Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Strawberry Pie

So, the washing machine recently broke.
It would fill and agitate, but it wouldn't spin or drain. It was about a week before the Sears repair man could come and fix it. Stagnant washing machine water is not a pretty sight, and the smell was a lovely bleach and perm combination (yuck).

I know, the photos don't really match the story.

We had to get the laundry room cleaned up before the guy came. A Chernobyl-like laundry room- a complete disaster area (I'll say no more). But, honestly, I have a theory that there aren't many pristine American laundry-rooms out there. I think I would need to see some statistics if anyone feels he can argue this point. I don't think that anyone really wants to invite guests into the laundry room for one reason or another.
"Oh! Please do come in. May I take your coat? Would you care to see the laundry room?"

The day the repair man came (we called him Mr. Sears, but he said his name was Phil), I made strawberry pie. Mr. Sears was invited to have some pie after he finished fixing the washing machine. So we all sat down and had some pie. It was a little awkward, but that's ok.
I think it made him happy, and I highly doubt that people offer him anything very often (or ever).
It was about 4 PM when he left, and he said he still had 4 more washing machines to fix!

That's the most recent strawberry pie story.
The recipe comes from my grandmother. It's simple, very good, and something we look forward to every summer.
A bit of lovely and kitschy Americana with the somewhat unnatural BRIGHT red from Jell-o sometimes augmented by red food coloring.

I made an adjustment for the sake of texture (my adjustment is written into this recipe), but it's pretty much as it should be.
The addition was an extra tablespoon of Jell-O for three reasons:
1. Extra assurance that the filling will set (but it's a soft set Jell-O... not THAT stiff)
2. A little more strawberry flavor
3. I certainly do not need extra food coloring because the Jell-O will add plenty, thank you.

I have to say that I meant to have more savory recipes here, so I apologize for all the sweets. I'll try to do better in the future!

One tip: if you mix the sugar and corn starch together, the corn starch breaks up and incorporates into the sugar- THEN you can add the liquid. This way you shouldn't have corn starch lumps.
The smaller the strawberries, the better. I think it's best with small berries that you don't have to cut to fill the pie shell. Also, the amount of strawberries isn't exact- whatever you can fit in the pie shell will do... just remember that you need to account for the filling that will flow into the spaces. I usually start with 2 pints of berries and fill the shell until it looks good (you won't usually find that all the berries are completely perfect).

Strawberry Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 pre-baked pie shell *

fresh strawberries
1 c sugar
1 1/2 c water
2 T corn starch
3 T strawberry Jell-O
1/2 t almond extract (optional)
a few drops of red food coloring (optional)

Mix sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until combined and there are no lumps. Add water, stir, and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cook for approximately 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in Jell-O, almond extract, and food coloring (if using). Set aside to cool until warm.

Place strawberries in pre-baked pie shell. Add cooled filling and place pie in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Serve with fresh whipped cream.
Strawberry pie is best the day it's made.

*We usually make several pie crusts at once and freeze what we do not use.
The instruction I found to pre-bake a shell didn't come with my pastry recipe, but it still worked.

The shell was baked at 375 for 20 minutes with foil and pie weights or dried beans in it. Foil and weights were removed and the crust was baked again for about 15 minutes, until it was dried and golden.

After placing the dough in the pan and before baking it, I pierced it all over with a fork and placed it in the freezer for 15 minutes. It's less likely to collapse and shrink this way! If you have any bubbles form in the crust while it's baking the second time, pierce them so the bottom of the crust remains flat.

If you need some photos of the piercing and pie weights you can look here.

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