Vail baking: Strawberry pie is a sweet summer delight
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Imagine strawberries at their best – intensified by a sweet glaze, cradled in a crisp crust, and complemented by just a hint of semisweet chocolate. That’s summertime strawberry pie, a light, cool and refreshing dessert that’s as lovely to look at as it is pleasing to eat. It’s wonderful served on a hot evening or following a spicy meal. All who’ve tasted it proclaim it a winner – even our diet-conscious friends.
Its goodness is due to its simplicity. Essentially, it’s fresh berries in a pastry shell. So, find the nicest berries you can and use your best pie crust. I recommend a butter crust (rather than one made with vegetable shortening). While the dough is a little harder to work with, the rich, buttery flavor is worth it. If you shudder at the thought of making a pie crust, don’t dismay, the pie will still be good if you use a commercial one.
This gem is perfect on the day it’s made; so prepare it in the morning, serve it that evening, and have enough friends around to eat every last bite. Though still OK the next day, it’s clearly past its prime.
Don’t expect the pie to cut precisely; the berries will tumble off the crust as you move each piece to a plate. According to my testers, this didn’t detract a whit from their enjoyment. So, once plated, pile any fallen berries back where they belong, or let them lie; in either case, don’t fret about exact slices.
The amount of strawberries you’ll use will depend upon the capacity of your pie pan; not all 9-inch pans are the same width and depth, so you may have left-over berries.
Summertime strawberry pie
Make in a 9-inch pie plate, preferably glass
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Your favorite pie crust
1 ounce of semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup minus 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
1 cup of cranberry-raspberry frozen juice concentrate, (from a 12-ounce can) thawed
3/4 cup of water
4-5 cups of strawberries, rinsed, dried, hulled and halved (if small) or quartered or cut into eighths (if large)
Step one: Prebake your pie crust according to the recipe’s directions. About five minutes before it’s done, melt the ounce of chopped semi-sweet chocolate. Do this by placing it in a small microwavable bowl and microwaving it for one minute at a low temperature (I use No. 4 in a range from 1-10). Stir it at this point and, if it isn’t melted, return it to the microwave for 15- to 30-second intervals until only a few lumps of chocolate remain. Remove the bowl and stir until it is fully melted and smooth. Set it aside to cool slightly, though it should remain in a melted state.
Step two: Remove the baked crust from the oven to a rack to cool. After about eight to 10 minutes (the crust can be slightly warm but not hot), brush the melted chocolate evenly over the entire bottom of the crust. This chocolate layer not only enhances the taste of the pie, it creates a barrier between the strawberries and the crust, helping to prevent the crust from getting wet and soft. Let the crust cool completely. If the chocolate hasn’t set once the crust is cool, place it in the refrigerator until it does so.
Step three: Make the glaze for the strawberries: Place the granulated sugar and the cornstarch in a large saucepan and stir to mix well. Combine one cup of the thawed cranberry-raspberry juice concentrate and the three-fourths cup of water in a small bowl. Stirring constantly, gradually add the juice/water mixture to the sugar/cornstarch. Continue to stir until none of the sugar or cornstarch is visible and the combination is smooth (no lumps of cornstarch). Place the saucepan on the stove over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Keep the glaze at a medium boil and continue to stir for about two to three minutes, until it is quite thick and shiny. Remove it from the heat and let it cool completely.
Step four: Check to make sure all the sliced strawberries are about the same size. If necessary, cut larger ones to match the halved, smaller berries. Gently fold the berries into the cooled glaze until all are well-coated. Using a slotted spoon or a large serving fork, carefully transfer the berries into the prepared pie crust, letting excess glaze drain back into the bowl before placing the berries in the crust. The pie shell will get soggy if too much glaze is included in the filling. Discard the remaining glaze and refrigerate the pie for at least four hours. Serve the pie cold, right out of the fridge. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a day.
This is a variation of a recipe in “The Pie and Pastry Bible.”
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Vera Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.
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