We recently hosted baker/blogger/author Joy Wilson — a.k.a. Joy the Baker — at our Baking Education Center here in Norwich, VT, where she led a high-energy session on strawberry pie. Joy has taught popular classes at our school in the past, and this time she agreed to write up her class in blog form — in order to reach even more “students.” Our thanks to Joy; and to King Arthur Flour photographer Nic Doak for the photos.
In New Orleans, the city I call home, we live our summer days with a sort of awe: an awe at just how hot and swampy our charmed city can be. It’s wonderful, though undeniably stifling. I was lucky enough to spend a few summer days in Vermont this year where the rolling mountains, green scenes, and crisp air was a welcome change.
Today we’re celebrating the beauty of these summer days the best way we know how: with fresh Vermont strawberries, gathered amply and baked into a lattice-crusted Lemon-Ginger Strawberry Pie. I’ve added whole lemon slices and fresh ginger to the pie creating a berry-sweet, lemon-tart, and ginger-spicy filling. It’s balanced and intriguing and perfectly suited to the buttery buttermilk crust.
As with all good things, our pie crust starts with butter … very cold butter.
Temperature is key when it comes to making a beautifully flaky pie crust. The fat and liquid should be cold and remain cold as the dough is brought together. We’ll take a few trips back and forth to the refrigerator, but the chill will ensure that the butter marbles the dough, and creates layers and flakes in our baked crust.
Cold butter (3/4 cup, 12 tablespoons) is sliced and diced to 1/2″ cubes; I’ve found using a bench knife is the easiest tool. The cold butter is added to our mixture of 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
I like to use my hands to quickly work the butter into the dry ingredients. Getting my hands in the dough gives me a better understanding of where I am in the process. I get to know the dough, and how the butter begins to coat the flour mixture.
Quickly but with care, press the cold butter along with the dry mixture between your fingers to create flakes and bits of butter that resemble small peas and oat flakes.
In a small measuring cup, whisk together 1/2 cup cold buttermilk and an egg yolk. I like to add an egg yolk to my pie crusts to help make the pie crust more sturdy and workable. It’s an easy way to create a bit more elasticity, and add workability to the dough.
Create a well in the center of the butter and flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Use a spatula to gently work the wet ingredients into the dry. The mixture will be rather shaggy; just make sure that most of the dry ingredients are kissed by the liquid, if not totally moistened.
Dump the shaggy dough onto a clean work surface and use the sides of your hands to gently but firmly coax and squeeze the dough into a rough disk. If you find that the dough is just too dry and not coming together, add another tablespoon of buttermilk.
Knead the dough until it’s cohesive (cracks will still be present; that’s OK!) and divide it in half. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Chilling the dough will give it enough time for the butter to firm up and for the flour to absorb the liquid, making it much easier to roll out.
To roll out the pie crust, first generously flour a clean counter. Unwrap the dough and lightly flour the top. Use a rolling pin to gently press through the center of the dough back and forth. Rotate the dough 90° and gently roll through the center again. Each of these initial rolls are meant to coax the dough into a thin circle.
Roll the dough just under 1/4″ thick. Occasionally move the dough around the floured surface to ensure that it’s not sticking.
Gently lift the crust with two hands and place it in a 9″ pie plate. Lift the edges of the crust and use your fingers to ensure that it’s flush with the inside of the pie plate so there won’t be any shrinkage or tearing when you add the filling. Trim any crust overhang to just about 1/2″.
To make the filling, combine 1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and sliced; 1 lemon with peel, washed and very thinly sliced (on a mandoline, if possible); 1 tablespoon lemon juice; 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg; 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar, and 1/4 cup cornstarch. The mixture will be sweet, spicy, and tart … hitting all our favorite flavor notes in one glorious pie!
Spoon the filling into the prepared pie crust and refrigerate while you roll out the top crust.
Roll out the top crust out just as you did the bottom. Use a pizza cutter to slice the rolled crust into 1″-wide strips to make a lattice top.
To make a lattice top, remove the pie plate from the refrigerator and lay six strips horizontally across the pie. Fold every other strip back halfway. Place one strip of crust vertically next to the folded pieces and layer the folded pieces over the first strip. Working to the left, fold back alternating horizontal strips; layer another vertical strip, and continue across the pie vertically, creating a weave.
Trim the edges of the strips, fold all of the crust pieces under, crimp the edge, and it’s nearly time to bake!
Brush the crust with a light coating of beaten egg to help with browning.
Place the pie on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the pie for 30 to 35 minutes more, or until the crust is golden and the strawberry filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving.
The result is a pie so juicy and sweet it’s undeniably summer. Lemon-Ginger Strawberry Pie is the most indulgent way to celebrate summer’s fruit bounty. There’s no time to waste! Happy baking!