This Finnish blueberry pie, mustikkapiirakka, is an easy and delicious combination of a cookie-like base, juicy blueberries and a sour cream cheesecake-y topping. It's quick to prepare with just a few ingredients and makes a tasty treat that's a great summery dessert.
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I'm sure part of the reason we don't have desserts, particularly the likes of cakes and pies, all that often, is that they are typically sized for more than our little household. But when we are having people over, I like to use it as an excuse to change that. It's a great way to enjoy something we wouldn't often have otherwise. Plus, they can be great for entertaining.
Since this pie is a little cheesecake-like, it's one you make ahead of time, so it's ideal to have ready before people come over. Plus, it looks pretty, tastes great, and is surprisingly easy to make (which your guests don't need to know about).
A favorite Finnish dessert
This pie is called mustikkapiirakka in Finnish, where “mustikka” means "blueberry", and “piirakka” means "pie". The dessert is sometimes called mummon mustikkapiirakka meaning grandma's blueberry pie, as it's very much one of those recipes passed down in family cookbooks or by word of mouth over many generations.
In Finland, you would typically make this with bilberries which are a kind of wild blueberry found in the region. You would also often use a dairy product for the topping that is fairly typical to Finland and not really anywhere else. However, it is easily adapted to what you can find elsewhere, using regular blueberries and sour cream, as written below.
A love of berries
Berries are a firm favorite in Finland, as in neighboring countries in the region. Many grow in the forests up and down the country and it's a popular pastime to go picking them. Cloudberries are the most prized, but lingonberries (as you may know as a side for Swedish meatballs) and bilberries, the Northern European cousin of blueberries, are also popular.
You'll find a number of desserts and treats that incorporate berries, from pies and pastries to jams and more in the region. I remember some lovely jams/chutneys with cured meats when we visited Finland years ago, and Swedish blueberry soup has always stuck as a favorite from my teenage years, too.
And I think my whole family will have this one on it's list of regional berry favorites, too.
Components in this blueberry cream pie
This pie, or tart, has three component layers:
- The cookie-like base - unlike many pies, you press the base dough into the dish rather than rolling it out like a pastry pie crust. It is more like a cross between the French tart dough, pâte sucrée, and a cookie in this way.
- The main ingredients are simple and common: flour, sugar, egg, butter and salt. You add a little baking powder in there for 'lift', but it's still not quite cake-like. I like a little oats or oat flour for added flavor and texture, and I have seen some recipes use rye. The key one for flavor, though, is cardamom - this adds a wonderful aromatic depth throughout the pie.
- The base is really easy to make, just adding everything to a food processor, then press the mixture into a dish.
- Blueberries - you can use wild or regular blueberries for this. Wild are closer to the traditional bilberries, both being a little smaller and slightly more tart.
- You can use either fresh or frozen blueberries in here, too. With frozen, I recommend tossing them in a little corn starch to help absorb some of the moisture they tend to produce as they melt and bake. You don't need to defrost them first.
- Sour cream topping - as mentioned, this is kind of cheesecake-like in flavor but is so simple to make. You simply mix sour cream, egg, sugar and vanilla extract. If you are using wild blueberries or bilberries, you might want to add a tiny bit more sugar since the berries are more tart.
- The topping/filling is not particularly sweet, but adds a lovely creamy richness. This pairs so well with the berries and base for a lovely mix in every bite.
- You simply whisk everything together then pour over the berries.
Cardamom and blueberries
Cardamom and blueberry are actually very complimentary flavors, even if it might not be a pairing you might not immediately think of. Just as the brightness of lemon brings out the flavor in the berries, so does the wonderful aromatic-ness in cardamom.
Cardamom is a favorite in Finnish baking, as may not be a surprise if you know of pulla, the bread enjoyed at Christmas time in particular. I have to say I am a big fan, too. Swedish cardamom buns are hard to pass up and it's great in various curries and more.
