Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter Sunday Strawberry Pie

It is most definitely still Winter.

After a rainy evening turned snowstorm last night, we woke up to six inches of snow, the sun streaming through ice-crusted trees and a backdrop of crisp, cloudless bright blue skies.  It was a breathtaking sight.

It was the sort of morning I would have loved to bundle up in boots and a coat over my pajamas and head outside with my camera, before enjoying a relaxing breakfast (preferably homemade blueberry streusel muffins and crispy bacon).  But instead I had to satisfy myself with snapping a few quick photos on my iPhone before heading to work and eating overnight oatmeal at my desk while checking e-mails.

We Coloradans hardly know what snow days are, where work and school continue as usual all winter long, with just a slightly slower commute now and then.  And the weather changes so quickly, that the mid-40s temps and sunshine have already melted away all but a few patches of snow.

It's as drippy outside as a spring morning after a rain, and those pretty snow-laden branches of this morning are almost a forgotten memory.

Jamie doesn't seem to believe that it's still winter, since he's been asking me for rhubarb pie lately.  This summer, I will have to remember to freeze a bunch of rhubarb for his winter cravings, since there is none to be had for at least a few more months.

So instead of rhubarb, I made him a strawberry pie.  Strawberry pie is something I think of as a Sunday dessert.  After the roast beef with carrots and potatoes, as full as you are, there's the desire for something sweet, light and fruity.

But since it is still winter, and fresh strawberries aren't at their best either, I couldn't fill a pie crust with freshly sliced strawberries like I would have liked to.  Instead I made a cooked strawberry filling of frozen strawberries and spices, a little lemon juice for tartness and tapioca to thicken it.  Hence, the name I gave it of Winter Sunday Strawberry Pie.

The strawberries took on an almost jam-like consistency that thickened up nicely when cooled, and with the salted graham cracker crust and a spoonful of soft whipped cream sliding off to the side, it reminded me so much of my mom's strawberry pretzel salad she used to make - a dessert with a pretzel crust, cream cheese filling and strawberries in jello on top.

I'm eager for the end of winter, not only for the availability of more fresh produce but for light-filled evenings that stretch out towards bedtime.  I'll admit I took three photo shoots of this pie, racing against the sunset each time, before I had enough images that I was happy with.  The first set I took before the pie had sufficiently cooled, but I was impatient, and I should learn that impatience rarely pays off, because the filling was too warm and soft, and spread out all over the plate.

The next day I tried again, after the pie had thickened properly, but by then, my bowl of whipped cream had deflated, and looked a little sad pooling on the side of the pie.  And, I found myself wishing I had used a blue plate.  A blue plate, I just felt, would be the perfect touch.  Sounds silly, I know, but it's all part of my photography process.

The third try was a charm - I re-whipped the cream and found the blue plate I was thinking of which looked so pretty under the bright red strawberries.

In the end, Jamie got his pie.  Not the rhubarb he was hoping for, but at least rhubarb's best friend.

One Year Ago:   Almond Flower Cake
Two Years AgoBlueberry Frozen Yogurt Sorbet

Winter Sunday Strawberry Pie

  • 1 sleeve (1/3 box) graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen and thawed strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup minute tapioca
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • softly whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325.  Combine the crushed graham crackers, salt and melted butter until moist, and press into a deep-dish pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.

In a large stockpot, combine the strawberries, sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently; this will take about 15 minutes and the juices will begin to thicken.  Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 more minutes, until the tapioca appears translucent.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate until well chilled and set, at least 4-6 hours, before serving with dollops of freshly whipped cream.  The pie will be good for 2-3 days, before the crust will start to get a little soggy.

Yields 8 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

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