Monday, July 4, 2011
I've had my way with the last of the strawberries.
Joey went to pick at Thompson Finch Farm on Friday while I was at kids' cooking camp, and he stopped in on his way back to drop of strawberries for the last meal of camp. We filled a colander and the kids descended on them, leaving just enough to slice into our crepes that we had so (un)carefully flipped all morning. Then I came home, washed the week's aprons, drank a Pimm's cup, and made 10 half-pints of jam. Joey's only request was that there was enough left over for a pie.
Well I'm telling you now.
And I wouldn't be giving you the whole story unless I included the fact that I'm not such an enthusiastic partner. I'll come along for the scenery, but even the most revered fruit pie tends not to meet my tastes. I'll admit it's a failing of mine. I am many things, good and bad, and pie snob is one of them.
It's that thick, syrupy, sweet thing that happens when fruit and syrup and cornstarch come together just so. It's the sugar in the crust and the sugar on top of the crust. It's too sweet for me, and even diner coffee doesn't quite get it down. Joey looks at me in disbelief.
The other night, Joey set up the tent in the backyard. Each of the girls had a friend over, and we ordered pizza. My sister Maia had a few friends over too, and so it was an impromptu party, and the light hung around the yard in that very specific way where it could only be those weeks right after the solstice, where the days are long and the summer stretches ahead. We ate pizza without plates, and the girls shrieked and ran through the yard.
At some point in the night, we heard a distant and blaring alarm, and I made some smug comment about second home owners and their car alarms. Joey nodded, and when it didn't stop, we looked at each other for a split second before sprinting inside to the kitchen.
That was no car alarm. When the smoke alarm goes off, the pie is ready.
I have a pie dish that I love, a deep-dish 10-inch white one. Every pie recipe fills a 9-inch shallow dish, and then I fudge the recipe a little to fill my white pie plate. So today, just in case you have a favorite pie plate that's a little bigger than the norm, I'm going to give you a recipe to fill it. And if you're working with a smaller dish, just scale back a bit.
As you roll and fold this one into being, remember that every pie is beautiful. Fill it with good fruit and weave your lattice however you like. It will be your greeting to summer, your kiss on the cheek to all that abundance. Something so good has no need to look perfect.
For the crust:
6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces lard (or butter if you prefer), in small pieces
3 1/3 cups (1 pound, 2.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
For the filling:
5 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 cups rhubarb, in 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 lime (or lemon, if that is what you have available)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Make the crust:
Combine the butter, lard, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Toss the fat in the flour so that it is thoroughly coated. Put the bowl in the fridge.
Combine the vinegar, salt, and water in a cup. Put into the freezer for 10 minutes.
Remove the flour mixture from the fridge, and fit your mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix the flour mixture until the fat is in small crumbly pieces. Remove the vinegar mixture from the freezer and, while the mixer is running on medium speed, slowly add the wet to the dry until the dough clumps around the paddle.
Separate the dough into two discs, wrap in plastic or waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Make the filling:
Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, cornstarch mixture, and lime juice in a large mixing bowl. Gently stir until thoroughly combined--then let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the crusts from the fridge. Grease your pie dish with butter.
Roll out the first crust on a floured counter with strong strokes until you have a 12 to 14-inch circle. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie dish.
Fill the pie crust with the strawberry mixture. Roll out the second pie crust to the same dimensions as the first, then cut it into 1-inch strips. Arrange the strips in a lattice. I know that there is some correct way to do this, but I like to improvise my way through it, weaving here, folding there. Tuck the butter in under the lattice so that it melts into the strawberries.
Put a baking sheet on a lower shelf of the oven to catch the drips. Bake the pie for fifteen minutes in the upper half of the oven, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden, the juice bubbles, and the smoke alarm goes off.