As excited as I was to get two quarts of strawberries in this week’s CSA, I was surprised by how sad I felt that there was no rhubarb. Apparently, in northern Illinois, rhubarb season is one week long. I even asked Andrew to see if there was any rhubarb left at the farmer’s market, and he returned with two lone stalks, that cost him four dollars. As I contemplated the turning of the seasons, the transience of summer, the impending Chicago winter, and my inevitable death, Andrew put the rhubarb in the fridge and made a strawberry pie.
This Fresh Strawberry Pie is one of our favorite Cook’s Illustrated recipes. At the peak of strawberry season, there’s really nothing better than a pie filled with fresh, uncooked berries that have been minimally tampered with.
One of the most enjoyable things about Andrew’s baking ventures is how routine they’ve become. When I make a pie, it involves certain sacrifices, such as: my entire day. Andrew bakes a pie in little bursts of activity, sort of like me trying to get three loads of laundry done in one afternoon, though much tastier. Between noon and 5 o’clock, he ate lunch, made pie dough, taught a lesson, baked the crust, popped by the farmer’s market and cheese shop, cooked dinner, and assembled the strawberry pie. I went about my day as usual, dreading winter and playing the cello.
Fresh Strawberry Pie with Homemade Pie Dough
Andrew’s pie crust recipe of choice is Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Easy Pie dough from Serious Eats. You start with 12.5 oz of flour and 2 1/2 (!) sticks of cold butter that have been cubed up. Andrew decided to experiment this time by swapping in 1.5 oz of wheat flour for the same amount of all purpose. Put 2/3 of the flour in the food processor. You pulse the cold butter around 20 to 25 times until it’s pretty well mixed. Add the other 1/3 of the flour and pulse a few more times, 5 at most. If you want to read Kenji’s exhaustive explanation behind this recipe, go here.
Put the contents from the food processor in a metal bowl and add 6 TB of very cold water. Start to bring the dough together by smearing it against the walls of the bowl with a spatula, and then dump it on the counter and gently work it, forming it into a round. The dough is wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for 2 hours or up to overnight.
The recipe makes enough for a top and bottom crust; The Fresh Strawberry Pie only has a bottom crust, so we put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator for future (possibly rhubarb-based) endeavors.
A few hours later, Andrew took the dough out of the fridge and rolled it out. He then put it in the freezer for ten minutes to cool before blind-baking.
To blind-bake the crust, line it with a couple sheets of foil. Then you put pie weights on top of the foil. Andrew has been keeping the same bag of dried beans in our pantry for this purpose for like the last five years. Put the crust in a 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, and put back in the oven for another 5 to 7 minutes until the crust is browned.
Once the crust has cooled and the beans are safely stowed from the cats (long story, for another time), you can start working on the strawberries. You stem and slice two quarts (or more) of strawberries in half. Put about 6 oz of the less attractive strawberries in the bowl of a food processor to become the glaze. Put the rest in a large bowl.
To make the glaze, blitz the unfortunate strawberries that were designated “unattractive” in the processor until smooth. You then add them to a small sauce pan with 5.25 oz (3/4 cup) of sugar, 2 TB of cornstarch, and 1.5 tsp of low-sugar Sure Jell. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly to keep from burning. You cook the glaze for a couple of minutes and then pour it off into a small bowl. Add 1 TB of lemon juice and let cool to room temperature.
Stir the glaze into the fresh strawberries, then pile the strawberries into the pie crust. Chill pie in the fridge for about 2 hours, but you want to serve it pretty quickly after that—it starts to get a little gushy the longer it sits. Serve with whipped cream.
CSA “vegetables” used: two quarts of strawberries.
Other ingredients used: whipping cream, AP and whole wheat flour, butter, sugar, salt.
A few days later, with two precious stalks of rhubarb and the leftover pie dough, Andrew decided to make a rhubarb galette.
He found a Serious Eats rhubarb pie recipe that calls for 8 oz of sugar for 2 pounds of rhubarb. With a little less then a pound of rhubarb and knowing that I like my tart desserts tart, he reduced the sugar down to about 2.5 oz by weight.
- Slice up the rhubarb and let sit with the sugar and 2 TB cornstarch for about an hour.
- Mix in some fresh grated nutmeg and squeeze in grated ginger juice (just like the compote).
- Roll out the dough and spoon the rhubarb into the shell with a slotted spoon (to leave behind juice). Fold the dough over.
- Brush with an egg wash and turbinado sugar
- THEN pour in the juice and bake it in the oven at 375°F for 45 minutes, 350° until done (for us this was about 15 to 20 minutes longer).
Galettes are significantly less work than pies and they have a wonderful rustic appearance. We actually thought the flavor of the galette crust was better than the strawberry pie earlier in the week. The layers were flaky and well-brown, and the rhubarb inside was eye-twitchingly tart.
CSA vegetables used: None…. [Editor’s query: does this break the rules for this blog?]
Next: Ladna, Round 2