fat free opinions on a food centric life

Summer in a Pie: Very Berry!

The local weather widget  on my Mac’s dashboard says it’s 90 degrees outside right now, but I don’t believe it.  Although it does seem to be quite a bit warmer than what the weather guy reported this morning, it’s still not that hot.  I’ll believe 80.  Maybe.  I can feel a nice breeze — refreshingly cool, but the sun is scorching!  No complaints, however.  None at all.  Actually I’m sort of amazed that when summer officially began a couple of days ago with the ending of school, the ever-present June Gloom we’re accustomed to has disappeared.

That means tonight will be perfect for an outside dinner, after I scrape the hard water deposits off the glass on the patio table.  So much for Martha living here, right?  I’ll light some little votive candles, throw a couple of logs in the chiminea, and hope the clouds don’t return so we can enjoy what promises to be a very warm evening.

This first truly summery night deserves an after dinner treat that I’ve had my eye on since the June issue of Gourmet surfaced in my mail stack.  I couldn’t exactly get past the full page glossy photo and the homey looking aspect of the strawberry pie.  Was that jello?  Oh. My.  It’s definitely what my idea of summer in a pie would be.  Very berry!

And what a perfect way to celebrate the Strawberry Moon Festival, hosted by Cooking in Cleveland, a site that features “homecooking with seasonal, locally grown produce.”

Is it cheating that I added blueberries?  I can’t resist the way they look with strawberries.  Okay, and their crunch is quite lovely, too.

I’ll let you know how the dinner goes.

Summer in a Pie:  Very Berry!

Crust Ingredients

1 pkg. shortbread cookies (about 5 ounces)
2 T turbinado or raw sugar
2 T very cold butter

Pie Filling Ingredients

1-1/2 lbs. fresh strawberries
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
3/4 c. turbinado or raw sugar
1/3 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2-1/4 tsp.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Directions

  1. To prepare the berries, first choose the best strawberries to leave whole.  You’ll need as many as it takes to cover the bottom of your pie pan — about 15.
  2. Hull the strawberries and set them aside, then cut the remaining strawberries into 1/4″ dice and put them in a medium bowl with the blueberries.
  3. Gently mix in the sugar and lemon juice and let sit to macerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. To make the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse all the shortbread cookies to fine crumbs.  Alternatively, you may use a rolling pin to crush the cookies.
  5. Then add the sugar and butter, pulsing until the mixture resembles large crumbs that hold together.  If using the rolling pin method, simply mix the ingredients in a bowl and using a fork, toss until the mixture resembles large crumbs.
  6. Press the mixture into a 9″ pie pan, evenly distributing it across the bottom and up the sides.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Let cool completely.
  7. While the crust is cooling, position a fine mesh strainer over a large measuring cup and pour the berries into the strainer to drain for about 5 minutes.
  8. Pour some water over the berries until 2 cups of liquid are measured, then set the berries aside and pour the liquid into a small pan.
  9. Sprinkle the gelatin over the liquid and let soften for a minute.
  10. Then over medium heat, stir the liquid until the gelatin dissolves and it just begins to simmer, about 8 minutes.
  11. While the juice is heating, prepare an ice bath by setting a metal bowl in a larger container of water and ice cubes.  Pour the berries into the metal bowl.
  12. When the juice on the stove reaches a simmer, pour it over the berries and stir gently and frequently until the mixture begins to “mound” as you stir it.  This takes about 30 minutes.
  13. Spoon enough of the berry mixture into the pie crust to cover the bottom, then arrange the hulled whole strawberries stem side down in the crust.
  14. Mound the remaining berry mixture over and around the whole strawberries making sure the gelatin doesn’t run up over the crust.
  15. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, then serve with whipped cream mixed with mascarpone, a little sugar, and a dash of vanilla.

Recipe Notes:

  • This took longer to prepare than I though it would, so I rewrote the directions to allow for as little down time as possible.  If you use granulated sugar, the berries may macerate more quickly.  Or, if your berries are more fresh than mine seemed to be, perhaps that could speed up the process.  My berries generated 1 cup of juice after sitting for 30 minutes.  With the addition of 1 cup of water, the liquid was still very sweet.
  • The original recipe and directions can be found here.
  • Since we haven’t actually gotten to taste the pie yet, I can only say that I suspect this will not look all that perfect after it’s cut.  But I’ll come back with some photos, just to stick with my customary brand of veracity.
  • On the notion of buying local…I noticed that my berries came from as far away as Stockton, which is in Northern California.  They also came from Salinas, Santa Maria, and Oxnard, which is the closest.  This is certainly not local, but it’s also not Chile which is where our berries come from in the off season.
  • Later that evening — the pie turned out great!  Outstanding berry flavor that’s not too sweet.  And the crust?   It makes the pie!  The only problem is that it doesn’t come out of the pan as well as you’d think and does crumble a bit.  It isn’t too delicate, it’s just stuck.  But pick up the pieces, crunch them a bit, and then sprinkle it over.  You won’t want to miss a crumb.  Trust me.

As far as the weather goes, in the time that it took to write this post, not only has the temperature dropped to 85 degrees, but the clouds have formed, and a dense fog is slowly creeping up the hill.  The houses on the ridge with the zillion dollar view of the Pacific are now lost in the fog.  So much for dinner outside unless we want to freeze our rumps off.  At least we’ll have a “sunny” pie, though, right?

Update:  The fog did lift, and somehow, it was clear and sunny again.  So did we eat outside?  Nope.  I can be so lazy at times.