Strawberry Pie

29 Jun

The weather on Sunday was amazing, so Tom and I went with a friend to go strawberry picking at one of those pick-your-own farms.  Another friend had gone on Saturday, and she said she got raspberries, so I was looking forward to that as I was planning on making raspberry souffles on Sunday night.  Unfortunately, the raspberries were picked out, so that basically left us with strawberries. While picking I found an interestingly shaped strawberry, very Chthulu:

A Chthulu-shaped strawberry.

The strawberries were plentiful and absolutely amazing, so I really can’t complain.  They were at that perfect combination of tart and sweet.  The strawberries led to a afternoon of Pimm’s cups, and while we didn’t use the traditional recipe of strawberries, orange slices, mint, and cucumber, we did use freshly-picked strawberries and cucumber.

Having a lot of strawberries also gave me the opportunity to make one of my favorite summer treats:  Strawberry Pie.  It’s a great summer dish because it’s served cold (like revenge should be), and it’s very easy to make with a minimum of effort.  Here’s the (American) recipe:

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbls corn starch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 3 oz. package strawberry jello
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 pie crust (baked)

Add the corn starch and sugar to boiling water.  (This is what the recipe says to do, but it doesn’t work all that well, I’ll explain later.)  Boil until thickened.  Stir in the strawberry jello.  Let cool for a bit, then add the fresh strawberries (I halve them or quarter them depending on the size of the strawberries).  Pour into a pre-baked pie crust and place in the refrigerator until set.

That’s it!  If you make it early enough in the day it might be set up in time for dinner.  If not, if you let it set overnight it’s ready for the next day.  The joy about this pie is its adaptability.  In the past I’ve made a raspberry pie by substituting fresh raspberries for the strawberries and raspberry jello for the strawberry jello.  If you’re a fan of raspberries (like I am!), you’ll love this change.  Like a variety of fruits?  I’ve made the pie with a mix of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries (blackberries would also go well) and mixed fruit jello.  I’ve never tried to make a blueberry pie, but only because the blueberry jello is some unnatural blue color, and I think it would creep me out.  I even thought about using mandarin orange slices (from a can) and the orange jello.  It’s a completely versatile recipe!

Now, there are two issues with this pie.  The first one is from living in the UK.  As people may or may not know, Americans use the term jello to mean any sort of gelatin based dessert, as Jell-o is a brand of these desserts.  This is called a proprietary eponym, a genericized trademark, or synecdoche. (Probably the third one should be used in most cases, as the first two may be reserved for things that used to be trademarked but became so standardized in the English language that they are no longer trademarked, like escalator and yo-yo.  I also hate the word genericized, so I’m okay with calling it synecdoche.)  Other examples of this are kleenex (facial tissue) in the United States and hoovering (vacuuming) in the United Kingdom.  Well the point of this is that such a thing as jello does not exist in the UK, and they call it jelly.  Which makes things even more confusing as jelly in the US is like jam and not like jello.  It also doesn’t generally come in a powdered form.  It comes in blocks of super concentrated jello:

Strawberry jelly, UK style

Basically I had to determine the amount of cubes of jelly to use to equal the amount of gelatin in a three ounce package of jello.  Doing the math, I determined that you add approximately three cups of water to twelve cubes of jelly, and since I needed two cups of liquid, I’d need eight cubes of jelly!  I used nine just to make sure it would set.

The second issue is an issue I’ve always had with this recipe, the corn starch (or corn flour in the UK).  The recipe says to add corn starch to boiling water.  This recipe is insane, as when you add corn starch to boiling water, it solidifies instantly into balls of corn starch which are next to impossible to break up in the boiling water.  In the past, I’ve mixed the corn starch with the sugar, then slowly added it to the boiling water in order to prevent blobs of corn starch from forming, but that was even difficult.  Clearly the right solution is to reserve about 1/4 cup of water to dissolve the corn starch.  Then boil the rest of the water.  Then add the corn starch and water to the liquid and everything should go great.  However, I came up with another plan.  Why do I need to add the sugar and corn starch to boiling water?  So I just added everything to the cold water and boiled until it thickened.  And it thickened perfectly!

