A few days ago I received this text from my sister: "Urgent! Prepare the crust! Berries!" You might think that her iphone had auto-corrected some other more normal-seeming message, but no. When you've got the rep as the family baker, such messages are commonplace. You see, she'd taken my nieces to pick strawberries and she was headed home with about 10 pounds of them and everyone was craving my famous (at least among my 15 or so extended-family members) strawberry pie! Of course, I dropped everything and immediately headed for the kitchen. No one can say I don't have my priorities straight! Guys, we're talking fresh berries here!!
For years, I've been making this pie at least once every summer and it's always wonderful but it rises to new heights when made with fresh-from-the-farm berries! Would that we lived close to a farm, I'd never buy store bought berries again! If you've never gone strawberry picking, drop everything and do it NOW, while there's still time. You won't believe how incredibly juicy, sweet and strawberryish they taste!!
The pie comes together fairly easily. First you prepare a pie crust and pre-bake it. Yes, you can buy a pre-made crust, but berries like these deserve the real thing and I promise you, it's not hard to do. And if it comes out a little less-than-perfect-looking, who cares? It will taste magnificent!!
Meanwhile, you make the strawberry filling, mashing up a whole lot of those berries to release their juices, cooking them with sugar and cornstarch and lemon juice until you get a thick, sticky, sweet, messy, strawberry mush.
Into that you stir more uncooked fresh berries so that what you're left with is an explosion of strawberry goodness that perfectly complements the flaky piecrust! There's no way to serve this neatly, but who cares? This is a dessert to serve to people you love! Get out a load of napkins and dig in! If no one's face is smeared with strawberry filling, you haven't done the job right!
Famous Strawberry Pie
Makes about 10 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes to put together crust (several hours to chill plus time for rolling out and pre-baking) plus about 15 minutes to make strawberry filling. Also filling needs to time to cool before you pour it into the crust.
For the Pie Crust
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and rechilled until ready to use
- 1/4 cup frozen solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 cubes (I used Crisco)
- 3-4 tablespoons ice water (maybe more)
For the Filling
- About 6 cups fresh strawberries, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 generous tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. To make the Pie Crust: Using a food processor, blend flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and shortening cubes and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.
2. Transfer to a medium sized bowl and add 3 tablespoons of water, using a fork to mix until the dough begins to come together. Add more water by the teaspoonful if it seems too dry.
3. Gather the dough into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit a bit to soften if it seems too cold to roll out. Meanwhile lightly flour a board or work surface, and with a lightly floured rolling pin, working from the center out, roll the dough out into a 12 inch circle, lifting and rotating the dough several times to make sure it's not sticking. Then loosely roll dough around rolling pin to transfer it and very carefully position it over the pan and unroll it, gently pressing dough down into a 9 or 10 inch extra-deep pie plate. Trim overhang and crimp edges using your thumb and finger to make the indentations or any way you like. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
5. Prick crust all over with the tines of a fork and line with parchment paper. Chill for about 15 minutes. Fill the covered dough with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the parchment paper and weights. Return pie to the oven to cook for about 12-15 minutes more or until golden brown and fully cooked. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
6. To make the filling: Hull the strawberries and cut the larger ones in half or thirds. Place about 3 cups of the berries into a medium sized saucepan and mash with a potato masher to release a lot of their juices. Then add the sugar and cornstarch and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and gets lighter in color. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat. Let cool to room temperature and then stir in the remaining berries. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie shell and serve.
7. Pie can be made one day ahead and refrigerated but it's best to eat this on the same day you make it, preferably within a few hours of making it.