Friday, July 10, 2015

Strawberry Pie... or why I like baking cakes

This year for the 4th of July I went to on of my FAVORITE tasting rooms.  Bedford Winery in Los Alamos is really the place to be, from the first time I walked through the doors there almost a year ago, I felt like family.  They host a ton of special events throughout the year, and offer a great selection of wines to sample in their tasting room.  If you love dogs, books, and wine (like me) this place will feel like home.  

The event for Independence Day was BYOPFP (Bake Your Own Pie For Prizes), and of course I had to participate (even if there may have been a slight conflict of interest with my BF being one of the judges).  I started thinking of all the pies I love, what I thought I could make, and what would stand out in a crowd.  I immediately thought of my Aunt Josephine's Strawberry Pie, but was a little intimidated because I've never baked a pie before (and I would learn for good reasons).  I took that inspiration and started thinking about what I wanted to make.  BF and I brainstormed a little and we cobbled together a pretty kick ass pie.  It wasn't one of the winners, there were some kinks to work out, but for a first attempt, I'd call it a success... with a teensy bit of side-eye.

The pie story really begins on the 3rd of July, when I went shopping for ingredients. I picked up a pretty pie plate at Target, along with a few other essentials (some clothes, some house hold items... you know, all the stuff you can't live without)... and by dawdling there I missed getting the the berry stand before they closed. BY FOUR FREAKING MINUTES. I knew they would open again in the morning, but I wouldn't have time to let the berries set up if I waited, that meant I would have to buy them at the grocery store. Now for most people, grocery store strawberries are the only option (and I feel really sorry for you), but I live in the strawberry capitol of California, and store bought ones only get purchased out of sheer desperation. So I go to the Albertson's near my house, buy two clamshells of berries and the rest of the ingredients I needed and headed home.  

While prepping the berries the night before (I quarted the regular sized ones, chopped the larger ones into pieces that were close to the others.... roughly 4 cups of strawberries) I realized that it was a stroke of genius to buy double what I thought I needed.... mostly because half of the berries were bruised and rotten. Way to go Albertsons, way to suck. I could have taken them back and complained, but I really didn't have time or the inclination.

that's not a giant bug, it's a mint leaf, I swear! 
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4+ cups of strawberries
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Mint Leaves
  • Basil Leaves
  • Unflavored Gelatin
  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips--Melted
  • Cooking spray
  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Vanilla
  • Powdered Sugar

Berries:
  • Quarter roughly 4 cups of berries, they will shrink overnight, you'll need about 3 cups to fill the pie.
  • Mix in a generous splash of your favorite balsamic vinegar, a few mint leaves, and a few basil leaves.
  • Let sit overnight to get the juices flowing.
  • After the berries have set overnight and created a juice  strain the berries.  Boil a small amount of the juice with the unflavored gelatin until it has thoroughly mixed.
  • Mix the gelatin mix back into the berries and put into the fridge while the crust is getting ready.

Trisha Yearwood, you're a godsend,
this is the BEST pie crust I've ever had. 
For the crust I doubled Trisha Yearwood's Shortbread recipe (because 1, it's super easy to make, and 2. who doesn't LOVE shortbread? It's a clear winner).

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix flour, butter, brown and granulated sugars in an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.  (I mixed the last bit by hand because the mixer wasn't getting the butter just right)
  • Spray the pie plate with your favorite cooking spray (mine is Trader Joe's coconut oil spray)
  • Bake for 25 minutes
  • Don't panic if the crust falls/flattens, you can press it back into place with a wooden spoon or use your Pampered Chef Mini-Tart Shaper like I did (seriously, that little gadget kept me from crying and/or burning my fingers).
  • Allow to cool completely before spreading chocolate shell/ganache.


Tollhouse Semi Sweet morsels 
The next step was getting my double-boiler action on.  I tossed about 3/4 of a 16 ounce bag of semi sweet Nestle Tollhouse morsels, but you can use whatever your favorite chocolate is to create the shell.  I wanted to make sure that the berries didn't make the cookie crust soggy, but I didn't really think about how creating a chocolate shell layer would make the pie hard to cut into slices.  The baker at my BF's work suggested making a chocolate ganache, so that you'll still get the chocolate flavor, a barrier between the cookie and berries, AND you'll be able to cut the pie without too much difficulty.




This is how the pie looked before I put the strawberries in, I waited for the chocolate to harden into a complete shell, dumped the berry mixture in, and made some whipped cream according to the directions on the heavy whipping cream carton.




There ended up being roughly 27 contestants at the event, I placed somewhere in the middle, but I think given more practice I could totally knock this recipe out of the park.... if I ever decide to make a pie again, it was so much harder than I had anticipated.