Monday, August 6, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Pie

For comments, please post below or email to

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Strawberry Pie
I love a fresh strawberry pie – the kind without all the goo – or jello-like bouncy stuff (gelatin) to hold it together. Strawberry pies with pastry cream are, well, are tarts and not pies. I set out to make truly fresh strawberry pie – one that featured the strawberries alone in all their glory. In the summer, there is no sweeter or fruitier flavor than ripe berries from your nearby farmers market. The struggle in making a fresh pie is how to hold the strawberries together in the pre-baked crust so you can easily cut it. As long as you use ripe fruit, strawberry pie practically makes itself, right? It’s actually the berries’ juice (ripe or otherwise) that can make the filling soupy. Creating my ideal pie, fresh fruit held together by a glossy fruity glaze in a buttery pastry shell – hinged on getting the thickener just right.

Strawberries do not ripen after they have been harvested, so choose strawberries that have been picked fully ripened and buy when you are ready to use them. They should have a bright red color, natural shine and fresh looking green caps. Select berries that are in a dry, unstained container (stained containers may indicate over soft berries that are not freshly picked). Mold on berries spreads quickly – never leave a moldy berry next to a good one. Don’t you dare wash them until you are ready to use them – strawberries are like small sponges, ready to soak up all the water they can come into contact with, and once they’ve soaked it all up they are quicker to turn to mush and rot away. The less they are handled, the better. If storing overnight, keep them cold, 36 – 38 degree F, open container, let them breathe. No plastic bag! Leave the caps (stems) on the berries until ready to eat or use in a recipe and remove only after washing.

The most important ingredient!
The pastry shell can be made 2 days before, baked the day before, but the strawberry assembly is best done the day of serving – at least 2-3 hours ahead as it needs time to set-up. 

  • Single all-butter pastry crust– prebaked and cooled.
  • 3 lbs. fresh strawberries (about 4 pints)
  • ¾ C granulated sugar
  • 2 Tb cornstarch
  • 1 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp pectin – use pink box (low acid) pectin
  • Pinch salt
  • Whipping cream (optional)

Make your single crust for a 9-inch pie plate well in advance so it will cool before building your pie. It can be made the day before and tightly but gently covered with foil overnight. See recipe for the all-butter pie pastry posted 7/9/12 for the Summer Honey Caramel Peach Pie (searchable on the blog). The all-butter pastry dough recipe is at the bottom of the post. As that is for a pie with a top and bottom crust, you can either make half a recipe – or make the full recipe and store the remaining dough in your refrigerator or freezer for another pie or tart.

Once you have rolled out the pastry and placed into your 9-inch pie plate, refrigerate the dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove pie plate from refrigerator and use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough. Line the crust and sides with foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weight, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 additional minutes, until crust is golden brown and crisp. Let cool to room temperature. Remove from oven. Let it cool completely before adding strawberries. If making the day before, once completely cool, wrap tightly in foil and store overnight room temperature.
Pie weights on the crust
Lifting the pie weights after baking
Prepare 3 lb. fresh strawberries for use by rinsing with caps still attached under a gentle spray of cool water; pat dry with a paper towel. Wash them just before you plan to use them. Remove the green caps (stems) with either a light twisting motion, with point of a paring knife or use a strawberry de-stemmer/huller (see pic). Leave strawberries whole. Select 8 ounces of the most unattractive berries – you should have about 1½ Cups. In a food processor or blender, process the berries to a smooth puree, 20 to 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Strawberries after removing the caps
This is the tool for "de-capping" the strawberries
Whisk ¾ C sugar, 2 Tb cornstarch, 1½ tsp low acid pectin and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the berry puree, making sure to scrape the corners of the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, and bring to a full boil. Boil, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent scorching, for 2 minutes to ensure that the cornstarch is fully cooked (mixture will appear frothy when it first reaches a boil, then will darken and thicken with further cooking). Transfer to a large bowl and stir in 1 Tb lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature.
Pectin, starch, etc in the bowl 
Added to the blended berries
Meanwhile, pick over the remaining berries and measure out 2-2½ pounds of the most attractive ones. Keep them whole. (Cut strawberries release too much liquid and make the pie soupy).  Add the berries to the bowl with the glaze and fold gently with a rubber spatula until the berries are evenly coated. Scoop the berries into the pie shell, piling into a mound in the center. If necessary, rearrange the berries so that holes are filled and the mound looks attractive. Refrigerate pie until chilled, about 2 hours. Serve within 5 hours of chilling.

After adding the blended strawberries
Just before serving, add a piping of whipping cream along the outer edge of the pie or decoratively add a floret of whipping cream to each serving.  This pie is best cut carefully with a serrated knife.

There is no better time of the year to make this pie!  The berries are at their best – and this pie is a wonderful relatively healthy option for a summer night treat. Big, fresh strawberries in a thick strawberry glaze piled into a piecrust and adorned with big swirls of whipped cream. What could be better!


Recipe adapted: Cooks Illustrated


  1. Hi Linda,

    Beautiful photos. I'm a friend of Wilma's. She's with me right now. I'm now following you and looking forward to your posts.

    Be seeing you.

  2. I wanted to second that this pie is sooooooooo good!!!!! I have this Cook's Illustrated issue and love it, especially their recipe for crepes, sweet and tangy coleslaw with apples and tarragon, juicy pub-style burgers, spring vegetable pasta, and Nasi goreng, all recommended! We also love their Cook's Country Icebox Strawberry Pie, which is quite a different style using sliced strawberries and gelatin, so it sounds like with the gelatin you wouldn't like that one as much. I have made them both twice each; this is my fav and the other is my husband's fav, but we both love both, and I can't imagine anyone not loving a slice of this pie!