Star-spangled pie

Pie in perpetuum

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Squushing a berry is satisfying work; it yields pulp, juice and two consecutive u's. Which are rare.

Toss the berries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar, which acts as both sweetener and solvent, dissolving the fruit. Try a continuum from bright strawberry to deep raspberry to dusky blueberry to dark blackberry, as purple as the prickly carduus.

Roll out the pastry and fit into a pie plate. Fill, leaving no vacuum. Scrape any sugary residuum from the bowl. Bake and cool.

Think about how much you like odd letter combinations, like u and u. But only in ordinary usage. You don't go for Latin, like equus; or mathematical, like congruum; or Marine, like arruugah. It's not a weltanschauung, just a pleasure, in perpetuum.

Slice and serve and think about how much you like pie. Enough to necessitate a muumuu.

Star-spangled pie

Makes: one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

Pie pastry (recipe below)
2 cups whole raspberries
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 ½ cups whole blackberries
1 ½ cups whole blueberries
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon fine salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 - 2 tablespoons sanding sugar (or regular sugar)

Roll:
On a lightly floured surface, roll out larger disk of pastry. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Trim and crimp edges. Chill. Roll out smaller disc about 1/8-inch thick. Punch out stars, big and small, with cookie cutters. Set stars on a baking sheet. Freeze.

Macerate:
Heap berries in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and mix gently with a flexible spatula. Cover and let rest at room temperature, 1 hour. Berries will release some juices.

Thicken:
Set a colander over a wide saucepan. Roll berries into the colander and let the juices drip into the saucepan. Return berries to their bowl along with the lemon zest. Dissolve cornstarch in a spoonful of water, then whisk this slurry into berry juice. Set saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking, until juice thickens, about 2 minutes. Scrape over berries. Mix gently.

Fill:
Scrape berries and juices into the pastry-lined pie plate. Cover the top of the pie with stars, overlapping. Brush with a little water or milk (as glue). Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake:
Set pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and bake until golden, 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake until crust is golden brown and juices bubble thick and purple, about 30-35 minutes. If the perimeter browns too quickly, shield with a pie halo or a hoop of crumpled foil. Cool completely. Serve with fireworks.

Pie pastry:
Measure into food processor: 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ teaspoon fine salt. Pulse to mix. Drop in 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up. Pulse a few times. Drop in 6 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening. Pulse until mixture looks crumbly, darkens slightly and clumps when squeezed. Turn out into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in up to 8 tablespoons cold water, mixing gently with a flexible spatula, until pastry comes together. Pat into 2 discs (one slightly larger than the other). Wrap in wax paper and chill at least 1 hour.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.

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