A recipe for strawberry pie, with song

Ever since a friend introduced me to the movie Waitress, I’ve been longing for the day that I could bake together with my children, humming the ditty Keri Russell sings about pie. Under the tutelage of Eagranie Yuh, my daughter and I learned her path to a magic pastry crust and made our very first pie together.

I dub this creation Mommy Loves Kaitlin Straw-berry Much Pie. Sing along with me, won’t you?

Sorry, Kate...you can't eat it yet...

Baby don’t you cry

Pastry overhang

Gonna make a pie

Berry bucket

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

Pie rejection

Baby don’t be blue

Kate follows along with Eagranie's pie dough demo

Gonna make for you

Learning to pick strawberries

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

Ready for the oven

Gonna be a pie from heaven above

Filling prep

Gonna be filled with strawberry love

Kate sugars the lattice

Baby don’t you cry

Fresh out of the oven

Gonna make a pie

Mother and daughter baked a pie

And hold you forever in the middle of my heart.

And now, on to the recipe.

Ingredients

You could skip making the pastry dough and use a store-bought shell, but where’s the fun in that? We used a 50/50 combo of butter and leaf lard that Eagranie had rendered herself. I’m now a firm believer in the magic that melted pork works into pastries.

Pastry dough

I usually double this recipe each time I make it. Half goes into the pie I’m baking that day; the other half gets shelved in the freezer for emergency pastry needs.

  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour, refrigerator cold
  • 1/3 cup sugar, refrigerator cold
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter, refrigerator cold
  • 1/2 lb (leaf) lard, refrigerator cold
  • Up to 3/4 cup ice-cold water

Filling

  • 3-4 cups of (fresh) strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 – 1 1/2 cups sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • A few shavings of lemon zest
  • 1 tsp minute tapioca (optional)

Specialty equipment

  • Rolling pin
  • (Pyrex) pie plate
  • cooling rack

Directions

Pastry dough

In a large bowl, thoroughly blend flour, salt, and sugar.

Working as quickly as possible so as to not warm the butter, use a knife to section off large chunks of butter into the large bowl. Throw flour blend over the butter chunks until well coated. Cut butter into your flour blend with your hands or with a pastry cutter. Repeat this process with the (leaf) lard.

A melange of fat

Eagranie taught me that a pastry crust gets a superior flake when the clusters of fat are not the same size — a state difficult to achieve with a pastry cutter. Says she:

When you’re incorporating the fat into flour, do it gently. Whether you’re using a pastry cutter or your hands (my preferred tools), you’re aiming for a sandy looking texture. There should be some pea-sized chunks, some smaller chunks, and some even smaller bits. The mixture should still be loose. Trust me, it’ll all come together in the end.

Have your ice-cold water at hand in a liquid measuring cup. Pour a trickle of water in to the mixing bowl and incorporate into the flour with your hand in a circular motion, taking some loose flour from the bottom and centre of the bowl with each pass. Clench some of the mix in your hand. At this point, the mix should fall back into the bowl like powder. Repeat until the mix changes texture, from gritty to on the verge of sticking together. Near the end, stick your hand in the cup and sprinkle a few drops of water in at a time. You don’t want to add too much water…just enough for everything to suddenly hold together.

Once it does hold, take out of the mixing bowl and form the dough into 1 or more balls the size of a hamburger or kaiser bun, which should be enough to roll out into a circle for your pie plate. Wrap in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes (60 minutes is ideal). This cools the fats back down, relaxes the gluten you’ve developed, and makes the rolling process much easier.

Filling

Our Krause Berry Farm strawberry haul

Fit the strawberries in the pie plate before slicing. You can fill it flat or mound it up 1-2″. The typical pie plate has room for 3-4 cups of whole fruit.

Slice then taste the strawberry batch you have. How sweet is it? If it’s quite sweet, measure off 1/4 cup of sugar and mix it in. Taste it again. Sweet enough? You can stop there. If it needs more, keep adding 1/4 cup of sugar and mixing it in until the sweetness is to your taste. Try to cap it at 1 1/2 cups.

Mix in the salt, nutmeg, flour, and lemon zest.

