Happy July, everyone! The Fourth is the day after tomorrow, and I can't believe it's already here. It seems like just yesterday that New York was covered in snow and super cold temperatures, and yet here we are in the middle of summer. I'm not complaining though! New York had a rough winter, and I was so sick of the cold and snow by the time it finally ended. The lovely weather we've been having recently has definitely helped me to forget about the chilly winter season, but I know that before long, the hot and humid days of summer will arrive and I'll be ready for the arrival of cooler weather. Until that happens though, let's celebrate summer!
The Fourth of July is one of my favorite parts of summer, and what's more American than celebrating the Fourth with some pie? I love a good pie, and experimenting with pie is one of my favorite adventures to have in my kitchen. Every time I set out to make a pie I learn something new that I try to write down to remember for next time. Making a good pie has been an extensive learning process, filled with some really bad pies and some really stellar pies. Like all good things though, good pies take practice, and I'm willing to keep working on mine until I get them perfect!
I couldn't let the Fourth of July come and go without getting my pie-practice in. I've found a crust recipe that I really like using, and I always seem to get really good results from it. The key, I think, is making the crust by hand with a pastry blender. I used to always make my pie crust in a food processor (because I was lazy and it seemed like the easiest way to go about it), but one day I just decided to go ahead and risk it all. I was gonna whip up some pie dough by hand! I flipped to Pie Crust 102 by Smitten Kitchen on my Saran-wrapped iPad, propped it up on my counter, and got to work. I really like Deb's thorough explanation on how to make pie crust by hand, and it made me feel a little less nervous. After the crust was done and the pie was baked, I was blown away. I couldn't believe how different this crust turned out compared to my regular food processor crust, especially because I used the exact same recipe as always. The flakiness of the pastry blender crust was just off the charts. It just goes to show you how that the method used is just as important as the ingredients that are used!
I had the hardest time picking out what kind of filling to make for my Fourth of July pie. I've made Blueberry Pie and Sweet Cherry Pie before, and I wanted to make something that still felt American. Apple would have been the obvious choice, which is why I didn't pick it. Don't get me wrong, there's not many things that are better than a warm slice of a perfectly crafted pie, but I wanted to make something a little different. I thought about making a pie with combinations of fruits, but then felt like I was departing too much from my initial goals of crafting a simple, American-inspired pie. Strawberries somehow came to mind, and I quickly settled on making a lattice strawberry pie. A quick filling of macerated strawberries with a touch of orange zest and vanilla was definitely simple and all-American, and I can never say no to a lattice crust. They're just so pretty! They're showstopping and secretly, are very easy to assemble (but that can be our little secret!).
Strawberry pie is not a pie you see very often, but I think it's a welcome change to the usual pie selection. It's summer and sweet and tart all at the same time, and takes advantage of the abundance of fresh berries we have this time of year. I think adding some rhubarb, apples, or blueberries to the filling would also make for a standout pie. Strawberry pie fits in with the red, white, and blue theme of the season and when served alongside a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream (extra points if it's homemade) is a great addition to an all-American celebration. Hooray for the Fourth of July!
recipe from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts
For the Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and diced
4-6 tablespoons ice water
For the Strawberry Filling
8 cups quartered strawberries (about 2 1/2 pounds after slicing)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
splash orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
Begin by preparing the pie crust. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in the bottom of a large, wide bowl. Using a pastry blender, work the very cold butter into the flour until it begins to form crumbles that are the size of small peas. Add 1/4 cup water and begin to combine the dough together with a rubber spatula, mixing until a shaggy mass of dough forms. You will need to add more ice water, but do so a tablespoon at a time, adding only enough water to bring the dough together. Use your hands to bring the dough together, just until the dough is able to form a ball. Try not to overwork the dough. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Tightly wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
To prepare the filling, combine the strawberries and sugar in a large bowl, stirring together. Let the strawberries chill in the fridge for about an hour to macerate. After an hour, drain most of the strawberry liquid and discard. Mix in the cornstarch, vanilla, orange juice, and orange zest. Set aside until you're ready to make the pie.
On a lightly floured surface, and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out one disk of dough into a 13-inch circle that's about 1/4 inch or so thick. Don't worry about it being too exact! Using your rolling pin as an aid, carefully drape the circle of pie dough into a 9-inch pie plate, and gently press the dough to fit in the pie plate. With kitchen scissors, trim the excess dough off the edge of the pie plate so that there is a 1-inch overhang. Pour the filling into the prepared pie plate.
Roll out the remaining disk of dough in the same manner as before. With a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut out 6 1 1/2-inch strips of dough. Carefully weave the strips of dough to form a lattice over the top of the pie, and trim the ends of the strips so that there is a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang of the strips underneath the bottom rim of the pie, press together, and crimp decoratively or use a fork to seal the edges together. Refrigerate the pie for about a half hour, just until the pie dough is firm and cold. While the pie chills, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
Place the pie on a baking sheet that has been lined with wax paper. Brush the beaten egg all over the top of the pie, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, until the top of the pie is golden brown and the juices from the strawberries are bubbling. If the pie crust is beginning to brown too quickly, simply tent the pie with aluminum foil. Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for about three hours before serving. Enjoy!
Makes 1 9-inch pie