Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Pie and a Buttery Pie Crust

In my (almost) five years of food blogging, I have never gone longer than one week between posts. I'm back, from a record three-week hiatus, and feeling a bit more rested and less stressed.  Amen.

One of my favorite cooking shows, that I record (as well as subscribe to also online and digitall is "America's Test Kitchen". This is the source for this recipe that I'm about to share with you.

If you look at my Recipe Index, I have a variety of strawberry recipes.  With the exception of Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, I don't like to cook strawberries. I want to enjoy the firm and sweet juicy flavor of these summer berries.  That's why I was intrigued that America's Test Kitchen developed a glaze that would help to hold fresh strawberries together.   For our Memorial Day Barbecue, I decided that a fresh strawberry pie would be the perfect dessert. 

I used Cook's Illustrated's Vodka-Based pie crust recipe. Vodka? Yes, that's right. You can't taste the alcohol, and it's safe to serve to children. Trust me. Here's what Cook's Illustrated has to say about the recipe they developed:
For a pie dough recipe that baked up tender and flaky and rolled out easily every time, we found a magic ingredient: vodka. Using vodka, which is just 60 percent water, gave us an easy-to-roll crust recipe with less gluten and no alcohol flavor, since the alcohol vaporizes in the oven.

We begin with a combination of butter and shortening.  I use my food processor, but if you don't have one-- I grate frozen butter. It's a great little trick!

If you buy store bought pie crusts., I hope that you will try making your own. Store bought pie cannot compete with scratch crust, and you will never go back! It's really not that difficult, except that you do need a good rolling pin. The key to successful homemade pie crusts, is using cold ingredientsYou don't want to overwork the dough, and you want to let the dough rest-- too much gluten = tough pie crust. 

Once the butter and shortening are "cut" into the flour, a combination of cold vodka and water is added. The dough is folded together, until it clings.

I plop the dough onto plastic wrap, and then shape it into a disk, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. I actually made this crust a day ahead of our party.  When ready to make the crust. I remove it from the refrigerator and get ready to roll the dough on a generously floured surface. I prefer a silicone mat.

(If you want more detailed instructions on making pie dough, I have a post here.)

The pie crust needs to be pre-baked, and for years I used beans instead of pie weights.  I use a pie crust shield to prevent the crust from over-baking-- or you can simply shape foil around the edges. 

The foil and weights are removed, after 15 minute and then the crust is baked another 5-10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely.

The berries were organically grown, just 3 miles down the road from our home. These were picked in the morning, and cost $2.50 a pint. Yes, I'm lucky to have these so readily available. They are naturally sweet, and need very little sugar. Yum!

I picked out the smallest berries, to equal six ounces.  They were pureed in my food processor (or you can use a blender).  As you can see, I used the Sure Jell in the pink box-- not the yellow box!  This is a low-sugar pectin.

To 3/4 cup sugar, I'm adding two tablespoons of cornstarch and a pinch of salt.  Last, I add the strawberry puree, and begin stirring.

The puree is cooked for about two minutes, until thickened, fresh lemon juice is added and allowed to cool to room temperature.  I took a taste, and it's delicious. Because less corn starch is used, the taste isn't muddied-- and that's why I'm not a fan of using cornstarch to thicken fruit pie.

The fresh strawberries are washed and hulled, and I've sliced the largest berries in half.  I then add the strawberries to the gel and gently coat them.

I piled the strawberries into the baked pie crust, and arranged them, and allowed the pie to cool for about two hours. 

TASTING NOTES:  I cannot lie, because I want to be forthcoming about the end result.  The pie presented its challenges to serve.  The berries didn't "stick" together so the first two slices were more of a strawberry shortcake with pie crust on the side. Bummer.  However-- do not let this be a ding against the taste! Let me break it down for you:
The crust:  I'm not a good judge of that, because I have often admitted that I am not a pie crust fan. My guests, enthusiastically,  said the crust was tender and outstanding. 
The pie:  I loved the  glaze!  I loved how shiny and bright the berries looked. The pie was a show stopper, for certain!  I am sorely tempted to try making this glaze with blueberries.  My personal suggestion (more to myself) is that I would make this pie as individual pie tarts.  That way, I don't have to worry about slicing the pie.  I am absolutely positively going to to that again.

