can keep making batch after batch with ease by saving some yogurt from each batch to culture new milk.

 

So why bother making your own yogurt when there are vast aisles dedicated to every type and flavour imaginable? The unfortunate thing about most big brand store-bought yogurts, especially the dairy-free varieties, is that they are filled with all kinds of unnecessary ingredients like added sugars, gels, thickeners, artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives. Since yogurt is marketed as a “health food” with probiotic benefits for your digestive system, I think a lot of people are misled into believing that their favourite brand of yogurt is a super nutritious everyday snack or breakfast choice, when in reality many of them are filled with as much sugar as ice cream and contain more gums and thickening agents than actual milk. Now, I’m definitely not hating on sugar or ice cream, but I do think truth in advertising and making informed decisions are important in foods that we choose to consume every day under the assumption that they are beneficial for our health!

 

In terms of the probiotics, not all yogurts are cultured with bacteria that is considered to have probiotic benefits, so it’s important to know that not all commercial yogurts are considered probiotic. If there are probiotics in the yogurt then you should see each bacteria strain listed by its Latin name, the quantity present in the serving size, and you should also see cfu (colony forming units) listed, which means the bacteria is alive. Many popular brands that do market themselves as contributing to healthy gut flora do not contain enough active bacterial cultures per serving size to make any sort of impact on digestive health. For example, you’d have to eat 8 or more servings of Danone’s Activia yogurt in order to consume the therapeutic dose of probiotics shown to provide digestive health benefits. So, if you are eating yogurt for the probiotic benefits and happy dancing bellies you see on commercials, you may want to reconsider! Here is an article written by a Canadian registered dietician outlining more about the probiotics in commercially prepared yogurt.

 

If you love eating yogurt then making your own is worth trying because it could not be simpler! Not only will you get the health benefits of a truly probiotic-rich food, but you will be able to control the quality of ingredients used as well. Once you’ve made your yogurt it’s easy to add in your own fresh fruit, fruit preserves or jam for flavour, or some honey or maple syrup to sweeten to your taste. You’ll also save yourself some money, because other than the initial costs of purchasing probiotics, it’s much cheaper to make good yogurt at home than it is to continually buy one.

 

While probiotic yogurt can be easier to digest than just drinking straight up milk, I find that cow’s milk yogurt doesn’t always agree with my stomach and I know many people who are also sensitive to dairy products. So, I chose to make a dairy-free coconut milk yogurt because I really enjoy the flavour of coconut milk. The process is basically the same as you would use for making dairy milk, so if you’d rather make a dairy version then I’ve also included substitution notes in the recipe instructions. I’ve bought coconut, soy, and almond milk based yogurts in the past, and while they do have a tangy “yogurt” flavour, the ingredients lists are usually a mile long because of all the stabilizers and thickeners that need to be added to achieve a thick, creamy consistency. To keep things simple and ingredients minimal, I’ve used coconut cream instead of coconut milk in my recipe, which results in a thicker yogurt without the need to add any additional starches or gums. The yogurt does have a mild coconut flavour though, so if you don’t like coconut then you may want to opt for cow’s milk instead. If you choose to use cow’s milk, the fermentation process usually thickens up 2% or whole milk quite nicely. I always recommend using full fat coconut milk and dairy milk products. Don’t buy into the myth that “fat makes you fat” and lose out on the flavour, texture, nutrients, and satisfaction that fat provides!

 

If you prefer a really thick yogurt texture (similar to Greek yogurt), you can strain the excess liquid out of the yogurt also once it’s made by placing a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, lining it with cheesecloth, and scooping in the yogurt to strain overnight.

 

I hope that this post has empowered you with a little information to use the next time you’re shopping in the yogurt aisle, and once you read the recipe you feel inspired to give this little home fermentation experiment a try!

 

Coconut Yogurt

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 10 minutes
Servings 4 cups
Author Brooke McMillan

Ingredients

  • 2 14 oz. cans coconut cream* (you can also use 2% or whole cow's milk if dairy isn't an issue for you)
  • 4 probiotic capsules or 4 Tablespoons prepared yogurt*

Instructions

  1. Sterilize the jar(s) you'll be using to store your yogurt in by filling them with boiling water, then letting them air dry, or running them through the dishwasher. You can use a 1 quart jar or multiple smaller jars, the fermentation process will be the same.

  2. Prepare a warm place to allow your yogurt to ferment. The ideal temperature range for making yogurt is 110°F to 115°F. Depending on the climate you live in, you may be able to do your fermentation right on the countertop in a warm spot in your kitchen (i.e. if its summer and you don't have A/C, or next to the stove/oven if it's on). You can also create a warm environment by turning on your oven to it's lowest setting for 5-10 minutes, then turning it off completely (you can keep the light turned on so that it stays slightly warm). If you have a dehydrator you can use that as well to maintain a steady, warm temperature. You want to maintain a nice warm environment for the bacteria to proliferate (not too hot though otherwise you will kill off the bacteria!). I have a cheap yogurt maker I bought for $20 at Stokes years ago, so I use that because it's easy and I know the proper temperature will remain controlled for the entire fermentation time. If you plan on regularly making your own yogurt and have the cupboard space then it could be worth the investment, but you definitely don't need any fancy equipment!

  3. Bring your coconut cream (or cow's milk) to room temperature. You can also heat it up to just boiling, then cool it back down to 110°F to 115°F (I recommend doing this if you choose to use cow's milk as it will result in a thicker, creamier yogurt, but it's not necessary if using coconut cream). What's important is to not start with cold ingredients because that will affect how well the bacteria are able to begin fermenting the milk. 

  4. Carefully open up the probiotic capsules and whisk the powder inside together with the coconut cream (or cow's milk) until combined. Discard the capsule. If you are using prepared yogurt instead, then allow the 4 Tablespoons of yogurt to come to room temperature and then stir it into the coconut cream. 

  5. Transfer the coconut cream + probiotic mixture into your sterilized jar(s) and seal them tightly with a lid. Place the jars in your warm environment and leave it alone for 12-24 hours to ferment. I like to give mine a full 24 hours to develop a good tangy flavour and thicker texture, but you can start tasting after about 10 hours and stop when it tastes good to you. Just make sure you use a clean spoon every time you go to taste it so that you don't introduce any bacteria from your mouth into the yogurt.

  6. When you're ready to stop the fermentation, place your jar(s) in the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours. Initially the yogurt may still seem fairly runny, so it is important to chill the yogurt completely to allow it to thicken up. The flavour will also improve with refrigeration.

  7. Once chilled, give your yogurt a good stir and enjoy it as is, top it with fruit, granola, preserves, honey, maple syrup, etc., or use it in a smoothie or other recipe! Homemade yogurt will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge, and it will continue to become more sour and tangy as it ages. Don't forget to save a bit of this batch to start your next batch!

Recipe Notes

*If you can't find canned coconut cream, then you can make your own by refrigerating a 2-3 cans of full fat coconut milk overnight, then scooping off the thick white cream that rises to the top of the can. You can use the liquid that is left for smoothies, soups, or curries.

 

*Choose any probiotic capsule available at the health food store that contains: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactisand Streptococcus thermophilus. If you choose to use prepared yogurt instead of probiotics to culture your milk then you can either use homemade yogurt from your previous batch, or your favourite plain store-bought yogurt made with active bacterial cultures.