I'm making a resolution to bake more pie. In fact, I've started a pie calendar (for real) and am marking down potential pies to make every month for the rest of the year (subject to change, of course).
Given the option side by side of cake or pie, I will pick the pie. In fact when faced with the same flavor profile, I will also pick the pie version over the cake (ie coconut cream pie vs coconut cake).
It's finally spring, and I'm so excited to have a new bounty of ingredients for cooking and baking. There are so many wonderful seasonal flavors that remind me of spring, and it was logical to step into spring this past weekend (when the weather actually felt more like summer) by baking a beautiful pie for Easter.
I'm a big fan of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, which along with Magpie make up my duo of favorite pie books on my bookshelf. It's the source of one of my absolute favorite spring pies, rhubarb custard pie. For Easter I decided to try another one of the fantastic spring pie recipes from that book, the strawberry balsamic pie.
Boy is this pie a winner! The filling reminds me of syrupy homemade strawberry preserves. The balsamic vinegar adds a bit of complexity to the strawberry filling, along with a couple dashes of Angostura bitters and a bit of black pepper to take things up a notch.
At the end of the day, all of these unusual ingredients take a back seat to the strawberries which are definitely the star here, but are enhanced by these subtle accents.
The filling did not set quite as much as I would have normally liked, but I actually enjoyed scooping up some of the syrupy strawberries that fell behind and enjoying them by the spoonful as a little post-pie snack. A scoop of vanilla ice cream would have also been pretty epic alongside this lovely pie.
I highly recommend making your pie crust from scratch. Store-bought just isn't the same, and for a pie as delicious as this one, you really want to go the extra step and make it completely from scratch if you can.
Chef's note: if you call this a fruit casserole instead of a pie, you can totally eat a slice of it for breakfast without feeling any guilt ;-)
Strawberry Balsamic Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie; serves 8 to 10
(From The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pounds strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and quartered (5 to 6 cups)
1 small baking apple (such as Northern Spy or Golden Delicious)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground arrowroot
2 grinds fresh black pepper, fine setting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
Demerara sugar, for finishing (I use Sugar in the Raw)
To make the crust: Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.
Divide the dough in half and shape the dough into flat discs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.
Remove the dough from the fridge 5 to 10 minutes before you being rolling. Dough that is too cold will develop cracks when it is rolled.
Lightly flour your work surface and roll out one of the discs of dough until it is 2 to 3 inches larger than the pan you are using and about 1/8 inch in thickness. Fold the dough in half and lay it across one side of a well-buttered pie pan (no need to butter if you are using a ceramic pie dish), positioning the seam in the center. Unfold the disc and gently slide and fit the dough down into the pan; do not pull or stretch the dough. Make sure there are no gaps between the dough and the pan; if there are air bubbles, burst them with a fork.
Trim the dough overhang to allow 1 to 1 1/2 inches of excess, measuring from the inner rim of the pan. Cover the crust with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour or more, and tightly wrapped, up to 3 days before using. The rolled out, fitted, tightly wrapped crust can also be frozen for up to a month.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the other disc of dough into a circle approximately 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. To cover pie with a pastry round, simply place dough round on a parchment lined pan and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes. If making a lattice top, use a pizza cutter or fluted pastry wheel to trim one inch of dough from either side of the circle, and then cut the remaining shape into 8 strips of equal width (this will result in a 4-by-4 lattice--you can cut from 12 to 18 thinner strips and create a 6-by-6 or 9-by-9 lattice respectively, depending on your preference of lattice style). Transfer the lattice strips to a parchment lined pan and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
For the filling: Have ready and refrigerated one pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan and pastry round or lattice to top.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar over the strawberries. Stir gently to combine and allow the fruit to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Peel the apple and shred on the large holes of a box grater. Drain the strawberries of excess liquid and combine with the shredded apple. Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar and Angostura bitters.
In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, arrowroot, black pepper, and salt. Gently fold the sugar mixture into the strawberry mixture. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, arrange the lattice or pastry round on top, and crimp as desired. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry.
Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425° F. Brush the pastry with the egg wash to coat; if your pie has a lattice top, be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry (it will burn). Sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar.
Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375° F, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 35 to 40 minutes longer (mine baked an additional 53 minutes).
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep for 3 days refrigerated or for up to 2 days at room temperature.