You don't want to add too much, though, as it can easily take over. Just a little in the base mixture permeates right through, but in a really tasty way. If it's a flavor you really don't like, you can skip it, but I do highly recommend it in there.
What kind of baking dish to use
A round, relatively shallow baking dish is best for this, such as the kind you might use for tarts or quiche. Either ceramic or a metal tin will work. The base can stick a little, so you might want to use one with a removable base to make serving easier. However you can also just do the best you can in getting pieces out and enjoy the odd crumbs!
If you only have a deeper pie dish, I would make sure you don't press the base dough too far up as the top will likely be too thin and may burn. A deeper dish may also be harder to serve from unless the base is removable, hence I suggest a shallow dish as my first choice.
I used a dish that's about 25cm/10 inches in diameter which worked well, but 28cm/11in would also work. You will just get a slightly thinner base and a little more gap between the berries.
Top tip: place a baking sheet under your dish
I recommend placing the dish on a baking sheet (tray) as the base will rise a little around the edges. I don't find that it spills over, but instead just rises straight up, but it's worth having something underneath just in case.
Also, the baking sheet makes it easier to put into and take out of the oven without accidentally touching the pie itself.
How to serve this dessert
This tasty treat is best enjoyed at room temperature or chilled. It works well just as it is or a common option is with a scoop of ice cream. Some whipped cream would also work well, too.
If you happen to have any leftovers, just cover the dish with a lid or cling wrap/film and store in the fridge. It will keep well this way for a couple days (if it gets the chance!)
This Finnish blueberry pie is a lovely combination of juicy berries, creamy filling and a tasty base with wonderful aromatic cardamom. It's easy to make and perfect for entertaining since it's made ahead. Though you may find it too good to share with too many.
Try these other summery desserts:
- Strawberry mousse (another great make ahead dessert)
- Mango passion fruit Eton mess (with cream, meringue and fruit - easy and delicious)
- German plum cake (a tasty mix of cake-like base, juicy plums and crumble topping)
- Plus get more dessert recipes and Nordic recipes in the archives.
Finnish blueberry pie
For the base
- 7 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoon oats or oat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
For rest of pie
- 1 ½ cups blueberries wild or regular, fresh or frozen (see notes)
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Lightly butter a 10 - 11 inch (25 - 28cm) diameter round shallow baking dish.
- Place the ingredients for the base (butter, egg, sugar, flour, oats, baking powder, salt and cardamom) in a food processor and pulse together to mix them well. The mixture will come together as a fairly soft dough. If you don't have a food processor, you can beat the butter and sugar, then add in the egg followed by the dry ingredients.
- Press the base mixture into the baking dish, pressing all the way to the edges and up the sides slightly to give a slight rim (if your dish is shallow, around 1in/3cm deep) you can press right up to the top edge, but lower if the dish is deeper). Smooth the bottom of the dough relatively flat.
- Place the dish with the dough in the fridge to chill gently while you prepare the filling. Wash the blueberries and pick over ot remove any stems.
- Combine the sour cream, sugar, egg and vanilla extract, if using, and whisk together to be smooth and well combined.
- Place the blueberries over the base mixture in the baking dish and spread in an even layer. If you like, you can keep some back to place on top of the cream layer, or instead do as I did here and lift a few up after adding and cream and clean off the top edge so they show through a little.
- Pour the sour cream mixture over the blueberries and spread evenly. If you like, you can keep all the blueberries under the cream layer or, as mentioned above, you can lift a few up and clean off the top to let a little of the berry show through. Alternatively, if you reserved a few blueberries, dot them evenly so they are partly under cream, partly above.
- Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips, then bake the pie for approximately 30 - 40 minutes until the edges are crisp and the top is dry and seems gently set (it will firm a little more as it cools). If the cream is gently brown at the edges, that's fine, but you want to avoid the base layer edges being too brown.
- Allow the pie to cool a good 30 minutes or more before serving.
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