For those who are not aware, if you need to buy the best woodworking tools in Canada—super high-end, ultra-sharp hand planes and spokeshaves and shit—you go to this place called Lee Valley Hardware. They’re great at expensive-ass gardening stuff too.
Who knew they also sold books about pie? Not me, but that’s where I stumbled upon The Book on Pie, a hefty, official-looking hardcover by someone called Erin Jeanne McDowell. Of course, I had to buy it, when you’re dropping huge bank on tools and another $150+ on stuff to keep those tools sharp, a 350-page, $45 pie book begins to feel like a bargain. And it is.
Also, let the record show, Erin Jeanne doesn’t fuck around. So, as summer claws itself out of the permafrost up here in Canada, I decided to take advantage of some early seasonal harvests and take a shot at the “Roasted Strawberry Pie,” which McDowell classifies as one of her “easy” recipes.
Which is either misleading or scary because it took me ten hours to make this pie (not counting driving all over town in search of whole vanilla beans) and I had to reference no fewer than five totally non-sequential pages in the book to pull this fucker together.
But shit Martha if it wasn’t delicious, definitely a high-water mark in the Pie Quarterly quiver. So while I generally like to put my own twists on classic recipes up here, this one is pure McDowell. Bring money, book some time, and enjoy. This pie slays, and the slow roasting is a smart way to make a solid, pure-flavoured pie out of those juicy-ass unpredictable fruits without relying on some kind of thickening additive. This is my favourite kind of pie, where you can let the fruit do the work and minimize the extra ingredients.
Slow-Roasted Strawberry Pie Forever
It’s called “Forever” because that’s how long this pie takes to make, but it’s 1000% worth it.
First off, go sell a kidney because you need a wheelbarrow load of strawberries for this recipe, or hopefully you are a farmer. Either way, get the freshest, most local strawberries you can.
For this pie, we’re gonna make the filling first, then the struesel (topping), then the crust, then the whole pie, then the créme. Also, you need pie weights one in order to parbake your crust. Simple right? Strap in and let’s giv’r.
- 4.5 pounds of fresh strawberries (1.5 kg, aka: a shitload)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt (fine grain is best)
- Zest of 1 decent sized lemon
- Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- Fire up the over to 275º Fahrenheit
- Put the over racks in the upper and lower third of the over (if possible)
- Cut the leaves off each one of your zillion strawberries and cut them into large pieces (quarter them if they’re giant, half them if they’re medium, leave em alone if they’re small)
- Chuck them evenly in a single layer on two ungreased baking sheets
- Split your vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a bowl
- Add sugar, lemon zest, salt to the bowl and mix it up nice
- Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over all strawberries
- Roast berries for two hours
- Switch the trays top to the bottom, give the berries a quick flip, and roast for two more hours. Your entire house is gonna smell amazing.
Surprise motherfuckers! You need a topping too. Well, you don’t need a topping but since you are killing time while the berries roast, why not pile extra awesomness on top of what’s already amazing? The struesel topping is also the easiest part of this pie
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons whole wheat flowr
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder (don’t use baking soda dummy!)
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix
- Cut the cold butter into half-inch cubes and add it to the dry stuff
- Mix it in with a pastry cutter or your hands
- Save the struesel in the fridge for now and get to work on the crust.
Make whatever crust floats your boat but McDowell suggests her special “All-Buttah” crust:
- 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (fine is better but coarse works in a pinch)
- 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (I recommend grass-fed butter)
- ¼ cup ice water
McDowell recommends powering up your crust with some Vanilla-Nutmeg upgrades (and I concur) so for that you need:
- Seeds scraped from ½ a vanilla bean
- ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
Most people have their own tried and true method (and recipe) for crust. This one works for me
- Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix it up
- Cut the cold butter into half-inch cubes and add it to the dry stuff
- Mix it in with a pastry cutter or your hands (but if they are warm it might screw things up)
- The larger the pieces of butter in your mixture, the flakier your crust will be
- Make a well (divot) in the middle of your bowl of dry mix and add the ice water. (Not all flour is created equally so you may need a touch more or less water. Use the recipe as a baseline and tinker as needed. Sticky dough is too wet.)
- Gently! Mix the flour into the water until everything is a nice ball that’s not too dry and powdery but not too smooth and glisten-y either. DON’T OVERMIX it. Too much kneading will activate the gluten and your crust will be tough.
- Make a ball of the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 mins.
- Pour yourself a drink and crank up the beats, the hard part is done.
Pre-Baking the Crust
Remember when Pie-Master McDowell said this pie was easy? Once your berries are finished slow roasting, crank that oven up to 425º Fahrenheit because now it’s time to parbake (half bake) or blind bake (pretty much fully bake) the crust. Blind baking (fully pre-baking) is usually for a cold-set pie, so I went for a parbake (half-baked) approach that was more like ¾ baked. Note: some purists love a metal pie plate because it better conducts the heat into the pie. I can never find them in my town though so I used glass.
- Whip the dough out of the fridge and remove the plastic (obviously)
- Roll it out until it will fill your 9-inch pan. Not too thin in the centre!!
- Place your do in the pan, make the edges look pretty (note that they might shrink down a bit when you parbake it
- Cut a piece of parchment paper that is a bit larger than the pie plate and place it over the crust.
- Fill the paper with pie weights to prevent the crust from bubbling up. (I didn’t have any pie weights because this pie took me ten hours to make and the store was closed so I used a small cast iron frying pan instead. It banged up one side of the crust a bit but I just chocked that up to the warmth of human error. No AI in this kitchen).
- Chuck the pie plate on the lower rack of the over (the lower third, same as where you had the berries) and bake it for 15 mins or so, till it’s starting to brown
- Remove the pie weights and parchment
- Chuck ‘er back in the over for another 2-3 mins to help the bottom bake.
- Let the crust cool completely.
Obviously, crusts are finnicky things and every oven has its own personality so keep an eye on your crust, if its starting to look pretty baked at 13 mins, yank it out early. If it feels like it needs more time…giv’r.
The Home Stretch!
OK, time to finally put this fucker together!
- Reduce oven temp to 375º Fahrenheit
- Spoon the roasted strawberries into your cooled crust (if it looks like it’s really full you may wanna chuck the crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet in case of overflow.)
- Cover the pie with the Struesel
- Bake for 22-25 mins, until the crust if nice and deep golden brown and the filling has darkened a bit. BUT FIRST…
- Check the Struesel at about 12 minutes, if it is baking/darkening too quickly tent it with a piece of aluminum foil.
- Once it all looks good (and you can smell it!) you are prob good to go. Remove from oven and let cool before slicing. This pie won’t be too runny thanks to the slow roasting but you still don’t want to cut it right away. In the meantime…
This pie is perfectly good with a high-end vanilla ice creme but, thanks to that ultra tense dessert scene in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, I prefer to serve this with, “la créme!”
- 2 cups (500 ml) of Whipped Cream
- 1/2 teaspoon icing sugar
- Put a metal mixing bowl in the freezer before you start. The cooler all your stuff is the better when it comes to la créme.
- Pour the ingredients in the bowl
- Mix it up
- Chuck a healthy dollop of la créme on each slice of Strawberry Pie and amaze your tastebuds and your friends. It was a long road to get here, but holy shit right?!
Huge shout out to Andrea from The Cooney Sisters for helping me ensure this crust was dialed. This was legit on the of the tastiest pies I’ve ever eaten and you should definitely go buy Erin Jeanne McDowell’s THE BOOK ON PIE if you are at all serious about your pie game. I can’t believe this was an “easy” one.