Some people say pie is the new cupcake. Personally I don’t think cupcakes are going anywhere in the near future, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also embrace pie. I haven’t always been a pie person but Ben’s love for it led me to try baking all sorts of pies, and along the way I’ve come to share his feelings on the subject. Some of the best desserts I’ve made so far this summer have been pies, and I can’t wait to share them all with you…starting with this wonderful fresh strawberry pie.
Though many fruits do very well baked into a pie, strawberries are not one of them. They contain too much water, making for a very soggy pie. The solution is fairly simple – bake only the crust, not the filling itself. A portion of the strawberries are pureed and cooked with pectin to make a quick jam. This is then mixed with plenty of fresh berries, poured into the pre-baked pie crust and chilled until set. This method is ideal for showcasing the flavor of the fresh, ripe strawberries and keeps the crust nice and flaky. Normally I prefer pies a la mode, but I think a dollop of freshly whipped cream is the best accompaniment here. If you have never bought Sure-Jell before, it is usually stocked in the canning section of your store rather than with gelatins and similar products. I know this recipe will be one we turn to every year when strawberry season arrives. Enjoy!
Yield: about 8 servings
For the filling:
4 pints (about 3 lbs.) fresh strawberries, gently rinsed and dried, hulled*
¾ cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1½ tsp. Sure-Jell for low-sugar recipes**
Generous pinch table salt
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 baked 9-inch pie shell***
For the whipped cream:
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 tbsp. sugar
To make the filling, select 6 oz. misshapen, underripe or otherwise unattractive berries, halving those that are large; you should have about 1½ cups. In the food processor, process the berries to a smooth puree, about 30 seconds. You should have about ¾ cup puree. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell and salt; whisk to combine. Stir in the berry puree. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and bring to a full boil. Boil for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan constantly. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, pick over the remaining berries and measure out 2 pounds of the most attractive ones; halve only extra-large berries. Add the berries to the bowl with the glaze and fold gently with a spatula until the berries are evenly coated. Scoop the berries into the pie shell, piling into a mound. If any cut sides face up on the top, turn them face down. Refrigerate the pie until chilled, about 2 hours. Serve within 5 hours of chilling.
Make the whipped cream just before serving. Whip the cream and sugar on medium speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed and continue beating until medium peaks form. Cut the pie into wedges and serve with whipped cream.
*This is actually several more ounces of berries than will be used in the pie, to account for any imperfect strawberries.
**Be sure to use Sure-Jell for low- or no-sugar recipes (pink box) and not regular Sure-Jell (yellow box), otherwise the glaze will not set properly.
***(Can’t believe I needed three different notations!) To pre-bake the pie crust, roll the chilled pie dough into a 12-inch circle. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the dough. Crimp the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F and adjust an oven rack to low-middle position. Line the chilled pie shell with parchment paper or foil so that it lays over the edges of the dough. Fill with pie weights and bake until the surface of the dough no longer looks wet, 20-25 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper and return the pie crust to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 10-12 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.