I didn’t intend for this to be the pie I made to celebrate having to put my cat to sleep, but that’s the way it turned out.
Z had been back and forth to the vet for about a week, and the ultimate diagnosis was a cyst inside his intestine which would most likely have just grown back had I spent the several thousand dollars on surgery to have it removed. His disposition in that week had altered itself from playful and relaxed to sullen and despondent. He wasn’t eating or drinking, and he couldn’t use his box. It was clear he could not find a comfortable position for himself to rest.
I started this pie in the late afternoon, while wallowing in denial over what would have to be done. Michael arrived later in the evening and talked me back into reality. Without being able to use his box, there wasn’t a lot of time for Z. None of us were benefitting from delay. So after a few more crying sessions, I finally caved and said to Michael between sniffles, “Ok… let me just get this pie out of the oven, and while it’s cooling we’ll take Z in, and then when we get back we can eat it.”
I understand dividing my attentions between a dying cat and a three berry pie with brown sugar topping might seem a bit coarse. But once I had accepted what needed to be done for Z, it was no longer tough for me. We had shared fourteen years of companionship and he’d been content and healthy through all of it. Below is the last picture we took of him. The heart sleeve on his paw is covering up the IV that was delivering the dose that would move him on. He was at ease all the way through the end, purring and nuzzling me. I could not have asked for a better end for him.
It’s been over a month now, and I’m starting to hear the call of kittens at the Saturday afternoon pet adoption fairs outside the Petco on Sunset. But I’ll hold off a while longer.
And we did go back home that night and eat the pie. We topped it with ice cream. We each had two giant slices. At his peak, Z weighed approximately 19 pounds, so I’m sure he would have wanted nothing else for us.
Three Berry Pie with Brown Sugar Topping
Adapted from Food Network Magazine July August 2012, page 82
For the Dough:
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2-4 Tbsps ice water
For the Filling:
- 2 cups blueberries
- 2 cups strawberries, husked and quartered (or halved)
- 2 cups blackberries
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 wide strips lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbsps flour
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp salt
For the Topping:
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 Tbsps unsalted butter, melted
- pinch of salt
- pie weights or dried beans to serve as pie weights
Make the dough: Pulse the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, vinegar, salt, and about 1/3 the butter in a food processor until the butter is incorporated. Add the remaining butter and pulse until it is in pea-size pieces.
Add 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Pinch a small piece of dough. If it doesn’t hold together, add up to 2 more tablespoons of ice water, pulsing 1 tablespoon at a time.
Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press into a ball. Pat into a 1/2 inch disk and wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
Once firm, roll the dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface or between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper (if the dough becomes soft, refrigerate again until firm). Center the dough in a 9-inch pie plate. Fold the overhang under itself and crimp the edges. Refrigerate 3o minutes.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Lightly pierce the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork, then line with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 20 minutes, then remove the parchment and weights and continue baking until lightly golden, about 10 more minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cook completely.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Bring 1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of strawberries and 1 cup of blackberries along with 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the lemon zest to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, crushing the berries slightly with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Discard the lemon zest. Transfer the berry mixture to a bowl, stir in the remaining 3 cups of berries and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the lemon juice, the flour, nutmeg and salt. Let cool completely.
For the Topping: Combine the nuts, brown sugar, flour, butter and salt. Squeeze the mixture into clumps with your hands and scatter on a baking sheet. Freeze for 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 375° F. Pour the cooled berry filling into the crust and top with the frozen crumb topping. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. (If the topping browns too quickly, cover it with foil).
Transfer the pie to a rack and cool overnight, or at least 4 hours, so the filling sets (We didn’t do that. We’re not sadists. We let it cool an hour. It was fine).