Or overcoming my fear of pie!
I’ve owned my first pie tin for the last 5-6 years and I can’t believe that this is the first pie I ever made. The whole rolling and moulding the dough into the tin gave me the shakes. Funnily enough, even though I never got around to using the first tin, I bought another (yes, another) 2 years ago!
On a related note, my friend Revati has been waxing eloquent about strawberries and how cheap they are in Goa. Frankly, I was unable to find strawberries in Delhi for less than 200 bucks a kilo. It’s ridiculous. I kept waiting for the price to go down so I could buy a car-load full and go crazy! But I couldn’t resist anymore. I bought myself half a kilo of strawberries and then wondered what to do with them.
Flipping through an old Fruit Dessert book by Anne Willan, I decided that it was time to brave the pie. There was an easy sounding peach pie recipe that I thought would be perfect to modify and I decided to get to it before I lost my nerve again.
Here’s what I used for one 9″ pie:
250 gms + 2 tbsp all purpose flour (some extra for dusting the counter)
200 gms cold salted butter (you can add 1/4 tsp salt if you’re using un-salted)
(Also, the recipe actually called for 125 gm vegetable shortening + 75 gm butter – but I have never been able to find shortening here. I just used all butter. But if you can get your hands on it, apparently shortening makes ALL the difference.)
Chilled water to bind the dough, approximately 45 ml
1/2 kg strawberries
60 gms brown sugar + 40 gms white granulated sugar (you can also use all brown or all white depending on how sweet you like it)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup Malibu (coconut flavoured white rum) – you can use any other liqueur of your choice, or add in 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar for a twist, or 2 tbsp honey + 2 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 egg + 1/2 tsp salt for the glaze
Here’s how I made it:
First, I weighed the butter and cut it into small cubes
Then I added the butter to 250 gms of the flour and pinched and rubbed it into the flour using my fingers until the mixture resembled coarse bread crumbs
My hands were unused to the exercise and I had to stop a few times to shake them out before I could continue. I would gladly have used my trusty (!!) pastry cutter if it hadn’t split into two…
Moving on, I sprinkled the chilled water into the flour-butter mix, little-by-little, and kneaded it until it came together in a soft dough. This dough was a little crumbly and not elastic like bread/ roti dough but soft nevertheless.
Then rolled the dough up into a ball, flattened into a disc and wrapped it tight in clingfilm before placing it in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
While the dough was chilling, I washed and cut the strawberries, into 4-6 pieces each, depending on how big or small each was.
Placing the bowl in the fridge, I put my feet up for a few minutes until the dough time was up. I didn’t want to add the sugar and other liquids to the strawberries just yet or they would render too much water.
When the dough time was up, I took it out of the fridge and turned on the oven to pre-heat at 200 C, placing a cookie tray in the oven to heat as well. I dusted the counter with flour and proceeded to roll out 2/3 of the dough into a big circle, about 2-3 inches larger in radius than my 9″ pie tin. You may need to occasionally dust the dough with more flour to avoid sticking and tearing.
Brushing the tin with a little butter (to avoid the pie from sticking), I carefully lifted the dough and draped it over the tin, letting the extra fall over the sides. Ideally, I should have wrapped the dough around the rolling pin to lift it easily, but my rolling pin is a small roti one, rather than the long and thick pastry pin. So I had no option but to lift it with my hands.
Then going very slowly around the tin, I lifted the dough in small portions from the edge and pressed it inside towards the bottom of the tin. If I pressed the whole circle at once, it would tear. So lift and press, lift and press, lift and press it was, until the entire tin had the dough pressed to the bottom and sides. The balance still hung outside like this…
Using my fingers to press the dough gently against the fluted metal edge of the tin, I cut off the extra. In case you don’t have a fluted pie tin, you can use a knife to cut carefully around the edges so the pie shell fits the tin exactly.
Putting this back in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes, I got the filling ready. I added the sugars, the lemon juice, the 2 tbsp of flour and the Malibu and let it rest.
I rolled out the balance 1/3rd of the dough, dusting with dry flour as required,and cut it into 12 strips.
Once the pie shell had chilled, I stirred the filling for the last time and spooned it into the shell. Then I laid out 4 of the strips in one direction. (Note: I thought the strips I had cut were too wide, so I halved them in width)
The extras hanging on the side were cut off later so you needn’t worry about that. Then I placed 4 more strips in the opposite direction in a weave-design.
After cutting off the extra overhang of the strips by pressing against the sharp tin edge, I used 2 of the strips to circle the edge/ perimetre of the tin and pinched them as in the above photo – so it sealed the strips and the shell wall.
Beating the egg lightly with the salt, I used a pastry brush to brush the glaze all over the exposed shell & lattice dough… (You won’t end up using all the egg so make an omelet with what’s left. I did!)
Placing this in the pre-heated oven (on the pre-heated cookie tray), I baked the pie for about 45 minutes until the strawberries were bubbling and oozing and crust seemed baked. It wasn’t golden yet, so I turned on the top coil and baked for 4-5 more minutes. I placed the tin & cookie tray on a cooling rack to cool for about 20-30 minutes…
I was a bit worried about the crust getting stuck to the tin, but it shrunk slightly and moved away from the tin and didn’t stick to it. Which was great because all I had to do was lift the removable bottom with one hand and the pie slid out of the pan! I placed it on a plate, ready to cut and serve…
There it is – a slice of juicy, bubbly, tangy-sweet heaven on a plate! My first pie success-story!
Next time I use a juicy fruit like strawberries, I will cover it with more dough, almost a lid, with 2-3 slits to allow steam to escape and save the fancy lattice/ weave for more firm fruits like apples/ pears/ peaches etc.
Also, I was left with 1/4 of the dough after removing all the excess from the tin, which will probably make a few individual pop tarts. Recipe here!