Strawberries & Cream Wrapped in Flaky Pastry.
Ahhhhh…. spring. Warmer weather, leaves on the trees, longer days and fresh strawberries. I LOVE strawberries. Let me count the ways… Strawberries right off the vine, strawberries and cream, strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam, strawberry ice cream, strawberry muffins, and strawberry pie. Or, in this case, strawberry cream pie.
Years ago, I had a HUGE garden in which I planted a lot of strawberry plants. Until I planted strawberry plants of my own, I had never tasted a fresh from the vine strawberry. I marveled at their tiny size and tremendous flavor. Every morning, I would walk out into the garden and pick a basket full of them. They would usually be gone before I had finished my first cup of coffee. I had no idea strawberries could taste so good!
I don’t have a garden full of strawberry plants anymore, but am fortunate enough live right next to an organic strawberry and raspberry farm. It’s an incredible place. They arm you with baskets and drive you right into the strawberry fields and let you pick as many as your baskets will hold. The first time I did this, I took my youngest daughter with me. I think she was around 4 years old. I was happily picking away when I looked over at her. She was sitting in the middle of a row of strawberries, plucking them off the plants and popping them right into her mouth as quickly as she could. Her face and hands were bright red with strawberry juice. She thought it was the Best.Thing. Ever.
That first time in the strawberry patch, I picked an enormous amount of strawberries. (I might have a tendency to get carried away with things at times.) I brought them all home with the intention of making strawberry jam. Which I did. For the entire rest of the day, I cooked and canned pint after pint of homemade strawberry jam. Once I had more strawberry jam than I possibly knew what to do with, I still had strawberries. More strawberries than we were going to be able to eat before they spoiled.
So, I turned my attention to strawberry pie filling.
I had planned to give away a lot of the jars of strawberry jam as christmas gifts and thought that a jar of strawberry pie filling would be a great accompaniment. I mean, who doesn’t love the idea of baking a strawberry pie in the middle of January?
The strawberry jam and the strawberry pie filling were a huge hit. I still get requests for both.
I love a good fresh no-bake strawberry pie. The kind of pie where you just pre-bake a pie shell, layer in beautiful rows of fresh strawberries, cover the whole thing with apricot glaze, chill and serve. Delicious. But this strawberry cream pie is my favorite kind because of the strawberry pie filling. Cooking the strawberries in cornstarch and sugar releases their juice and creates an amazing, sticky-sweet strawberry syrup. (Ok. Also, I love the double pie shell. Because…. pie crust is awesome. Especially when the top crust is covered in a layer of sugar that gets all caramelized and crispy while it bakes.)
Adding the custard bottom before the strawberry pie filling is just gilding the lily. It’s not necessary to making a great strawberry pie…. but, it certainly makes it the kind of over-the-top dessert that will make you proud to serve it to anyone you want to impress. That is, if you choose to share it at all. Because you will probably want to eat it all. You should, perhaps, just go ahead and make two.
- 3½ tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ cups whole milk
- ¼ cup honey
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 tsp almond extract
- 4 heaping cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsplemon extract
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- Make a batch of Fool Proof Pie Crust and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Follow these instructions for how to partially pre-bake a pie shell to pre-bake the bottom crust.
- Let the partially baked pie crust cool completely on a wire rack before assembling the pie.
- Put the cornstarch, salt and sugar into a medium heavy bottom saucepan and stir to combine.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks and honey to combine.
- Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the pastry cream thickens and boils.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and extracts. Pour into a bowl, cover and cool the pastry cream to room temperature or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- Hull and quarter the strawberries and put them into a medium size heavy bottom saucepan. Add the sugar, cornstarch and salt and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the strawberries release some of their juice, the sugar melts, and the resulting syrup is thickened, about 5-8 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon extract. Pour into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spoon the pastry cream into the partially baked bottom shell and smooth into an even layer.
- Pour the strawberry pie filling over the pastry cream and distribute into an even layer.
- Remove the remaining pie dough from the refrigerator and on a floured surface, roll out enough dough to make a 10-inch disc. Cover the pie with the top crust.
- Trim the edges of the crust so that you have about a half of an inch hanging over the pie plate. Fold the edges under, forming a rim around the pie that is higher than the pie plate. With one hand on the inside of the edge and one hand on the outside, use the index finger of your inside hand to push the dough between the thumb and index finger of your other hand to form a U or a V shape. Continue this crimping motion around the entire edge.
- Gently brush the egg wash over the top crust with a pastry brush and sprinkle evenly with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Using a sharp paring knife, carefully cut 5 two-inch slits in the top crust.
- Put the pie on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil (to catch any drips) and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 30-40 minutes, until the top crust is golden brown and you can see the strawberry pie filling bubbling under the surface through the top slits.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely before cutting and serving, at least 4 hours. The pie can be served chilled or at room temperature. Store any uneaten pie in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.