Tag Archives: tips

Late to the Pi Party

Those who live in colder climes tend to think of strawberries as a sign of summer. Living in Florida means finding local strawberries from December to April, and we are peaking right about now. Oh, yeah. Spring is in the air and strawberries are everywhere. Aren’t we lucky?

One of the first pies I made when I started this project was a Strawberry Icebox Pie. It was delicious. As of late, I’ve been itching to make a baked strawberry pie. I thought it would be the perfect pie for Pi Day, which was March 14. As you can see, I am late to the Pi party. All I can say is that it’s not easy to bake a pie after work in the middle of the week. Pies take time. No one likes to feel rushed. Pie should not make you cry.

I can say that it was worth the delay. This is one of my favorite pies I’ve made. My best pastry, yet, no doubt. The key to a tasty and flaky pastry is letting the dough rest for at least an hour before rolling and keeping it cool while working it. Don’t rush it and never let it get too soft. I put it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes after rolling, after pressing it into the pan, and after crimping. After finishing the top crust, I put the pie in the freezer for a few minutes to let it firm up before sticking it in the hot oven. It’s the little things that make a difference.

I just used a standard fruit pie recipe. You can use any berries, stone, or hard fruit, really. A little lemon juice and nutmeg really bring out the flavor of the fruit without overpowering. Use more or less fruit depending if you want a smaller or taller pie. Feel free to add another ¼-½ cup of sugar, or brown sugar, if you like it sweeter or if the berries are too tart. If the filling looks too juicy after stirring, add 1-2 tbs cornstarch to thicken it a bit. I also recommend placing a cookie sheet or a spill-mat beneath the pie to catch any drips.

Baked Strawberry Pie

4-6 cups (2-3 quarts) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
½ cup sugar
¼ cup tapioca or flour
pinch salt
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp grated nutmeg
3 tbs cold butter, cut into bits

2 9-inch prepared pie pastries

Preheat oven to 425°.

Press one pie pastry into 9-inch pie plate. Place pastry in freezer while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, toss sliced strawberries with sugar, tapioca or flour, salt, lemon juice, and nutmeg. If strawberry mixture is too juicy, add 1-2 tbs cornstarch.

Spoon into prepared pie pastry. Pour juice over top and dot with butter. Top with remaining pie pastry. Crimp edges and vent as desired.

Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, move pie to middle rack and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. (I used a pie crust shield for the last 10 minutes to keep the edges from becoming too brown.)

Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Time for pretty pie pictures.

Florida strawberries pose for a still life

The ingredient lineup

Hull and slice 2-3 quarts of fresh strawberries

Pour some sugar on those berries

Now pour some tapioca on there

A little freshly grated nutmeg mingles nicely with the fruit

Freshly squeezed lemon juice complements the sweet berries

Gently spoon the berries into the prepared pie pastry

Dot with butter before adding your top crust

My pie talks nerdy to me

Pretty and delicious. The baked strawberry pie is a new favorite

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She’s Plum Crazy Pie

Now I am just making stuff up. The end of the summer fruit season is leaving me as weary as the North Florida heat and humidity. Sure, school has started, and Labor Day is waving in the distance, but it is a far cry from feeling like fall here in the true Southern U.S.

I have an amazing stash of autumnal pie recipes itching to fall out of my recipe box but I’m still wearing shorts and sandals, so the pecans and pumpkins must wait.

A plethora of plums in the market had me searching for a plum pie recipe. Plum pie? Yeah, right. Sounds crazy. Plum crazy. I found that good ol’ Martha has a Bottom Crust Plum Pie recipe which was just ripe for revision. After spotting blueberries on sale, I knew what I could concoct to take the plums to the next level. (Never underestimate the power of the blueberry. Antioxidants in my pie! Oh my!)

Use the basic pie pastry recipe, or the pie pastry of your choice. Also, while I prefer the tapioca to control the juiciest of pies, you can also use flour or cornstarch. About 2-3 tbs to ¼ cup should do the trick depending on the juiciness of your fruit. Mmm hmm….

Blueberry Plum Crazy Pie

2 lbs (6 cups) plums, washed, halved, pitted, and sliced
1 pint (2 cups) blueberries, washed
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup tapioca
1-2 tbs fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp fresh, grated nutmeg
2 tbs cold butter, cut into small bits
2 tbs milk and granulated sugar for the top crust

Preheat oven to 400°, with rack set in lowest position. Prepare pastry as usual. Keep it chill!

