My oh my, sweet strawberry pie!

This week I finished reading Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything, in which the penultimate (that’s right bitches) chapter is dedicated totally to pies. Coincidentally (...or not!), I also visited the local farmers market, where almost everyone’s booth is overflowing with fresh picked Michigan strawberries. These two circumstances led to a most ambitious pastry endeavor: I couldn’t resist the idea of a perfect strawberry pie made from scratch.

Having never baked an entire pie before, this little project had the potential to be a giant ego shattering disaster. I’m happy to say, however, that it was not. My pie turned out beautifully (at least in my eyes, and mouth), but not without overcoming a few obstacles, such as the skin melting heat in my kitchen.

I started by cleaning my strawberries and mixing the dry ingredients, a recipe which I sort of made up from a few other recipes I had read. Berry pie filling is shockingly simple. Mine looked like this:

  • 5 cups fresh strawberries
  • ¼ cup and a tablespoon of white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • ½ flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

I mixed together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and didn’t coat the strawberries in it until the pie dough was made and laid out in dish.

I will admit that I probably read Steingarten’s pie crust recipe a solid 20 times. In “Pies from Paradise”, he describes his attempt at baking a flawless crust, which he qualifies as “flakey, airy, light, tender, crisp, well-browned and good tasting” all at once. After much research and much practice, Steingarten developed a nearly foolproof technique. And though I was super intimidated by his final method, I was (as usual) seduced by the idea of producing a completely delicious, bad-ass homemade treat and impressing the pants off everyone (remember the four different types of truffles for 30 people last Christmas?).

The instructions for the crust are at least seven pages long, and involve five simple ingredients: shortening/lard/butter, salt, flour, sugar, and water. Steingarten recommends using shortening because it seems to be the easiest, but I used cold butter because I couldn’t get my hands on any Crisco. I have a feeling that the butter is really what made the crust so delicious, but it’s also what caused the most problems for me, because did I mention that I chose to bake this pie on the hottest day of the year so far? In my apartment, without central air, the kitchen was no less than 90 degrees. Why would I do that to myself, you may be wondering. And the answer is simply that it is what happens when you are both a masochist and hedonist.

The crust making process went very well considering the conditions. Toward the end though, it started to melt...apart. But I worked quickly and patched a few pieces together to form the bottom layer. By the time I got around to the top layer (which was originally going to be one solid shell), the dough was so soft that I had to cut it into strips and go with an unwoven lattice top. At first I was disappointed with making that change, but it turned out just fine.

Following the directions in Steingarten's book, I baked the pie for a few minutes at a very high temperature. After checking to make sure that the it had begun browning, I turned down the temperature of the oven and let the pie go for about 40 more minutes.

When I finally removed the pie, I was very pleased with my creation. I was also devastated that I had to wait at least two hours before I could find out how it tasted. Patience is a foreign concept for me.

Ta da!

My pie, though it looks like a pizza in the silly picture, is scrumptious. Sweet and tart and gooey. I wouldn't say my crust met all seven standards of greatness, (flakey, airy, light, tender, crisp, well-browned and good tasting) but it was definitely good tasting, well-browned, tender, crisp, and light. Flakey and airy will have to be achieved somewhere other than my hellishly hot kitchen, but I have no doubt it's within my capability. The biggest challenge with this pie appears to be not eating it all immediately.

1 Response on "My oh my, sweet strawberry pie!"

  1. Erin says:

    yumgasm. for reals.

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