The strawberry season is upon us. Mid-April berries, at least in our area—are not as good as May berries but if you shop carefully, you can get good berries at a reasonable price.
I love strawberry desserts with fresh succulent berries. Strawberries are not my first choice for baking, they are too wet and fragile, but they are wonderful fresh on the table or as a part of a dessert.
I love strawberry pies. There is a diner not far from here where the proprietor piles chunks of fresh berries into a pie shell and loads it with lots of sweetened whipped cream. Her pies look like the chunky pie in this article.
The key here is to let the whipped cream do most of the sweetening. (The one of the right has a glaze added and less whipped cream.)
If you sprinkle sugar over the berries, the sugar draws the juice from the berries and the berries become dark, soggy, and unappetizing.
But whipped cream is fragile. Solve that problem with meringue powder. The whipped cream will hold its loft much better with meringue powder added. I usually add two or three tablespoons to two cups of whipping cream, maybe more if I’m going to hold the pie overnight.
Consider adding some lemon zest or orange zest to the whipped cream. The touch of citrus complements the strawberries well.
The other method is use the glace (or glaze) as the sweetener and covering the berries with a clear, thick, sugar-based sauce. The clear sauce allows the beauties of the berries to show through.
This is very simple also. Instead of putting chunks of berries in the baked pie shell, use slices. Similar slices can create a beautiful mosaic pattern. To get uniform slices, use a strawberry and egg slicer. It will quickly slice berries uniformly.
To remove the hull, use a plastic straw as shown.
Instead of piling whipped cream on top, you use the clear glace. (People will nearly always call it “glaze” but I think technically, it’s a glace.)
Once the pie shell is baked, you can assemble either pie in less than 15 minutes.
Key Success Factors
You can’t cut neat slices with a knife. Get a slicer for a few bucks.
Mixing the Crust
Most folks seem to be intimidated by pie crusts. I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of pies. Most the time my pies turn out fine. Sometimes they don’t.
I don’t make pie crusts from scratch anymore, at least not very often. I use a 60-second, just-add-water pie crust mix. Most commercial bakers don’t make crusts from scratch, they use a mix.
Forming the Crust
There are lots of ways to form the edge of a crust. This is my standby—simple, quick, and attractive. It builds a bit of a wall, a dam, that eliminates spills.
To form the pie shell, roll the dough on a floured surface into a 14-inch round. Wrap around rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Form the edge of the crust as shown.
Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and cover the bottom with pie weights or beans to keep bubbles from forming. Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
The Pie Crust Kit
We assembled what you need to make your pies in a kit:
- The pie crust mix
- The strawberry slicer
- The glace. (optional)
If you’re making pies with the chunk method, you don’t need the glace.
The pie crust mix makes two pies so you’re buying a two-pie kit.
Get What You Will Need Here