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What to do with those summer strawberries

August 3, 2015

Pastry chef Roxana Jullapat holds her vintage strawberry pie.

"This time of year, I really like to make things that donít require a lot of oven time. Thereís so much great fruit around, you donít need to do much to show it off," says pastry chef Roxana Jullapat. Sheís just arrived at the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen, a box of strawberries tucked under her arm. The tender berries, from Harryís Berries at the Santa Monica farmers market, are a vibrant shade of red; their fragrance fills the kitchen.

"Itís a perfect, easy pie dough. Ready when you need it," she says, gathering a few simple ingredients to make the dough ó flour, salt and sugar ó and combining them in a large bowl. Salt adds flavor, she explains; sugar adds tenderness but also color as the crust bakes.

"The most crucial thing is the butter. Keep it cold," Jullapat stresses as she walks over to the refrigerator to retrieve a couple of sticks. She cuts the butter into small cubes, then tosses them into the bowl, coating each piece. "This helps to keep the pieces from sticking together as theyíre worked."

She breaks the butter into the mixture using her fingertips. Where many recipes call for cutting the butter down to pea-sized pieces, Jullapat likes a mixture of sizes, though nothing too big. "Your pie dough should never be uniform. There should be an unevenness to it. Donít overwork it." She then forms a well in the center of the mixture, to which she adds a little ice water, using open hands to mix the dough until a handful clumps together.

Chill the dough ó this step is important ó at least 30 minutes and up to a couple of days. Or freeze it for up to two weeks. This way "you can keep ahead on your pie dough," Jullapat says, smiling. "See the marbling and striping?" Jullapat asks after the dough is chilled. "This indicates the butter was not overworked into the dough. You want to see this."

Every few rolls, Jullapat moves the dough slightly, checking to make sure it doesnít stick. Once itís thin enough, Jullapat cuts the dough, using an inverted pie tin as a guide and cutting about 1 inch around the outer rim. To fit the dough in the tin, she rolls the circle over the rolling pin, then unwraps it over the pan, trims the excess and crimps the edges. "See how quickly Iím working? The dough gets soft so quickly." Sheíll chill the dough again for an hour before baking the crust.

"The most important thing Iím going to do today: blind baking," explains Jullapat, greasing the dough and lining it with a parchment circle before weighting the shell with dried beans. She bakes the shell until it is golden and done throughout.

"With such great strawberries, simply stem and halve them." She uses some of the berries to make a quick jam, which she tosses with the berries in a large bowl. The gelatin in the jam will hold the berries together.

She gently packs the berries by the handful into the shell. "Make sure every nook and cranny is filled." Jullapat smiles as she slices into the pie. "So, thatís it! Itís the easiest, quickest pie of the summer."

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VINTAGE STRAWBERRY PIE

1 hour, plus chilling time. Serves 8

PIE CRUST

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup ice water, more if needed

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter cubes and toss them in the flour to coat. Using your fingertips, progressively separate the butter into smaller pieces while tossing them back into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

2. Make a well in the center and drizzle over 4 tablespoons of water. If too dry, add additional water, a tablespoon at a time. Combine and shape into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap with plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. When ready to shape the pie shell, flour a working surface generously and roll the dough with a rolling pin until itís very thin ó about 1/4 inch thick. Cut a dough circle large enough to fit into a 9-inch pie pan ó donít forget to account for an extra half inch of dough to crimp a decorative edge. Lightly coat the pie tin with nonstick spray and lay the dough circle inside the tin. Gather the excess dough around the edges and crimp as desired. Refrigerate the pie shell for at least one hour or up to two days.

4. Set an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. To pre-bake the pie shell, coat it lightly with nonstick spray, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and fill it with dried beans or rice to weigh down the dough and prevent it from puffing while in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, carefully lift the parchment circle to remove the beans and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until itís a deep golden brown. Take out of the oven and set aside to cool completely.

STRAWBERRY PIE

6 cups strawberries, halved

2 tablespoons port wine, creme de cassis or framboise

1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin powder

Pinch kosher salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

1. While the pie shell is baking, start working on the strawberry sauce. Puree 2 cups of the strawberries in a blender until completely liquefied. Add the port, gelatin powder, salt and cornstarch, and blend for another minute.

2. Put sugar in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot and add about 1/2 cup of water just to moisten the sugar. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a pairing knife, scrape out the pulp with the back of the knife, and put the pulp and the pod into the pot. Cook over high heat without stirring until the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and let it reduce until it resembles a thick syrup. Add the strawberry puree and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes while stirring constantly; the mixture will be thick. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

3. Gently toss the rest of the strawberries with the cooled strawberry mixture until theyíre all evenly covered. Add the strawberry filling in the prepared shell so it makes a mound in the middle, packing it lightly with your hand so the strawberries stick together. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

 


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