A Celestial Pie With Less Sugar and White Flour

A few weeks ago, I had a routine glucose tolerance test that pregnant women go through. The results were borderline high, so I went back for a three hour glucose tolerance test and while it came back with four normal readings and one high reading, my doctor suggested that I avoid eating much in the way of refined sugars and refined white flours, white rice and pasta.

Now, I won’t eat whole wheat pasta, beacuse I really think it tastes like wet cardboard, but the fact is, I like whole grain breads better than white breads, and I prefer brown rice to white. (That sentiment on rice is not shared by Zak and Morganna, so in deference to them, I bought a small rice cooker, and when we eat basmati or jasmine rice, I will make a small amount of it whole grain for myself, and cook white for the two of them in our larger rice cooker. It seemed a logical solution.)

The refined sugar isn’t too much of a problem, as I don’t bake or crave sweets too much. But, I had bought three pints of blackberries in order to make a pie, and was stuck with the problem of how to make a pie without using a bunch of sugar and white flour.

Remembering the cider-sweetened apple pie which was such a hit in the fall, I decided to do a juice-sweetened blackberry pie.

However, it is not so simple to find blackberry juice as it is to find apple cider.

What I did find, on the other hand, was a product from Italy called Fiordifrutta–an organic Italian preserve that consisted simply of blackberries, apple juice and apple-derived pectin. It is smooth–obviously, it has been cooked down, and the seeds have been strained–and it is intensely blackberry-flavored. So much so, that it tasted like thousands of berries went into the making of one teaspoon of that stuff.

It was also considerably sweeter than the berries I had, which were more sweet-tart in flavor.

So, I rinsed the berries, and drained them, and set them in a bowl, and in order to get them to release their juice, I sprinkled them with 1 tablespoon of raw sugar–a paltry amount, considering that most recipes call for a half cup to a cup of it. One tablespoon had them releasing their juices after about an hour and a half, in just as copious an amount as more sugar would have yielded, though not as quickly.

I then mixed in some rosewater, a 1/3 cup of the preserves, and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch.

As for the crust–I used the same recipe I always do–the wonderful lard-butter crust, but instead of using all purpose flour exclusively, I used half that and half white whole wheat flour. I also used the 1 tablespoon of raw sugar in the crust, but next time, I will leave that out as well, because the white whole wheat adds a nutty sweetness that I think will easily take the place of the sugar.

The crust dough handled the same as if I had used all purpose flour exclusively. It was no harder to roll out or cut than the usual recipe is.

In fact, it was so easily handled, I decided to have fun with the crust, and instead of making either a lattice top or a double crust pie, I would cut motifs out of the dough and scatter them over the top of the pie. Because blackberries bake up such a dark, velvety purple, I decided to use my two sets of “celestial” cookie cutters and make a series of stars and comets to dance over the fruit in a shining array.

The touch of whimsy made the pie especially impressive to Morganna, Brittany and Donnie–the young folks really liked the idea of having a whole Universe in a pie.

What made me happy was that no one knew anything of my substitutions–the pie tasted just as good as the less-healthy ones I had made in the past. The filling, in fact, was particularly delicious, much more fruity in flavor than traditional fillings, and in fact, was praised vociferously for being excellent. It also, as you can see in the photograph below, held together remarkably well–the pectin in the preserves helped hold it together during baking and made a firm filling that sliced well, but which wasn’t goopy or too jelly-like.

I suspect that this method for making fillings will work with other fruit-based pies. Some pies I could use the concentrated juices to sweeten them–I will try that for the fruits for which I can find concentrated juices. I could have cooked down a portion of the berries to make a concetrated juice myself, but I thought that the addition of pectin might make a nice filling and I was correct. Besides, the preserve tasted so intensely “blackberry” that I couldn’t resist using it in the pie.

I just can’t wait to try it on my whole wheat toast next.

Fruit-Sweetened Blackberry Pie


5 cups fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/3 cup blackberry Fiordifrutta (I found this at the local healthy food store, but I have seen it in specialty stores before)
1 tablespoon rosewater
3 tablespoons cornstarch


Rinse and drain blackberries until thoroughly dry. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with the sugar, and cover. Allow to sit for an hour and a half until it releases a good quantity of juice.

While this is going on, go to my recipe for the lard-butter crust, and follow the instructions there, except substitute half of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour, and leave out the sugar. Roll out the bottom crust as called for in the instructions and lay it in the pan and trim it as directed.

Mix together all of the filling ingredients and pour into the trimmed bottom crust.

Roll out the top crust as directed in the recipe, but instead of laying it over the pie, cut out a bunch of leaf, star, heart or other shapes with small cookie and pastry cutters, and array them over the pie, touching along the edges.

Make a fluted edge to the bottom crust, and bake pie as directed in the crust recipe instructions.

Allow to cool nearly all the way before eating–otherwise the filling will not hold together to be served, and the pie won’t look as pretty cut as it could.


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  1. Oh, that looks wonderful! I’m sitting here, popping blackberries into my mouth as I read this. Now I want to bake 🙂

    Comment by Alida — August 9, 2006 #

  2. A whole-wheat pasta note: it varies quite a bit by brand, but all are fussier about cooking time than white pasta, going to paste quickly after hitting al dente. Ronzoni and Trader Joe’s whole wheat are the best I’ve found.

    Comment by tjewell — August 9, 2006 #

  3. drool..drool… looks great!

