NomNoms! How to Make Strawberry Pie

Ok, so while the 'Care' portion of the blog is kind of amorphous and a bit of a catch-all, the 'Feeding' is pretty straightforward and the idea is to keep the content a happy blend of both. So, to attend to the latter (but not lesser!) half of the blog I present to you the first featured recipe!

This is a simple but deeply satisfying sweet treat that takes the best parts of a strawberry and introduces them oh-so-smoothly to that rakish lad across the tavern known as Comfort Food. With few ingredients and maximum flavor payout, it definitely qualifies as 'high yielding noms'. While the recipe is ostensibly for use with a mini-piemaker, I've included two easy variations that produce equal deliciousness without the gadgetry.

Difficulty: Noob
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Gadgetry: Optional
Feeds: 4-6 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 20 minutes if using the mini-pie maker, about 30-60 if using other means of baking.

Required Equipment: A medium-sized bowl, a sharp knife, a mixing spoon, a rolling pin (or something that can be used to flatten dough), a cutting board and ONE of the following baking implements: a mini-pie maker, a muffin tin, OR a pie plate.
Optional Equipment: (makes life easier, but you can clear this level without them) A pastry brush, a fruit zester, a dough stamper, a hand-juicer, a pie press, a pie lifter.

1 pound(454 grams) of fresh strawberries
1 lemon
3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of flour
1 box (2 scrolls) of pre-made pie dough
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger
*non-stick cooking spray if attempting this using the muffin tin method

Prelude: If you're using this recipe to make a full-sized pie or mini-pies with a muffin tin, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218.33 degrees Celsius). If you're employing the muffin tin to get your mini-pie fix spray the cups with a light coating of the non-stick spray.

Step 1: Rinse the strawberries in cold water, then pat, shake, or centrifuge them dry (so much fun if you have a salad spinner). Twist off any and all green leafy tops, then arrange the berries on a cutting board and chop them up into quarter inch/1cm long pieces (oh the humanity!).

 Step 2: Deposit the chopped berry bits into a bowl. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and other spices to the bowl as well. Now we're ready for the lemon.
**Bonus Enhancement: Before cutting the lemon, roll it firmly across your countertop/cutting board a few times with the palm of your hand  (as if you were rolling out dough using the lemon). Why? The pressure of the rolling will rupture the cell walls that comprise the lemon peel and also help break up the membranous internal barriers that divide the fleshy part of the lemon into wedges. This will help release aromatic essential oils inherent to the peel  AND get those lemony juices flowing on the inside. The result: more pungent zest and an easier time coaxing juice out of the lemon.**

Step 3:With either a sharp knife or a fruit zester, scrape the peel off of about half of the lemon's surface area and into the bowl with the other ingredients. Cut the lemon in half. Extract the juice directly into the bowl from the newly naked half either with a hand-juicer  or Hulk-style by clenching the lemon in your fist (cut side facing your palm to avoid getting seeds in the pie filling). Mix the ingredients together until all the berries are evenly coated with flour/sugar/spicy goodness.

If you are using a mini-pie maker, plug it in now and let it go through one full pre-heating cycle ('ready' light will come on, then go off again) while doing the next steps.

Step 4:Unfurl a scroll of pre-made pie dough on your countertop. Gently press, stretch, or roll the dough until it's as flat and even as possible, as it will unroll with a few creases straight out of the package. If you're attempting a full-size pie, use the dough to line the bottom of your pie plate. If you're using the pie-maker or a muffin tin, cut the dough into circles about 5 inches (12.7cm) in diameter. If you're using a muffin tin, test one of these 'rounds' in your tin to ensure a good fit and adjust succeeding rounds as needed.

Step 5:Cut four of these 5-inch rounds (or as many as needed for the muffin tin). Then set aside any leftover dough scraps, unfurl the second scroll of dough, and press flat just like the first scroll.

