In Search of the Perfect Strawberry Pie
There is a country diner not far from where I live that serves a great strawberry pie. It’s a simple affair; chunks of fresh berries, a bit of thick slurry, and tons of whipped cream in a flakey crust. No wonder it’s good.
But it’s not picturesque. When sliced, the berries come tumbling out. There’s no such thing as crisp, clean cuts as you would picture with a pumpkin pie. However, neither does a pie have to be runny and sloppy. Realizing that, we set off to find the best strawberry pie–not one with perfectly cut slices.
The problem is maceration. The sugar in the recipe draws water from the berries. Since strawberries are 92% water, sugar can draw a lot of juice form the berries, causing a once delightful pie to become a sloppy mess.
What do you do about it?
Some recipes tackle the problem with gelatin. But too much gelatin can seem too much like a gelatin salad in a pie crust. But starch-based slurries (glaze) always seem to disintegrate in a few hours from the infusion of water.
After dozens of trials, we settled on a combination of both gelatin and cornstarch. It holds together better than cornstarch alone, but we like it better than a gelatin-only pie.
We also cut our strawberries into big chunks, not thin slices. With less surface area, there is less maceration and less escaped juice.
The Perfect Compromise Strawberry Pie
As we do with most of our pies, we used Clear-Gel rather than cornstarch. Clear-Gel creates a pretty, translucent slurry rather than a milky one.
3 tablespoons Clear-Gel
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup fresh strawberries, mashed
3-4 cups fresh strawberries cut into chunks
1 envelope unflavored gelatin. Knox or equal
2-3 drops of red food coloring
1 9-inch pie shell, baked
1. In a medium pan, mix the starch and sugar together. Add the water and mashed strawberries. Bring the liquid to a boil, stir regularly, until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool for about ten minutes.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the liquid. Add enough food color to reach the tint desired. Scrape the mixture into the pie shell.
3. Add the strawberry chunks. Refrigerate the pie for at least two hours to let the gelatin set.
4. Serve with plenty of whipped cream.