One of my favorite stories from my mama was her description of a strawberry-picking trip in south Louisiana. My grandparents came to visit and they spent the day picking berries. I was just an infant and mama would tell how I napped close-by in the backseat of our Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. Every time I cook with strawberries, I am reminded of that story.
For years, I worked to create a great strawberry pie for my husband. We weren’t fond of those with a strawberries-suspended-in-gelatin filling. Jarred glazes were too sweet and detracted from the flavor of fresh strawberries. Finally, the answer came in the form of pureed strawberries. This pie is all about strawberries. The ingredients are few and simple and the flavor, well, it is just summertime in a pie shell.
Two weeks ago, I made two of these pies as a gift for a friend who is moving to The Netherlands with her family. It’s one of her favorite desserts and I wanted to giver her a taste of them before they moved. Last week, she took one of my pie classes, so she will be everyone’s favorite neighbor on her Dutch street!
This is one of those pies which require blind-baking a crust. That means a pie crust is fitted into the pan and then baked on its own. This is typical for a pie whose filling is either unbaked or cooked on the stovetop, as is the case with a custard pie, such as Coconut Creme.
There are several things to remember when blind-baking your crust. The first is important with any pie, but never so important as it is in this situation. Do NOT stretch your crust to make it fit. It will have its way and shrink back. Make sure to roll your dough so that it will have a nice overhang around the pie plate edge. You can turn your plate upside-down on the rolled dough and cut a circle at least 1 inch around the plate edge. Then, carefully place the dough over the pan so that it is centered and just let it lay gently in the pan. Roll the edges under; build them up and crimp them. I like to press every other fluted edge down with a fork to give the edge a little “staying power.” It also gives the pie a homey touch and it reminds me of the fork-pressed edges on my mama’s pies.
The second important step in blind-baking a crust can be achieved with several different options, so you may be sure your crust does not slip down the edges or puff up too much as it bakes. My first choice is to poke holes all around the crust–bottom and sides–with a fork. Another option is to place a piece of parchment paper on top of the crust and fill the paper with a 1 lb. bag of dried beans. The beans may be used over and over for this purpose. I keep them in a specially labeled zipper storage bag. A third option is to place pie weights in the bottom of your crust. The pie weights may be used again and again as long as you own them. Try all three methods and see which yields the best results for you. In all three cases, I like to brush the crust, especially the edges, with a wash made of one egg beaten with a generous dash of milk. This gives a beautiful color and sheen to the crust.
While the crust bakes in a very hot oven (450 degrees) for a very short time (approximately 10 minutes), you may wash and hull your strawberries. You will need to cut the tops off your strawberries so they will lay flat, upside down, in the baked pie crust. They are beautiful just as they are at this step. Homemade goodness already. When the crust comes out of the oven, place it on a baking rack so the bottom will not get soggy.
Then, it’s to the stove where the rest of the filling will be cooked in a large sauce pan. Sugar and strawberries will cook until they begin to bubble. Then, a mixture of cornstarch and water is added to the mixture. It will come to a boil and cook until thickened and bubbly. Oh,the smell. Oh, the fights when the pie is finally in the oven over who gets to lick the spoon, and the pot, for anyone whose head will fit!
This bubbly strawberry goodness is poured over the strawberries.
Next, the pie is allowed to cool on the counter, on a baking rack, for about an hour. Then, place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least three hours. It is best for it to chill overnight. I know it’s tempting to try it sooner, but this pie must be allowed to set up properly before it is sliced.
Before serving, add pretty swirls of homemade whipped cream or add generous dollops at the time of service. No one will care what the whipped cream looks like once they take the first bite. I promise.
I have had more than one person tell me they dreamed about this pie after tasting it at a potluck or dinner at my house. It is the stuff of which summertime dessert dreams are made. Try it for yourself and see if you agree that it is a taste of summertime in a pie shell!
My complete recipe can be found at: http://www.bourbonandboots.com/keep-your-forks-theres-pie/