Another reason why I made this pie was in order to try to the Cook’s Illustrated foolproof pie crust recipe.  In my post about quiche, I discussed how I use the Martha Stewart pie recipe for all my pie crusts because I find it tasty and delicious.  A reader asked me if I ever tried the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, and I said no.  I decided I should give it a try, as a lot of people seem to say that it makes the most amazing pie crust ever.  The secret to this pie crust is the use of vodka in the dough.  There is an excess of liquid so that the pie crust is easy to deal with and easy to roll with a rolling pin, but since half of it is vodka, the alcohol prevents the gluten in the crust from activating and creating a leathery pie dough.  The vodka also evaporates at a lower temperature supposedly creating a crisp and flaky pie crust.

I made up the pie crust and baked it in the oven.  Unfortunately, my crust shrank a bit (which I expected), but it still came out fairly nice.  I filled the pie crust and threw it in the refrigerator on Sunday night in order to have a nice, cold, and tasty pie for Monday.

Strawberry pie

As you can see, the pie crust ended up a bit rustic, but the color of the pie is always something appealing to me.  The bright red of the jelly and the strawberries always makes my mouth water.  I cut a few slices for Tom and I, and so the taste test began!

Two slices of strawberry pie

Surprisingly, Tom had never had this pie before.  I don’t know why, I was going through a phase of making it all the time.  I know I made it several times when I was living with Jamie, and I was dating Tom then, so he should have had some.  Except maybe we were pigs and ate it all without him.  Needless to say, he enjoyed it.  Now about the crust.  When I made it, I used all butter, because I don’t understand the reason behind putting shortening in anything.  The pie was a bit of a gloopy, sticky mess, but I put it in the fridge to set.  It rolled out quite easily, and adding a dusting of flour really helped the consistency go from gloopy and hard to roll to easy rolling and not at all sticky.  It baked up nice and flaky.  To be honest this is the most like a shop bought pastry crust than I’ve ever made before.  Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of shop bought pastry crusts (for this type of pastry, I don’t have a problem buying puff pastry or filo pastry), so it was a bit of a disappointment when it felt like i was eating one.  I asked Tom, and he felt like it wasn’t as nice as my other crusts as well.  However, I think it might have ended up a tad under-baked, so I might try it one more time getting it to a nice golden brown, and maybe the delicious butter flavor that I’m used to from home made pastry will come out.

Oh the pie is great with whipped cream on top as well.  I usually serve it plain, but that’s because I prefer home made whipped cream, and I cant always be bothered to make any.


Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Pie


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4 responses to “Strawberry Pie

  1. nrlymrtl

    June 30, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    Strawberry pie is one of my favorites also. My Main Man makes it a few times a year for me. He really tries hard not to a) interfere in my pie crust making or b) make fun of my finished pie crust. Without success. So after years of togetherness, I let him make all pie crusts. And strawberry pie is what I ask for every spring. I’m glad you tried the vodka pie crust. We make it with shortening and don’t notice a bought-pastry affect. Though it has been some time since I had a store-bought pie….

    • Grant

      June 30, 2011 at 12:28 PM

      Ha. Well Tom doesn’t make fun of my pie crusts either. Even though they are a bit rustic looking. But maybe I just didn’t bake the crust for long enough. It was just not as deliciously crisp and buttery as the one I usually make. I used to always complain that my quiches weren’t as good as the ones we got at Cafe Divine, and he thought I was crazy for saying so, and he always said my pastry was better. Which is something. But this time he just thought the pastry was so-so. I do have to say that it’s extremely easy to work with! Much easier than the pie crust I made in the past. Who knows though. I’ll definitely have to try it again just to make sure. Maybe I’ll even try it with the shortening, but I usually try to avoid it. I just find it’s not there for any purpose except it’s like butter but has no flavor. Of course, I suppose I can always substitute lard if I want to go crazy…

    • Grant

      June 30, 2011 at 12:33 PM

      Oh, and what’s your strawberry pie recipe like?

  2. nrlymrtl

    June 30, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Well, the last one My Main Man (M3) used lard, and I thought it was divine. He also makes a strawberry syrup from scratch instead of using jello. I have never really enjoyed jello. He also bakes the entire pie. I love it piping hot from the oven with home made whip cream or vanilla icecream. Then he has taken to using the heart-shaped cookie cutter to make the covering pie crust.


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