Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Strawberries and Springtime (Almost!)

When the weather hits the 80s, I don't think of beaches or suntanning, but instead ... the farmer's market! This past weekend's balmy weather flipped the switch in my mind from root vegetables and canned tomatoes to rhubarb and strawberries. I've been promising my friend Jason a rhubarb pie for the past two years, and have come up miserably short (okay, maybe the better word is lazy).

Sunday morning, I eagerly made my way to the Thompkin's Square Park farmer's market hoping to find the first sign of spring in the produce baskets. Stall after stall, however, I was reminded that although the weather is cooperating, it's still a little early for fresh spring fruit. I decided to satiate my craving with frozen strawberries instead, as a test run for Jason's eventual rhubarb and strawberry pie.

When the time comes, I'll try it again and update this recipe with fresh fruit - it should be any day now ...

Strawberry Pie

2 packages frozen strawberries, 1 pound each
200 g sugar
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 T vanilla extract
100 g heavy cream
1 packet granulated gelatin
pate brisee pie crust (or store-bought, if you can't bear to turn on your oven in the heat)

Blind bake pie crust in a 350 degree oven until golden brown - you won't be baking the pie filling, so make sure it's fully done. Set aside to cool completely before using.

Add strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a large sauce pot over medium-low heat. Stir the strawberries to coat them with sugar, and then let the strawberries cook until they're just starting to fall apart (about 30 minutes).

Strain the strawberries and reserve the juice and pot you cooked them in. Add the vanilla extract to the strawberries, and set aside to cool.

Save about 1/2 cup of the strawberry juice in a bowl, and return the rest to the same pot. Keep warm over low heat to reduce.

When the reserved 1/2 cup of strawberry juice is cool, add the gelatin to bloom. Once bloomed, add the hot strawberry juice from the pot to melt the gelatin, and stir until well combined.

Whip the heavy cream to a soft peak, sacrifice a little to the strawberry juice/gelatin mix to lighten it, and then fold the strawberry juice into the whipped cream. Fold the whipped cream mixture into the cooled strawberries, and pour into the cooled pie shell. Refrigerate at least one hour, or until it sets.

*I had some extra filling, which I just poured into individual ramekins. It's delicious topped with crushed vanilla snaps.

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