    Sometimes having limits placed on you makes you look for more creative ways to circumvent them – this recipe would probably never happened if you didn’thave to jump that new hurdle life placed in your way…

    Comment by Rosie — August 10, 2006 #

  4. Hi Barbara,
    I’ve been avoiding white flour and sugar for over two years now, and still managing to eat plenty of good stuff. You’re such a creative cook, I’m sure it’s not going to be that big of a deal for you. I’m not completely sure how it works regarding blood sugar, but I’m fond of Dreamfield’s Low Carb pasta, which I think tastes exactly like regular pasta. You can buy it online if you can’t fine it, but in Utah most stores have it. I agree that most of the whole wheat pastas aren’t that great, at least the ones I’ve tried.

    Comment by kalyn — August 10, 2006 #

  5. Barbara
    I’m such a sucker for fruit pies. Growing up, my mother would always ask me what kind of birthday cake I wanted and I always answered “no cake, I want pie”! (if I had been Marie Antoinette, no doubt I would have said “let them eat pie”)! So my birthday was always celebrated with some sort of fruit pie and the required candles to blow out! This looks fabulous and I might just have to make a pie this weekend – thanks!


    Comment by Karen — August 10, 2006 #

  6. Oh, even better – I was just wondering where to find Fiordifrutta and followed the link in your blog to the DiBruno Brothers website…they’re right around the corner from my office. Yay!


    Comment by Karen — August 10, 2006 #

  7. I’m sure you know of clafoutis-no crust involved, just a little flour in the batter. It does have sugar, of course, but not much. Just a thought if you suddenly want something sweet.

    Comment by Linda — August 11, 2006 #

  8. here is yet another whole wheat pasta to try if you haven’t already – “bionaturae” from italy. it does not taste like whole wheat pasta! i had n’t been eaating pasta at all as i don’t like to eat white flour anything…you have to try it!

    Comment by sara — August 11, 2006 #

  9. Your pie looks too nice to eat! I hope you all enjoy it. I agree with you completely about the refined white products, I much prefer whole wheat and grain breads as well as brown rice, but I could never give up white pasta.

    Comment by risingsunofnihon — August 11, 2006 #

  10. Hey, everyone!

    Glad folks liked the look and sound of the pie–I got lots of great comments here and elsewhere about it. It is definately gone now, thanks to the extra teenaged mouths we had to feed this week–Morganna has friends visiting, so I am thinking about making another pie or a quiche soon with some of the whole wheat pastry flour I just picked up today.

    As for whole wheat pastas–Sara–when I go to Columbus next week to take Morganna to the airport so she can go visit relatives in New Hampshire, I will pick some of that pasta up at Wild Oats. I remember seeing it there, and wondering about it. I really don’t like either their store brand or the ones from Trader Joes that a lot of people like. To me, they still have that “cardboard uck” factor that is not salutaory.

    Kalyn–I will give Dreamfields’ a try, too. Interestingly, as I read more and more about glycemic index (and yes, I will be writing a bit about it soon), I am finding that even white pasta does not have as big an effect on blood sugar as one might suppose. Also, it seems that how long a pasta cooks affects how high of a glycemic index it has–the longer it is cooked, the higher the index, thus, the greater the impact on blood sugar. The less it is cooked–ie, Italian style, al dente–the lower the glycemic index and the less effect it has on blood sugar.

    This fascinates me. I cannot abide overcooked, American style mushy pasta, and so I tend to cook mine pretty well al dente–sometimes to the point where some of my family members consider it to be underdone. (Not my immediate family–we all prefer al dente, but most of my family cooks pasta to the “mushy ick” stage. It makes me wonder if maybe some of my family, who are having blood sugar problems, might be better served by learning to cook and eat in a more traditional Italian way.

    Tjewell–I have tried both of those, and while the Trader Joes pasta I find I can eat with a really robust meat sauce, I still don’t much care for it. The problem doesn’t seem to be me overcooking the pasta either, since I am a fanatic about pasta not being mushy–it is some combination of flavor and texture that I find unpalatable in whole wheat pastas.

    But I will keep trying new stuff and seeing what I like.

    And to everyone else–thank you for the great suggestions. Linda–I have not made clafouti ever. I know what it is, but have not made it. Maybe I should?

    Comment by Barbara — August 11, 2006 #

  11. I use whole wheat whenever I can and plenty of times it’s very unorthodox. I like it.
    That is such a cool pie topping!!

    Comment by tanna — August 11, 2006 #

  12. Here is a link to my blog with a recipe for cherry clafoutis. I also recently made one with vegetables that I really liked. There is very little flour or sugar in the fruit clafoutis. It has a little different texture-sort of like yorkshire pudding-and it sometimes isn’t sweet enough for American tastes, but I like it.

    Comment by Linda — August 13, 2006 #

  13. Wow, that pie looks yum! :O Now I wanna bake my own pie…

    Oh btw, if you’re trying to avoid carbs, you should be careful – jams are usually a concentrated source of sugar, and so are fruits, even if they’re not in the form of refined sugar.

    Comment by Chokorate — September 10, 2006 #

  14. Looks great. Beautiful designs. Thank you for the post.

    Comment by Chocoholic — September 26, 2006 #

  15. […] The FAIR is coming! Go easy on the sugar today with this recipe from Tigers & Strawberries. (We recommend going right to the source for the story of blogger Barbara’s inspiration for it.) […]

    Pingback by Rivet Magazine » Saturday Pie: Fruit-Sweetened Blackberry — August 25, 2007 #

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