Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Pie with Whipped Cream

Pie is one of my favorite desserts.  It's pretty even when it's messy, it's so versatile that it can be a meal or a dessert, and it's comforting.  For most people, it brings to mind family gatherings and holidays - Christmases and Thanksgivings with Pumpkin, Pecan or Apple all laid out on a table like a pie buffet.

But pie also brings to mind summer memories for me.  During the wee hours of many summer nights, my friends and I would stop by Houston's 24 Hour House of Pies to recover from a night of mischief-making with shared cheese fries and slices of Dutch Apple or Bavarian Chocolate Banana (we were pretty hardcore).

One of my personal favorites at House of Pies was the seasonal Strawberry Pie.  Ruby red glazed strawberries piled high in a simple crust and topped off with whipped cream.  It doesn't get any better.  So when I saw some particularly beautiful berries at the farmer's market yesterday, I knew what I was going to be making this weekend.

This pie wouldn't be complete without some whipped cream, and making your own is surprisingly quick if you've got a decent mixer.  Plus it just makes the whole thing that much prettier.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Basic Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water

Strawberry Filling:
1 cup plus three pints fresh strawberries, divided and hulled
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the crust, toss all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Cut up butter and shortening into small pieces.  Stick all ingredients into the freezer for fifteen minutes.

With dry ingredients in food processor, pulse a few times to mix.  Add your cold butter and shortening and pulse a few more times until the mixture resembles course meal.  Add the water slowly, mixing until the dough starts to come together and holds when you squeeze a bit in your hand.  Shape the dough into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and transfer to your pie plate.  Crimp the edges to make it pretty, then prick the dough all around with a fork.  Stick it in the freezer for another 10 minutes (cold dough = flaky dough).

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Line the pie dough with parchment paper and weigh it down with pie weights or dry beans.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden.  Remove the parchment and weight and bake for another 10 minutes to finish it off.

For the filling, puree one cup of strawberries with your food processor or mash with a fork.  Combine 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and heat on medium until the sugar dissolves.  Add the pureed strawberry and heat until boiling, stirring constantly.  Mix cornstarch and cold water and add to the strawberry mixture.  Return to a boil and heat until thickened.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix the strawberries with the glaze and pile into the cooled pie shell.  Refrigerate until chilled - about 2 hours.

For the whipped cream, use a mixer with whisk attachment to whip the cream until thickened.  Add sugar and vanilla and continue mixing until soft peaks form.  Serve a slice of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

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