Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Fresh Strawberry Pie and Pastry Cream
A whole world of dessert has been opened to me. I have learned how to make pastry cream and it is so deceptively easy, I could not believe it. Here's the story:
Last week, I made a couple of apple pies (the first of the season and it made me so happy!). I had a lot of leftover pie dough and even more fresh strawberries, so I thought I would put the two together. In this same time period, I had also read and wanted to try Martha Stewart's recipe for making pastry cream, the amazingly delicious foundation for many a dessert such as cream pies--i.e. Banana and Boston (although Boston Cream Pie is not actually a pie, is it? But I digress...) and fillings for pastries such as cream puffs and Napoleons. Thus, this pie was born. After making it, I found that Martha's recipe actually needed a little tweaking for my taste (gasp!). Since then, I've made another strawberry pie and two banana cream pies (for barbecues over the weekend, of course, we didn't eat all that pie ourselves!) because it's so, so easy!!!
Once you've made the pastry cream, the possibilities are endless.
Fresh Strawberry Cream Pie
1 baked pie shell
1 batch pastry cream
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and hulls removed
1/2 cup strawberry preserves, melted in the microwave (I used an all-fruit spread)
To assemble pie, pour pastry cream into pie shell. Cover with plastic wrap directly against the surface of the cream and allow to fully cool. Once cooled, assemble strawberries with cut sides down on top of cream. Drizzle melted preserves over fruit so that it is glazed on top.
Pastry Cream: (makes about 2 cups)
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup white granulated sugar, divided
a pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
Directions: In a medium sauce pan, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, salt and milk. Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat. While milk is heating, in a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined. Then, whisk in cornstarch, one tablespoon at a time until mixture is smooth and light yellow. Once milk has come to a simmer, add one half cup of milk mixture to egg mixture, pouring very slowly and whisking egg mixture constantly (This is called "Tempering" and is used to bring the egg mixture up to the temperature of the milk without creating scrambled eggs!). Continue to whisk the rest of the milk mixture in slowly, one half cup full at a time, until both are thoroughly combined. Pour entire mixture back into the sauce pan and over medium heat, stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Continue to stir until mixture for 1-2 minutes, or until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract and butter. Pour pastry cream into a shallow bowl or prepared pie shell and place a layer of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the custard to prevent forming a skin. Allow to fully cool in a refrigerator.
Crust Notes: First of all, if pie crust scares you (and really, it shouldn't, once you get the hang of it, it's really very easy!), but if it does, please feel free to grab the refrigerated kind you can unroll right into the pie pan or find pie shells in the freezer section. Additionally, this pie would be good with a graham cracker crust if you prefer that instead. Finally, you can make your own (you can do it!). Here's my starting recipe. The thing with pie dough, however, is that the measurements are very approximate. Depending on the weather, and all sorts of other mystical variables, it's really one (I find) best to go by "feel" (how many scientifically-minded bakers have I just scared?).
Pie Dough (makes enough for a double crust pie or two single crust pies):
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1/2 cup butter (one stick, chilled)
In a large bowl and using either pastry blender or a fork, mix all ingredients except butter until flour is absorbed into shortening or crumbly, like corn meal. Cut in butter until it is in pieces the size of small peas and is mixed throughout. Add ice water in Tablespoon-fulls until dough is able to come together in a large mass (approx. 2-3 Tablespoons, but more if necessary, pie dough really seems to depend on the weather). Wrap dough in waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to roll out.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a smooth, flat surface, sprinkle a decent handful of flour. Roll out half of pie dough into a large circle (continue to sprinkle with flour if your rolling pin is sticking or you can add more water if it is dry and breaking apart) large enough to cover a pie plate. Transfer dough into pie plate, trim edges and crimp crust as desired. Prick entire surface of crust with a fork and bake in 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to fully cool before adding fillings.
Also, my family really enjoys the leftover scraps of pie dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until it's golden brown and crispy.
Final Notes: For banana cream pie, slice 1-2 bananas and scatter in bottom of baked pie shell. Pour cooled pastry cream over bananas (if you get impatient and don't let it cool, your bananas will cook and not be as tasty). Finally, before serving top with whipped cream or Cool Whip. Ta da! Take that, Bakers Square and Village Inn, you ain't got nothing on us now!!!