Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dr. Mandylove, or how I learned to stop worrying and make a pie crust (for amazing Icebox Strawberry Pie)

I finally did it! I made a homemade pastry pie crust.
   For years I’ve avoided making one, frightened by tales of fussiness: It’s hard to roll. You’ve got to get the ingredient temperatures and measures just right. Flaky can become easily become lardy and tough.
   This past weekend, I decided it was time to face those fears and make a pie crust, and I did so with Cook’s Country magazine's appropriately-titled "No-Fear Pie Crust" (click and scroll down for the recipe).
   It’s a press-in crust (no rolling here!) and for the most part, it was successful. Thanks to the secret ingredient of cream cheese, the dough was easy to press into place. After baking, it looked like a homemade pie crust, and it tasted very good.
   It was a tad overcooked, though, so next time I make it I will watch it more closely while baking.
   I’m glad I made the crust, and will be using the recipe for more pies in the future (lemon, raspberry, chocolate – yummy!)
   However, the true crowning achievement of my first pastry pie-making adventure was not the crust, but the filling and topping.
   I made Icebox Strawberry Pie (click for the recipe) from Cook’s Country magazine, and it was fabulous.
   It’s a luscious, cool pie packed with strawberry flavor that’s dolloped with a cream cheese/heavy cream topping.
   Pie lovers will be impressed – I guarantee it.
   The recipe I linked to above is on a recipe-sharing site, and it contains both the strawberry pie and pie crust recipes. It is exactly the same as the ones I used from Cook’s Country.
   To make the pie filling, two pounds of frozen strawberries are cooked in a large saucepan (I used a soup stock pot), being stirred constantly, for about 25 minutes, until they’ve broken up and become thick and jamlike.
   A combination of unflavored gelatin, lemon juice and water is stirred into the cooked berries along with sugar and salt, and the mixture transferred to a bowl to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
   A pound of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin, is folded into the filling. The filling is spread into a pie crust that has been baked and cooled, and the pie is refrigerated until set, about four hours.
   To make the topping, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and heavy cream (I used whipping cream) are beaten together with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
   The topping can be dolloped individually on pieces, or spread over the entire pie.
   The pie is stored in the fridge.

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