Mix tapioca, sugar, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in fruit and lemon juice and let sit until the juices start flowing. Set aside as you work on your pastry. Spoon fruit into unbaked pie shell and pour liquid on top. Dot with butter pieces and top with pastry. Be sure to vent the top crust with basic slits or fancy cutouts. Brush pastry with milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes on lowest rack. Lower temp to 375° and bake on middle rack for another 20-30 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Tip: Place a parchment-lined, rimmed cookie sheet beneath the pie to catch any juices that dribble out of the pie.

Cool on a wire rack for a few hours before serving.

Always make your fruit pose for you before baking

One pint of blueberries equals two cups

Slice in half, remove pit, then slice in thirds or quarters

Two pounds of plums equals about 6 cups

Half a lemon should give you 1-2 tbs of juice

Freshly grated nutmeg is the best

Just call me Madam Mix-a-Lot

So, I kind of forgot to take a few photos here while I was in the pie groove. Here’s the pie fresh from the oven. It smelled heavenly.

Made with lovin' and fresh from the oven

Oh, My Cherry-Berry Pie

Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen library Pies & Tarts book I checked out from my local library, I have created one outstanding non-sour cherry pie. I am so excited that the crust came out absolutely perfect. Hooray! I used the basic/my new favorite pate brisee. Here it is again for those late to the game:

Pate Brisee

2 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tbs ice water

Using your hands, a food processor, or stand mixer, mix the dry ingredients. Add butter and coat with flour before mixing. Mix until a coarse meal forms. You will still see pieces of butter. Add water one tablespoon at a time until dough sticks together and forms large clumps. Pat dough together in a ball, cut in half, and form two discs on waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill at least two hours or over night. Remove from fridge 15 minutes before rolling.

Now I put my own twist on the recipe, because that’s what I like to do.

Cherry-Berry Pie

2 tbs quick-cooking tapioca
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
3 cups pitted cherries
1 cup raspberries
2 cups blackberries
2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into bits for dotting top of pie

Preheat oven to 425°. Roll out your pastry and stick in the pan, just like I’ve told you so many times before. Stick it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before crimping the edge. The secret is keeping the pastry cool. This will give you flaky, non-soggy crust. Trust me.

While the pastry is chillin’, dump the tapioca, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Mix together, then add the cherries and the berries and mix well.  (About the pitted cherries: Easy peasy, but they will stain your fingers, so wear plastic gloves if you are prissy like that.)

Take the chilled pie shell out of the fridge and spoon the fruit into the shell. Yes, spoon it all in, then pour the liquid on top. This will also help keep your pastry from getting a soggy bottom. Dot with cold bits of butter and top with the other pastry round.

You can do a lattice-top, have a plain top crust with vents cut for steam, or you can get all fancy with pastry cut-outs. So many options!

Bake in the lower part of the oven at 425° for 25 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°, place pie in center of oven and put a parchment-lined pan on the rack below the pie to catch any drips. Bake about 25-35 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and juices are bubbling. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm with vanilla ice cream (or however you wish, but ice cream ROCKS!)

Look at pretty pictures now?

Pose for me, berries, then I will make you into pie!

Best pie pastry yet. Makes me happy

The darker the berry, right? And that buttah! Yum

All of my pies are made with love

Before We Get Started

Here is a list (yes, I love lists!) of tips that I wrote for myself but are also useful to anyone who wants to bake, cook, or blog about baking or cooking.

Study the recipe. Before you do anything else, read the recipe several times. You may realize that it is just way too complicated or requires ingredients you can’t find in your neck of the woods. (Hello? Huckleberries? Please send them if you got them!) Next, take note of what ingredients you have and what you will need to buy. Ditto for tools and bake-ware. Do you have everything you need? Good. Let’s move on, shall we?

Assemble the ingredients and tools. Follow the recipe and gather everything you will need before you start measuring and sifting. Flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, saucepan, measuring cups and spoons, pie plate, etc. Put it all out on the counter. This will help ensure that you aren’t forgetting anything. Remember, baking is a science. There is a huge difference between baking powder and baking soda. Nobody wants to cry over failed pie.

Measure the ingredients. I measure (almost) everything before I begin the mixing. Then I separate my eggs if I need to. Good to know: Eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, but egg whites whip up better when they are at room temperature. Once you get going, things start moving fast, especially with cream pies, so it’s easier to have everything measured ahead of time. Trust me. We don’t want to cry over failed pie.

Photograph the ingredients and take notes. A reminder for me. Baking, photographing, blogging. It’s complicated. It is also important to realize that sometimes you just have to bake and forget about documenting the process.

Flavor trumps beauty. Your pie may not be pretty, but as long as it tastes good, no one who loves you will care.

You are not a failure even if your pie fails. True fact. You are beautiful. Remember that.

Baking pies should not make you cry.