Among my fondest memories of growing up in the Deep South are picking pails of fresh blackberries in the summer. I still recall the sweltering hot days navigating the long fence line of bramble bushes plucking one juicy morsel after another. It seemed like a small-town, rite of passage for a barefoot boy doing his part to bring a tasty treasure to the dinner table.
Preserves, jellies and cobblers are the typical southern recipes for blackberries, but in South Louisiana, sweet dough pie is the ultimate prize. Acadiana has a sweet dough heritage. Throughout the South Louisiana countryside, you can’t check out at a country store counter without being tempted by the allure of sweet dough pies.
Hubig’s pies from New Orleans are sold everywhere, as are the ginger cakes from Lejeune’s in Jeanerette. These commercial pie makers have been baking for over 100 years, and smaller artisan bakers have carried on the sweet dough tradition. It is a time-honored art that is as alive today as ever. My local produce market makes a variety of individual tarts with blackberry my favorite, but it seems the largest selling pies are fig, coconut and sweet potato.
Mo Mo Eve, my wife’s grandmother, God rest her soul, was renowned for her sweet dough – the best in Jeff Davis Parish, they say. Rox says her secret was flaky dough and a light hand with the sugar. Here is a simple recipe that I think will do her proud.
Yes, indeed. Fresh blackberries in the summer make life in South Louisiana just a little bit sweeter.
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup milk
- 3 cups fresh blackberries
- 1 beaten egg, for egg wash
- 1 tablespoon water
- Combine the dry ingredients by sifting the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, add the softened butter and whisk in half the sugar and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add in the eggs and milk along with the dry ingredients and mix together until combined. On a cutting board sprinkled with flour, dump out the mixture and form into a dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is chilled.
- In a heavy pot over medium heat, add two cups of blackberries and the remaining sugar. Stir the mixture until the berries cook down, the sugar begins to melt, and the filling just begins to thicken. Remove from the stovetop and pour into a bowl. Let the filling cool to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a surface sprinkled lightly with flour, roll out the dough to approximately ¼-inch thick. With a 5-inch plate as a guide, cut out 4 dough circles. Spoon 3 or 4 tablespoons of the blackberry filling into the center of each pie dough. Leave an inch of the dough around the edges. Fold the outer part of the dough circle just over the edge of the filling and overlap it in a rustic pattern. Neatness doesn’t count here. Try to give it a rough, handmade look.
- From the additional 1 cup of blackberries, top the exposed fruit filling by artfully placing in whole berries. Add the beaten egg to a bowl and whisk with water to make an egg wash. With a brush, coat the pastry with the egg wash. Place the pies on a silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until the dough turns a crisp and golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the pies to a platter and serve either piping hot or at room temperature with a cup of dark roast Louisiana coffee.
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