Strawberry Pie

It’s the last days of strawberry season and I just realized that I haven’t made a single strawberry pie this year. Well, there was that pie with the strawberries in it, but not one featuring them on their own. How this managed to happen when we walk by fresh local strawberry stands several times a week is beyond me.

I’d originally intended to make a fabulous pie from the berries harvested off my little balcony plants (one mother crown and two rooted runners), but one hanging container hasn’t given me nearly enough to work with. This could partly be due to our eating most of the berries right off the stem before they even make it to the kitchen, though. By the time I actually started saving them in earnest, all I managed to accumulate was 1/4 a ziploc bag’s worth when frozen. I’m going to give up on that particular project and we’ll just eat the rest of this season’s balcony berries fresh. Next year, however, I will set up a proper strawberry tower with a dozen plants, and then we should be in business.

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Forgive the ugly in-pan photo, I didn’t remember to take a picture until after the family had already devoured most of this pie, so I settled for a quick snapshot of the last slice as it was being wrapped up. I use the simple and excellent AR Strawberry Pie II recipe, which the author picked up from Sussex County Strawberry Farm in northern New Jersey. (That place sounds like a lot of fun, by the way — hay rides, pick-your-own berries and pumpkins, and a garden center as well!) So yes, to see the making of a quick, easy, no-bake strawberry pie, follow me behind the cut…

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Ingredients! As you can see, there aren’t too many. Okay, to be fair, I left out the crust and topping ingredients because they were made either before or after the main pie portion and therefore inconvenient to photograph. You’ll want a quart of fresh strawberries, 1 cup of white sugar, 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and 3/4 cup of water. You’ll also need a 9-inch pie crust (baked, if you’re using a pastry shell) — I prefer the no-bake method for cold-set dessert pies, which only requires 1 and a 1/2 cups of cookie crumbs and 5 tablespoons of butter. For the topping, however much whipped cream you desire! I used a little under a cup (200 mL) of whipping cream mixed with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar.

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No-bake crusts are fast and awesome, plus a convenient way to recycle slightly stale cookies. I pulverized a few leftover Amish Sugar Cakes in the food processor to make this crust. Since the sugar cookies are already… well, sugary… all you need to do is add some butter to bind the crumbs. Once again, that’s 1 and a 1/2 cups of sweetened cookie crumbs (either from dryish sugar cookies or else a graham cracker + sugar combination) and 5 tablespoons of melted butter.

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Stir the melted butter into the crumbs, mix thoroughly with your hands, and shape the dough into your pie vessel of choice. Give the crust and container about an hour in the refrigerator to set before you start putting your fillings in.

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Separate your strawberries into two equal batches. Line the bottom of the shell with half and keep the remainder for the gooey filling. I usually save the bigger, better-looking ones for the shell since you see these when you slice into the pie. The berries out here are normal-sized (unlike steroid-pumped Californian ones the size of your fist), so I just cut them in half — larger berries should be sliced. Pop the half-filled shell back in the fridge while you’re making the rest of the filling.

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Mash the other set of berries until they’re pulpy. They’re going to be made into something rather jam-like now.

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Combine your 1 cup of sugar with the mashed berries in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir attentively until it reaches a boil.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together your cornstarch and water. Keep this ready for when your strawberry mixture starts to boil.

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Dribble the cornstarch mixture into the boiling strawberry mixture slowly while stirring.

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Reduce heat and simmer the resulting mix until it thickens. Stir constantly. The recipe said it would take 10 minutes, but mine got there in half the time.

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You’ll be able to tell when the filling is ready because it’ll look considerably thicker, like this. There’ll also be no trace of cornstarchy whiteness left.

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Pour the jammy mixture over the berries in the pie shell. Chill the whole thing for several hours — overnight is best.

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Just before serving, make up a batch of whipped cream (I use 200mL whipping cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar, whipped with chilled beaters and bowl) to use for topping. You can either spread it over the top of the pie or serve it in an accompanying bowl for people to scoop themselves.

Because I believe in sharing the good, bad and ugly of my cooking ventures on this blog, please take note of the bizarre turn that my toppings took. It started well enough — I made up a gorgeous batch of fluffy whipped cream and smoothed it over the pie. Thinking this was a bit plain, I thought I’d try my hand at piping some strawberry jam on top of the cream in pretty designs. Please note that I have never done this before in my life. Like many of my experiments, it seemed like a good idea, in theory. I spooned some jam into a plastic ziploc bag, trying to avoid getting any chunks so that the lines would be smooth. Cut the tip off a corner and started squeezing. This worked pretty well for the first two cute little hearts that I drew, then a chunk got caught in the hole and before I knew it, I had hideous jam blobs all over my immaculate cream backdrop. Giving it up as a bad job, I swirled the jam around in the cream so that it at least looked somewhat random. Then I topped the whole thing with a smattering of frozen strawberries from my balcony plants to help draw attention away from the jamwreck.

The lesson to learn from this? I really need to practice my dessert decoration skills, yo. Luckily, it still tasted berry-tastic in the end 🙂

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