The one special strawberry dessert my family and friends look forward to every summer is strawberry pie! This is my favorite pie to make because it's so simple and easy and takes hardly any time to prepare. I make the glaze for the strawberries without using any white sugar. I use agave nectar instead. Because summer berries are already sweet, you don't need to use much. Agave nectar is a natural sweetener made from blue agave, a type of succulent, cactus-like plant. Although it is sweeter than sugar, it doesn't raise your blood sugar level and cause a "sugar rush." (You know the ones I'm talking about, where you're on top of the world for 10 minutes only to crash and burn, have a whopping headache, feel in a bad mood, and feel the need to take a nap.) Using agave instead of sugar won't raise your glycemic index. Glycemic index measures how certain carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels. Keeping it low, you don't suffer from the negative "crash burn" effect. Most supermarkets now carry agave nectar. So, let's enjoy our summer pie! You can use a store-bought piecrust or your favorite recipe for piecrust.
1 store-bought or homemade pie crust large enough to roll out a 12" crust (see recipe below)
6 baskets (1 quart each) of strawberries, stems removed, gently rinsed, and patted dry with paper towels
2 cups fresh orange juice
½ cup agave nectar
1½ Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water
8 mint leaves, chopped coarsely
1 Tbsp. lemon rind, chopped finely
Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. agave nectar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a saucepan, mix 2 quarts of strawberries, orange juice, and agave nectar and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 5 to 8 minutes, until the strawberries are soft. Strain the strawberries in a mesh strainer with holes small enough to catch the seeds into a pot. Use a wooden spoon to squish the strawberries. Discard seeds.
Bring the pot to a gentle boil.
Mix 1½ Tbsp. of cornstarch in 2 Tbsp. of water and stir so no lumps remain. Pour the mixture into the boiling liquid and stir 30 seconds to thicken. Set aside and cool for 20 minutes. Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least one hour. (The glaze can be made up to three days before and kept in an airtight container until ready to use.)
Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 425° F. Make sure the pie dough has been chilled at least an hour in the refrigerator in plastic wrap before rolling it out.
Remove chilled dough from refrigerator. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a circle 12" in diameter and ⅛ thick. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and let it unfold on top of the pie pan. Press dough gently into bottom and sides.
Line the unbaked shell with parchment paper. Fill the shell with pie weights, uncooked beans, or rice. Make sure the shell is entirely and evenly filled. Bake the crust 12 to 15 minutes. After 8 to 10 minutes, remove the weights by gently lifting the parchment and further brown the crust until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling the shell.
Place the remaining strawberries in the cooled pie shell and arrange them pointy sides up. Pour the glaze evenly all over strawberries. Sprinkle the mint and lemon rind over the pie. Serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.
Whip the heavy whipping cream with the 1 Tbsp. of agave nectar and 2 tsp. vanilla extract. Serve alongside the pie for the perfect finishing touch.
Pie Crust Recipe This recipe comes to us from Cook's Illustrated and their secret ingredient is vodka – which burns off, leaving a tender, flaky crust (also, makes it roll out easily). The alcohol also does not add to gluten formation.
½ cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
¼ cup vodka, cold
¼ cup cold water
Process 1½ cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Bake, placing a baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Make a egg wash with 1 small egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.
Divide the crust in half. Wrap the second half in plastic wrap and it put back into the refrigerator while you work with the first piece of dough.
Roll out the dough to fit the pie pan and pour in the apple filling.
Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and roll it out to make the strips for your lattice. Using a pastry, brush the top of the dough with the egg wash.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 350° F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is nice and golden.
"Very Berry" Freezer Jam (recipe by Nicole Sipe / "Canning & Preserving" magazine)
Makes about five half-pint (8 oz.) jars of jam
2 cups strawberries, chopped
2 cups of raspberries
5 Tbsp. instant pectin
1½ cups sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Wash the strawberries and raspberries under cold water. Remove the stems from the strawberries and discard.
With a wire masher, crush the washed berries. If you prefer chunky jam, crush the berries for just a few seconds. If you prefer finer jam, crush them for about 1 minute. Set the berries aside.
In a large bowl, stir the instant pectin and sugar until well-combined.
Add the crushed strawberries, raspberries, and lemon zest to the sugar mixture and stir continuously for 3 minutes.
Ladle the jam into clean jars to the fill line. Wipe the rims with a towel.
Screw on the lids and let stand at room temperature to thicken for about 30 minutes.
Serve immediately, refrigerate up to three weeks, or freeze up to one year.