A few mornings each week, I take a long walk through the woods. Nothing really happens on these long walks, which might be what makes them notable. My youngest and I stroll along the path, stopping to see what there is to see along the way. The vines have entered full attack mode, determined to drag every tree, however massive, back into the ground. The chartreuse leaves have gone emerald. And every street and path is filled with the sweet smell of late spring––floral and green. The grace in these warm last days of May has me wishing time could stand still.
And to accompany these gentle days are strawberries. Perfectly ripe, abundant at our farmer’s markets, and even dotting lawns and a few fecund sidewalk cracks, this is their time. And I should say here, that I’m generally against cooking strawberries. Their perfect short-lived sweetness should be enjoyed fresh. Except, this year, this week, I wanted a pie. Rhubarb is out due to my food allergies, so I set about making a just-strawberry pie, and it came out perfectly.
Being cornstarch averse, and with the help of some of the fine ladies of Twitter, I put a plan into action using a mixture of ground tapioca (my favorite pie-thickening agent) and arrowroot. As I poured the somewhat chalky-looking berries into the pie pan I was a bit worried, but the strawberry pie came out vibrant as ever. The flavor is quiet, as cooked strawberries are. I’ve added orange zest and a touch of cinnamon for extra zing. The pie is lightly sweet and lets the strawberries speak for themselves. Which is good, because they have a lot to say.
for the crust
one recipe all-butter pie dough made with unbleached all-purpose flour
Divide dough in two, wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for an hour.
for the filling
3 quarts strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved
1/2 cup arrowroot
4 tablespoons ground instant tapioca (ground fine in your coffee grinder)
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to preheat as well. Butter a deep dish pie pan and set aside.
Prepare the berries and set them in a large bowl. Fold in the remaining filling ingredients and set the bowl aside while you roll the crusts. This gives the berries time to release their juices and the thickening agents time to work.
Remove the first disc of dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured sheet of parchment, roll into a 14 inch circle. Press into the pie pan and trim all but 1 – 2 inches of the overhanging dough. Set the shell in the freezer while you prepare the top layer.
Next, remove the second dough disc from the fridge and roll it out. Cut five or six 2 1/2 inch wide strips.
Use a slotted spoon to add the filling to the pie pan. Pour in all but 3/4 cup of the remaining juices. Lay three strips of dough over the pie, and then the other two or three strips in the other direction. Weave them according to these instructions, trim any excess dough, and crimp the edges. You can brush with an egg white and sprinkle on sugar for an extra presentable crust, but I left mine plain this time around.
Set pie on the preheated tray in the oven, and bake for 50 – 60 minutes. Check after 40 minutes and tent the crust if it’s getting too brown. The pie is finished when the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling and thick.
The pie filling won’t set up until it has cooled completely, five hours or more. Try to be patient.
I like my pie plain, but if you’re a fancy sort, serve with a dollop of very, very lightly sweetened whipped cream (if you add too much sugar though, I’ll never forgive you).