Monday, June 18
Sometimes people ask me why I don't sell the stuff that I make. Aside from the noble response of "Oh, I have a passion for pastry, I just do it for the love," *dimple smile* (But it's true!) I also have an annoying, metallic sliver-like fear of failure running through my stomach. And every time I'm asked to bake something, for someone, the sliver bristles and throws out quills like a mad little porcupine.
If a layer cake ends up looking like a ski jump, or my cupcakes self-implode, I don't mind...as long as it's just for friends and family. They will devour just about anything that contains sugar, butter and flour. (I love these people!)
It's the friend of a friend...of a friend, who requests a perfect berry pie, that makes me twitchy.
90% of this recipe was a success, the other 20 (i.e. the measly bottom crust), was ravaged by juicy berry juice and an overzealous baker. (Who is really, Really, horrible at math.)
I should note that the pie depicted in these photos was just the dress rehearsal. It was a berry blood bath, and I couldn't even scrape together a decent slice without it oozing all over the place. The bottom crust had to be pried out with elbow grease and pleading. My mind sometimes goes to a dark place when I mess up on a recipe; This pie looks like it's scared for it's life. It looks like it had been sleeping and dreaming, happily, when suddenly someone broke in and went all stabby with a dull knife. Forever ruining any chance it had at fulfilling it's à la mode dreams. Sorry, little trial-run, soggy-bottomed, pie.
On the plus side, my new pie crust protector did an excellent job at shielding the top crust and baking it to golden perfection!
I did redo the recipe, making all the necessary adjustments. And even though I didn't get to sample the revised edition, I was told via a friend of a friend, of a friend, that it was spectacular. And that the bottom crust held up just as nicely as the upper.
Based on the first sacrificial pie, I can tell you that the filling was wonderful! Even the juice (which I almost drank with a straw and some whiskey). It's basically strawberries with a little bit of sugar. The magic happens when berries combine with buttery crust. Honestly, who can resist pie?
The recipe below is the patched up version, of course. So *hopefully* no soggy bottoms.
Fresh Strawberry Pie
yields one 9-inch pie
for the filling
Double crusted pie dough (recipe follows)
about 4 1/2 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (don't worry about specific sizes, this is a very rustic pie)
Zest of one lemon (completely optional. I'm a citrus addict)
1/8 cup granulated sugar (feel free to use more than that, if needed)
2 Tablespoons of corn starch
for the crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into Tablespoon-size pieces (I cut mine up the day before and placed them in the freezer overnight)
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (I froze the pieces overnight, along with the butter)
About 1/2 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten (for brushing onto the crust and making it pretty)
*Note: If you don't have a large capacity food processor, just divide the crust ingredients in half and make one batch at a time.*
Prepare the pie crust: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times. Scatter the bits of butter and shortening over the dry ingredients, and pulse just until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Do Not overdo the mixing. (You want some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley.) Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 Tablespoons of the ice water...add a little water and pulse once...add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. After adding about 6 Tablespoons of the water, use a few long pulses to get it into into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in just enough of the remaining water as necessary (or even just a few drops), to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Don't worry if you're still seeing big pieces of butter, that's what will make your crust nice and flaky! Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured work surface.
If you made the entire recipe all at once, divide the dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk, and wrap them up in plastic. Refrigerate for at least an hour. If you only made half the recipe, repeat the process for the second half.
Rolling out the dough: *Take a breath, you can do this.* Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle that's about 1/4-inch thick. Turn the pie plate upside down over the rolled-out dough to see if it's the right size. Place the dough into the pie plate, and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. (Note: Never pull or stretch a pie crust, it doesn't work and will always shrink back while it's baking. Always.) Trim the excess dough around the edges of the plate (leave about a 1/2-inch overhang). Cover lightly and place in the refrigerator.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Make sure it's large enough to accommodate a 12-inch circle). Also, make room in the fridge. Remove the other dough disk. On a floured surface, roll it out into another 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the rolled out circle to the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Cover loosely and place in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl, toss together the berries, lemon zest (if using), sugar, and corn starch.
Prepare the egg wash. In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg with a splash of milk or cream; Set aside.
Remove the chilled dough that's been pressed into the pie plate. Pour in the berry mixture. Use a pastry brush to dab the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Remove the rolled-out circle of dough and place it, evenly, on top of the berries. Trim the edges of the top crust so that it more or less matches the bottom. (Note: If the crust is too cold and stiff to work with, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes.) Press the two crusts together, and using your fingers, or a fork, make a decorative edge. Make four 4-inch slits on the top crust, and make a small hole in the center (I used the wide-end of a pastry tip). Dab the edges with egg wash, and, if desired, sprinkle the crust with a little bit of raw sugar. (Granulated will work too!) Refrigerate the pie as you preheat the oven.
Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven (that's usually two notches from the bottom). Preheat to 450 F.
Remove the pie from the refrigerator and place it on a large, parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. (Use the same one that you used earlier.)
Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 F. and bake for 40-50 more minutes, until the crust is golden brown. If the edges look like they're browning too fast, cover them loosely with some foil.
Remove the pie from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely before serving.
Double pie crust recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan