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!
good rolling pin. The key to successful homemade pie crusts, is using cold ingredients. You 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.
(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!