Choose your own adventure!   Are you: Using a pie-maker? (Go to paragraph π) Using a muffin tin? (Go to paragraph ϖ) Making a full-sized pie? (go to paragraph τ)

Paragraph π: From the second scroll of dough you cut four circles of 4 inches (10.2cm) in diameter. You place both the 5-inch and 4-inch 'rounds' of dough into the freezer until the pie-maker is entirely pre-heated. Once the pie-maker is hot and ready, you remove the dough rounds from the freezer and carefully place the larger 5-inch rounds into the appropriate places on the pie-maker griddle (you use a pie press if you have one). You spoon the filling, dividing it evenly amongst the four future pies. Once the dough has been partitioned, you place the 4-inch rounds on top of the filling, then close the pie-maker. You wait with mounting impatience for 10 minutes while the pie-maker does its transmutation thing, then you open the device to reveal golden pastry nirvana. You try not to inflict second-degree burns on yourself by sampling prematurely as the pie cools.

Paragraph ϖ: From the second scroll of dough you cut one circles of 4 inches (10.2cm) in diameter. You quickly test the round against the circumference of one of the cups of your muffin tin. Success! They are an approximate match (you adroitly adjust if they do not). You cut as many 4-inch rounds as are needed to complement your cache of 5-inch rounds. You line the cups of your muffin tin with the 5-inch rounds then giddily spoon the luscious berry filling inside. You cap each filled muffin cup with a 4-inch round and gently press around the circumference to seal the flavor inside. (You may brush milk or a beaten egg yolk across the tops for a more dramatic golden finish). You place the muffin tin inside your preheated oven, then ponder the true nature of human existence for 10 minutes as heavenly scents waft throughout your kitchen. You check your muffin-pies after realizing that hunger is a more pressing concern than the musings of the existential self. Brilliance! You are rewarded with flaky fruit-filled delights. (You return the pies to the oven if they are shy and unready to be welcomed into the world...and your stomach).

Paragraph τ: You spoon the filling into the pie plate already lined with dough. You pull the second scroll of dough over the top of the filling, then gently crimp the edges of the two scrolls together with thumb and forefinger before trimming away any excess dough. (You may brush the top of the pie with milk or a beaten egg yolk for a more dramatic golden finish). You punch 2-4 small holes in the top layer of the dough, deciding that the approximate center of the pie is the best place for these. You place the pie in your preheated oven for 30 minutes before removing it, reducing the heat of said oven to 350 degrees, then baking for an additional 15-20 minutes. After such time you are famished and eagerly throw open your oven door. Level cleared! You gain 1 scrumptious confection.

And there was much rejoicing...and pie...and rejoicing.
Quick FAQs

Do you have to use pre-made dough? Can I get all fancy and try to use my own from scratch?
Definitely. In fact, I will eventually post my recipe for homemade dough on here. However, the pre-made stuff is MUCH easier to work with, particularly if you're using the mini-pie maker. Very much your call though.

When do you mean when you say a pinch of salt? That's not terribly precise.
No, it's not. Though I'm a scientist at heart and love me some precision measurement, some aspects of cooking involve a certain amount of eyeballing. In the case of this recipe it's exactly as it sounds: however much salt escapes from between your thumb and forefinger when you rub them together once. I would not recommend skipping the salt though, as it subtly enhances all the other flavors of the pie.

Do I have to make closed-top pies?
No. You can do these pies with no tops or with snazzy latticework if you wanted to. The recipe above was intended to present the easiest option that involved no experimentation in terms of ingredients or cooking time. Feel free to play around with it though. It's super versatile.

Can you do this recipe with other berries? Like blueberries?
That, fine inquisitor, will be another recipe for another day. I have a collection of pie recipes on hand and will be sharing quite a few of them on here but blueberry pie will be the subject of a future post.

What about frozen strawberries? Are they OK to use?
Yes, but I'd recommend partially thawing them first. Strawberries are comprised primarily of water and their texture is going to change as they thaw and expand. Let frozen berries stand in a bowl at room temperature for about 20 minutes before working with them as the recipe calls. Using completely frozen berries can make a watery, soupy mess of the filling and result in some seriously soggy pie. So be careful if you decide to go this route.

Happy Nomming!

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