It has been a good year for blackberries and over the past couple of weeks I have collected quite a stash from the hedgerows. You have to have nimble fingers to avoid the sharp pointy thorns with which the berries are guarded, but the odd prick and scratch is worth it to get your hands on these flavoursome berries.
I have frozen the majority of the blackberries, in readiness for the next time a berry dessert, cake or coulis is required, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to bake some into a delicious pie - an apple and blackberry pie! These two fruits are so quintessentially English and autumnal that even the words “apple and blackberry” bring a smile to me face. When paired together inside a pie the blackberries release their moody purple juice, staining the apple a beautiful purple colour, allowing the flavours to intermingle with delicious results.
You don’t need to be too precise about how you pile in the fruit or add the pastry top. I actually think the more higgledy-piggledy the better, as it means the pastry bakes into golden bumps and lumps as the fruit inside cooks and softens, giving it a very homely appeal. The way the juice and fruit tumbles out as you cut into it is so heart warming. I love it served warm with custard, but it also tastes good cold, when it’s become a little firmer and can be cut into nice thick slices.
Apple & Blackberry Pie
400g sweet shortcrust pastry
2 large cooking apples (Bramley)
30g ground almonds or breadcrumbs
70g caster sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
Preheat the oven to 200C. Have an 8inch/20cm fluted tart tin ready on a baking tray.
Cut the pastry into two pieces, one piece larger than the other, around two-thirds and one-third. Wrap the smaller piece of the pastry in clingfilm and place in the fridge until required.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the larger piece of pasty to form a circle large enough to fit into the fluted tin. It should be about 4-5mm thick.
Line the tin with the pastry and press gently into the edges. Lay a large piece of clingfilm on top of the pastry and fill with baking beans or rice, to act as a weight. Gather up the clingfilm together to form a pouch.
Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes until beginning to go golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and gently take out the pouch of baking beans.
Crack the egg into a mug and lightly whisk to combine. Brush the partly cooked pasty case with the egg wash, all over the base and sides (save the egg wash for use again later). Return it to the oven for 8 minutes more to become golden. Then set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, gently wash the blackberries to remove any dust and place them into a large bowl. Peel, quarter and core the apples and cut then into 3-4mm thick slices and add to the blackberries.
Mix the sugar and mixed spice together before sprinkling over the fruit. Use your hands to toss them all together, to evenly coat the fruit in the spiced sugar. It’s ok if some of the blackberries get squashed and ‘bleed’ their juices into the apple, I think it actually makes it more attractive.
Scatter the ground almonds or breadcrumbs over the base of the pastry case (this helps prevent the pastry from going too soggy from the fruits juices).
Pile the sugared fruit into the pastry case, it should rise into a mound above the rim of the tart as it will soften and sink down during cooking.
Remove the remaining pastry from the fridge and roll out into a large circle. Drape it over the top of the fruit and press it down onto the rim of the pastry base to seal. Use any offcuts to form little pasty shapes or decorations for the top.
Poke three small holes in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape during cooking. Brush the whole thing with the leftover egg wash and scatter over an extra tablespoon of sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes at 200C before reducing the temperature to 180C and baking for 25-30 minutes more, until golden brown.
Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before attempting to remove it from the tin.
Serve hot or cold with cream, ice cream or custard (or all three!)