Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Strawberry Pie

I have always had a fascination for fresh strawberry pie. You know the kind where only the crust is baked? The berries are often piled taller than the Empire State building with a cheery red glaze and it just screams summertime. That's the kind of pie I'm talking about. I can guess what you're thinking. From that description and from the fact that I have had this strange fascination for fresh strawberry pie since childhood you would think I have been eating them all my life. Well, you'd be wrong.

I didn't try this kind of pie until I made one for me and Tim this year. I was on a pie kick, we had gotten some beautiful (organic) strawberries from Be Wise Ranch and I thought that this was the time. As it happens, I also had run across an article in Cooks Illustrated that looked yummy. See as fascinated as I have always been with fresh Strawberry pie I have been equally repulsed by the red glow-in-the-dark gel they sell in the grocery store. I always thought there couldn't be one without the other. And since I refused to eat one, I didn't eat the other. But as it so happens Cooks Illustrated had a recipe for that.

This is my favorite and the easiest fresh strawberry pie recipe you'll ever come across. I have since had other strawberries pies, but none of them hold a candle to this one. Promise. There is a specialty ingredient (Sure-Jell) you most likely don't have in your cupboard unless you're a jammer or a canner. But don't worry. It is easily found at most grocery stores and it will last a long while. Walmart has a decent canning section and you should find it there without any difficulties.

That leaves just the pastry. If you want the appearance of homemade but don't want to make a pie crust, pick up a box of pre-made pie crusts where they have the cookie dough and biscuits in a can. They aren't bad, better than frozen and you can honestly say you baked it yourself! But if you want to go that extra mile, check out my tips on blind baking.


Published May 1, 2011.   From Cook's Illustrated.
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8 to 10.  


We knew that the success of our Fresh Strawberry Pie recipe hinged on getting the thickener just right. When none of the thickeners that we tried worked on their own, we decided to use a combination of two: pectin (in the form of a homemade strawberry jam) and cornstarch. In our strawberry pie recipe by themselves, pectin produced a filling that was too firm and cornstarch one that was too loose. But together they produced just the right supple, lightly clingy glaze that was perfect for our strawberry pie.
To account for any imperfect strawberries, the ingredient list calls for several more ounces of berries than will be used in the pie. If possible, seek out ripe, farmers’ market–quality berries. Make certain that you use Sure-Jell engineered for low- or no-sugar recipes (packaged in a pink box) and not regular Sure-Jell (in a yellow box); otherwise, the glaze will not set properly. The pie is at its best after two or three hours of chilling; as it continues to chill, the glaze becomes softer and wetter, though the pie will taste just as good.


  • Filling
  • 4pints (about 3 pounds) fresh strawberries , gently rinsed and dried, hulled (see note)
  • 3/4cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
  • 2tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2teaspoons Sure-Jell for low-sugar recipes (see note)
  • Generous pinch Table salt
  • 1tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1recipe Baked Pie Shell (see blind baking @Jensgoodfood.blogspot.com)
  • Whipped Cream
  • 1cup cold heavy cream
  • 1tablespoon sugar


  1. 1. FOR THE FILLING: Select 6 ounces misshapen, underripe, or otherwise unattractive berries, halving those that are large; you should have about 1½ cups. In food processor, process berries to smooth puree, 20 to 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. You should have about ¾ cup puree.
  2. 2. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell, and salt in medium saucepan. Stir in berry puree, making sure to scrape corners of pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with heatproof rubber spatula, and bring to full boil. Boil, scraping bottom and sides of pan to prevent scorching, for 2 minutes to ensure that cornstarch is fully cooked (mixture will appear frothy when it first reaches boil, then will darken and thicken with further cooking). Transfer to large bowl and stir in lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. 3. Meanwhile, pick over remaining berries and measure out 2 pounds of most attractive ones; halve only extra-large berries. Add berries to bowl with glaze and fold gently with rubber spatula until berries are evenly coated. Scoop berries into pie shell, piling into mound. If any cut sides face up on top, turn them face down. If necessary, rearrange berries so that holes are filled and mound looks attractive. Refrigerate pie until chilled, about 2 hours. Serve within 5 hours of chilling.?
  4. 4. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: Just before serving, beat cream and sugar with electric mixer on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 additional seconds. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume and forms soft peaks, 30 to 60 seconds.
  5. 5. Cut pie into wedges. Serve with whipped cream.


Through Thick and Thin
Most fresh strawberry pies fail because they're overloaded with thickeners that either gum up the filling or never manage to thicken it at all.

Thicken strawberry pie filling with gelatin and the result resembles Jello.
Thicken strawberry pie filling with cornstarch and the result typically turns out gloppy, dull-tasting, and  still not firm enough.


Doubling Up to Thicken Juicy Fruit
To create a filling with just enough sticking power to hold the berries together gently, we turned to a thickener more common in jam than pie - low-sugar pectin - and used it in combination with cornstarch. Both products work similarly: When combined with liquid, then heated and cooled, some of their molecules bond together, trapping water and creating a solid, jelly-like structure. But the strength and properties of the two structures differ. Amylose, one of two types of starch molecules in cornstarch, forms a weak structure that easily comes apart under the weight of heavy, juicy-filled strawberries. Low-sugar pectin (which, unlike regular pectin, gels without added sugar and acid) contains bigger molecules that form a firmer structure held together more forcefully by calcium ions. Once created, this matrix resists coming apart.

1 comment:

Analyze A said...

Yours are so cute! I like to make mini versions too, since there are just two of us, so I use the Emile Henry mini pie dishes or my 7-inch pie plate (since discontinued :(. This issue of Cook’s Illustrated has a lot of great recipes (we love their Crepes with a bunch of the fillings, Juicy Pub-Style Burgers, Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw with Apples and Tarragon or with Red Bell Pepper and Jalapeno, Spring Vegetable Pasta, and Nasi Goreng). I wanted to second that this pie is sooooooooo good!!!!! We also love their Cook’s Country Icebox Strawberry Pie, which is quite a different style using sliced strawberries and gelatin. I have made them both twice each; this is my fav and the other is my husband’s fav, but we both love both, and I can’t imagine anyone not loving a slice of this pie!