Strawberries hold a lot of water, so a filling made with strawberries would water-log the bottom pie crust long before the pie is cooked. Adding flour to the filling mix helps, but adding too much will make it taste too starchy. Eagranie’s trick was to add a teaspoon of minute tapioca. The tapioca absorbs any excess liquid after the flour absorbs all it can. It also adds a subtle chew to the overall filling.

Time your steps so that the filling sits together for about 20 minutes before assembly.

Assembly

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

Once your dough has rested, roll out two circles approximately 1/8″-1/4″ thick, sized 1-2″ larger than the circumference of your pie plate.  Position the first circle into the pie plate, using gravity to drape the outer edges into the inside rim such that there is little to no space for air bubbles to form between your plate and the crust. The dough should hang over the upper edge of the pie plate by about an inch.

Add the pie filling to the plate. Roll out the second dough crust on top. Seal the crusts together using your favourite method. Brush top crust with milk (matte finish) or egg white (shinier finish) and sprinkle with sugar.

If you want to get snazzy about it, do a pie lattice or add dough ornaments instead of a solid top crust. For me, the choice largely depends on my strawberry content. If I mounded the filling 1-2″ above the top edge of the pie plate, I use a solid crust to keep it together. If the berries will make a relatively flat pie, I lattice the top.

Bake 20-25 minutes at 450F. Reduce to 375F and continue baking until the pie has been in the oven for about 60 minutes. You’ll know it’s time to eat when the top crust is flaky and golden and your home smells like an episode of Strawberry Shortcake.

Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, whole fresh berries, or all of the above. I know you want all of the above.

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Halloween 2011, Trick Edition: Pumpkin and date hand pie party favours

Jack o' lantern pumpkin and date hand pies

My birthday came and went this year without an explicitly planned Birthday Cake of Immortality (BCI). It was no real skin off my back to skip a year, as the 13-course Peking Duck banquet we threw at Red Star suited me just fine.

Red Star: Peking duck

It was brought to my attention, however, that the party favours that we created for our 30 guests not only made Halloweentastic gourmet treats but met the standards for a Birthday Cake of Immortality (a metaphoric eating of flesh).

Now that you’re done looking at previous BCIs and have managed to push your nausea down, I’ll share our tricks for creating these less controversial, delicious, and seasonally appropriate hand pies filled with pumpkin and Medjool dates.

The Filling

Time to meander over to The Cooking Photographer. Laura’s recipe is the one that came up when I Googled “jack o’ lantern hand pie”, and after seeing her handiwork, no other hand pie would do for my guests.

Since I needed 4x the number of hand pies that Laura’s recipe made, I naturally made 4x the amount of filling that a single batch called for. Big mistake!

Pumpkin and Medjool date pie filling

That’s all we needed per hand pie: a spoonful! One batch of filling was therefore more than enough to fill the 30 hand pies we made. It’s not too horrible if you make too much, though; stuff the remainder into a normal-sized pie and you’re all set.

The Dough

Rolling out the dough

My well-tempered friend Eagranie Yuh came over last August and taught me her tried-and-true pie pastry technique, which she had, in turn, learned from Kate McDermott, Seattle baker extraordinaire.

To give both ladies their proper due, I will simply link to their respective articles. Click away!

These particular hand pies were commemorating a Peking Duck dinner so I veered slightly off-recipe, using a smidgen less of leaf lard and making up for it with a heaping tablespoon of duck fat.

Specialized Tools

Since Laura clearly described how to cut, fill, and bake the hand pies, I won’t bother reiterating the assembly instructions here. Instead, I’ll share a few tips that may save you time and ruined tester pies.

To get your pies looking like a right old jack o’ lantern, find your neighbourhood Williams Sonoma and get these babies:

We chose not to cut out a nose in our hand pies, as doing so would have left us little room around the edges to seal the sides of the pie together. Similarly, we opted for the mouths and eyes that balanced our desire to have the filling stick out with our need to keep the pies sealed.

I didn’t want to create a separate label in the party favour bag to say thank you, so spending $30 on this message cutter set just to be able to press “Thank You” on the back side of the pie was well worth it. Also rationalized that this set would come in handy for future occasions where I feel like writing graffiti on my desserts.

I thought they came out pretty well, don’t you?