Strawberry Pie

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When it comes to strawberry pie, I’m frequently torn between using a traditional pie crust or a shortbread crust.  Short on time and not wanting to fuss with rolling out dough, I’ve decided on shortbread this time around.  So, technically, this version is a tart rather than a pie.   However, the key to this recipe is less the crust classification and much more about the filling.  

The filling for strawberry pie is about as easy as it gets:  strawberries and glaze.  Though the glaze for strawberry pie can be bought pre-made, it lacks flavor — and strawberries.  Typically, the ingredients are high fructose corn syrup, tapioca for thickening, citric acid to add some sort of fruit-ish flavor, and red coloring to match (sort of) the color of strawberries.  Luckily, it is easy enough to make your own in less than 5 minutes.

Don’t skip the lemon juice in this recipe.  Lemon juice acts as a catalyst for the pectin, encouraging the gelling process.  While fresh lemon juice is recommended in our Lemon Squares recipe to maximize tartness, bottled lemon juice will work fine for this strawberry pie recipe.  The lemon zest is only added to the crust for additional flavor.  So, if you find yourself with no fresh lemons on hand, feel free to omit the zest.  It’ll still taste great!

Thickeners can be tricky.  Those such as cornstarch and flour can tend to mute flavors and turn muddy.  Sometimes this isn’t a big deal.  In strawberry pie, however, it is a big deal.  We want the glaze to look clear and we want to pull out as much strawberry flavor as possible.  Other thickeners such as Xanthan allow for crystal clear flavor, but can easily turn slimy — something that is never good.   Fortunately for us, several years ago Chef Dawn Yanagihara solved this conundrum by combining cornstarch and Sure-Jell low-sugar pectin.  I don’t know all of the science behind it, but it works perfectly.  Not too thick and goopy and not to thin — though you do want to eat this the same day and preferably within several hours of refrigerating.

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

1 cup flour (120 grams)
1/3 cup powdered sugar (30 grams)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), chilled and cut into 8 slices
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg white

For the Filling:

3 pounds strawberries
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/4 teapoons Sure-Jell (low-sugar recipes)
juice of 1 lemon (about 1 Tablespoon)

 

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. In a food processor, pulse together flour, powdered sugar, and lemon zest until just combined.  Add butter.  Process until dough comes together.
  3. Press dough evenly into bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan. use fork and pierce bottom and sides of crust.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Freeze for 15 minutes.
  4. Beat egg white until frothy.
  5. Bake crust for 7 minutes.  Brush crust with egg white.  Bake for another 7 minutes or until crust turns golden brown.
  6. Remove crust from oven and cool on rack.
  7. Clean and hull strawberries. Cut medium to large strawberries in half.  Leave the small berries whole.
  8. Make the glaze:  Puree 8 ounces of strawberries in food processor until smooth.  To a small pan, add pureed strawberries, 3/4 cup of sugar, cornstarch, and Sure-Jell. Mix together.  Bring to a light boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for about 2 minutes, until glaze thickens and becomes darker.  Remove from heat.  Stir in lemon juice.  Cool to room temperature.
  9. Add cooled glaze to remaining berries and mix well.  Pour berries into crust and arrange as desired.  Chill for up to two hours.
  10. This pie is great served on its own.  Or, if you choose, serve with some freshly whipped cream.

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