Nicole Mournian is a pie savant. She swept Good Food’s 4th Annual Pie Contest last year winning four out of seven blue ribbons. She was inspired by her win to take her expertise on the road to the 2013 American Pie Competition in Orlando, Florida.
For months she tirelessly tested recipes at Gjelina Take Away where she is the General Manager. During that time she and two co-workers launched a Kickstarter campaign to gain funds for a documentary called Pie Fidelity. The trio traveled through the American South in a black 15-passenger van with a Breville toaster oven and a camera in the back. They met pie bakers, ate pie and searched for the answers to important questions, like why is it that everyone’s grandma makes the best pie?
Here is their Kickstarter video pitch:
The thing about the National Pie Contest is that no one ever wins their first time. Well…that is unless you’re Nicole Mournian. Despite the contest’s hydrogenated bias (they are sponsored by Crisco and Pillsbury) Nicole’s all-butter apple pie won a blue ribbon in the “Perfect Pie” category for technical perfection.
So what does all this have to do with a Blueberry Pecan Streusel Crostata with Cold Cream? The crostata is now on offer at Gjelina Take Away. It’s inspired by the Pie Fidelity crew’s pit stop at Pie Lab in Greensboro, Alabama. There Mournian tasted a blueberry crumble pie with cold cream poured over it. She combines the Southern pecan with California blueberries in this road-trip inspired recipe.
Blueberry Pecan Streusel Crostata with Cold Cream
14 oz of your favorite pie dough (see Nicole’s pie dough recipe below)
3 pints blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
pinch of fine sea salt
zest and juice of one medium lemon
1/2 cup heavy cream (reserve for serving)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup pecans – toasted
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cold butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll a 14oz portion of dough into an 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
For the filling:
Toss the blueberries with the sugar, flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Squeeze one large handfull of the berries to break them up – I like to do this to create more sauce and yield a shinier filling. Place the mixed fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
For the Streusel:
Combine the flour, the brown sugar, and the salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and toasted pecans and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts to hold together. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling. Let the crostata cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. After you slice it and plate it, pour a few tablespoons of the heavy cream over the plated crostata.
Gjelina’s Pie Crust (developed by Nicole Mournian)
I always weigh my ingredients, something I learned from two great pastry chefs (Gina Bledsoe in San Diego and Chef Miho Travi in Los Angeles) who I worked for early on. It’s essential for accuracy in a recipe.
400g cold unsalted butter (I prefer Strauss European Style)
665g all purpose flour (King Arthur is my choice)
5g fine sea salt
5 oz cold water
100g granulated sugar
1/2 oz white vinegar
First make sure everything is cold. Mix the water, vinegar and sugar into a syrup and chill. Then, pulse the flour, salt and butter in a food processor until it is the size of medium peas. Dump this fatty flour out on a work surface, and gather it into a pile. Pour in half of the sugar syrup, and start mixing it all together gently, this is messy work. Squeeze the dough together and lightly rub the butter peas into the flour. Use the palm of your hand and press against the table gently and smear/rub the dough together. Sprinkle on more of the syrup, keep squeezing and rubbing. Try to work quickly so that the butter does not melt. This is the key to flakiness. When the dough comes together in a shaggy ball, I wrap the whole thing in plastic and let it chill in the fridge for an hour. This relaxes the gluten and brings the dough together. After that hour, I portion the dough into 14oz balls and roll them out. Usually very thick, depending on the pie… Roughly an 1/4 of an inch. Lay the dough into your desired pie plate and chill it for half an hour while you mix your filling.