It felt good to spend a day in the kitchen, last Monday.  My husband "manned" the grill quite nicely. I made Campfire Beans, which my guests eagerly scooped seconds and third helpings. This dessert was well-received and I admit that I had seconds along with freshly whipped cream.

It also feels good to be back at food blogging again.  For those of you who aren't following me on my Facebook Page, I shared  another reason I've been very scarce.  I am medically and psychologically preparing myself for a total knee replacement. I've been busy with lab work, and doctor visits so that on June 11th I'll be undergoing a surgery that has become quite common to many people I've shared this with. I am feeling optimistic, but a little nervous about the pain management part of it. This will be my fifth surgery on this knee, and do recall that bone surgery involves pain. I'm a complete baby about pain, which is probably why I only had one child!

Now that school is out for summer,  I will have six weeks off to recover from my surgery.  I am very hopeful that I can blog on a more regular basis, because it is the community of readers and blogger friends who make this "hobby" of mine rewarding.

As always, a printable recipe card is at the end of this post. If you can't view it, please read the notice on the top right column of my blog, in red letters!


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Velva said...

Life happens1 Blogging is time consuming. I have found myself struggling too, work is tiring and there are days when there is simply not enough hours in the day. Welcome back!

Strawberry pie looks divine! Maybe not easy to cut but still divine!


Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Good luck with the knee surgery Debby. I'm sure you'll be back to normal in no time. In the meantime we're here and always will be. I've been up to my eyeballs in other stuff and barely can get my weekly post done.

The strawberry pie looks like just the thing to smooth away your worries. Sounds like your husband is a jewel too.

Big Dude said...

I'm not a big dessert eater but I love strawberry pie and yours look great. Good luck with the knee replacement - I have one looming and hoping some miracle technique comes along before I have to.

bellini said...

I read somewhere that strawberries here are ready. So bring on the desserts. Also all the best with your surgery. As I mentioned I work with an orthopaedic surgeon so know that it will all be OK in the end.

Valerie said...

This pie looks scrumptious!! (I think pie slices are meant to be a delicious mess.) :)

Welcome back to the hectic world of blogging! xo

AdriBarr said...

Oh no! I am terribly sorry to hear you must undergo surgery. I hear you about the concern over the post-op pain. I really HEAR you. I just underwent surgery on my shoulder, my second. I think THAT I (perhaps lots of us) tend to magnify my recollection of pain. Since I can not actually summon up the pain, my very active imagination gets busier than usual, summoning up exaggerated recollections. I surely did that this time around.

While I will not say it was a breeze, it has thus far been nowhere near as difficult as I had expected.

I sounds like your knee has been through a great deal. I hope you get a great result and speedy recovery from your surgery.

My, but that is one gorgeous pie! I'll have to try the Cook's Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust. I remember when they published it, I was quite intrigued and meant to give it a go. Thanks for the push.

I've never had great success cutting perfect slices of Strawberry Pie, perhaps owing to the fact that I tend to go light on the "glue!" However, no one complains! I think Strawberry Pie is the classic summer dessert, and yours is spectacular, super tempting. Your photos and direction are ultra- clear. Nice work!!

Best wishes for an easy surgery, a rapid recovery and successful rehab!

Brenda Z said...

Debby, your strawberry pie looks amazing! You have been missed these past 3 wishes for a speedy recovery. I am no stranger to the operating room myself, having had about a dozen or so surgeries (including 2 open-heart surgeries). Will send positive thoughts your way over the coming weeks!

Joanne said...

Good luck darling! I'm sure you'll recover from the surgery beautifully and better than ever!

Christine said...

I wondered "where" you were, almost sent an email to check on you. Sorry to hear about the need for surgery, I'm in the same boat and dread the post op pain since I'm a wuss. My friend who has fibro had a knee replacement and is doing splendidly as I'm sure you'll do!
That pie is indeed a show stopper and with such fresh berries...mmmm!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to second that this pie is sooooooooo good!!!!! We also love their Cook's Country Icebox Strawberry Pie, which is quite a different style using sliced strawberries and gelatin. I have made them both twice each; this is my fav and the other is my husband's fav, but we both love both, and I can't imagine anyone not loving a slice of this pie!