Friday, May 10, 2013

The Return to Pie

Aw yeah, a new pie for the blog!!  I'm  feeling pretty proud of myself right now!  After such a LONG hiatus it feels good to be baking and writing again.

It was a dark and stormy day yesterday and I had no intention of leaving the house so I wanted to make a pie using stuff I already had.  Among those items was a container of strawberries that were pretty disappointing in flavor.  However, I also still had a frozen bag of road-side stand strawberries from my trip to California last year, which were nice and sweet.  But after suffering the natural effects of being frozen, I knew I'd have to use them in a cooked format so I thought a crumble pie would work nicely.  

I used to make a cream cheese crust for tarts back when I was a pastry chef and since I had a block in the fridge, I decided it was meant to be.  Cream cheese crust is rich and tender with a nice flavor and if you haven't tried making one before I insist that you do so with the quickness.  It is SO easy to throw together and the extra fat makes for a dough that is difficult to ruin and easy to work with.  My one regret with this recipe is that I didn't blind bake the crust first, as I mistakenly thought the long cooking time and my stand-by trick of cooking pies on a pre-heated sheet pan would be enough.  Alas, it was not and the bottom of the crust was a touch soggy.  So for the recipe below I include instructions on blind baking the crust, to ensure you don't the same problem.  

If you hadn't already noticed, I'm a big fan of crumble toppings on pies.  Using one on top of the strawberry filling makes this tart essentially a berry crisp baked inside a cream cheese crust.  And since when is that ever a bad thing?  It's not, in case you weren't sure.  Try it out, you'll see.

Strawberry Crumble Tart with Cream Cheese Crust

Makes one 9-inch deep dish tart

2 lbs. strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered (I used half fresh and half frozen)
2 to 3 Tb. cornstarch, depending on the juiciness of your berries and if any are frozen (I use Instant Clearjel  by King Arthur Flour for thickening my fruit pies)
Sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries - I used 1/2 a cup
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out

Crumble Topping
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats
6 Tb. butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a sheet tray on the rack in the bottom third of your oven and let it heat up along with the oven.

Roll out the dough and press into a 9-inch tart pan.  I used a ceramic deep-dish tart pan, commonly known as a quiche pan.  You could also use a removable bottom tart pan, but since they are about half as deep, you'll need at least a 10-inch pan. Line the crust with foil or a sheet of parchment and fill with dry beans or pie weights.  Be sure you have enough to cover the bottom of the dish evenly and to go all the way up the sides.  This is important so that your crust does not shrink.  Set the pan on the pre-heated pan in the oven and bake until set and firm, but not too brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Use the foil or parchment to lift out the beans and allow the crust to cool.

To make the crumble topping, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Stir in the melted flour and mix until the ingredients are moistened and crumbly.  Put in the refrigerator to cool while making the filling.

To make the filling, dissolve the cornstarch in a few tablespoons of water.  In a small pot over medium heat, add the rest of the filling ingredients and dissolved cornstarch.   Heat the filling, stirring frequently, just until the juices simmer and thicken.  Spread the filling into pre-baked crust and then cover with the crumble topping.  Bake in the 350 degree oven until the filling bubbles and top is golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes.  The filling will firm up and slice cleaner when the pie is cool.  It is delicious when warm but your slices may be a little messy if you care about that sort of thing.  Serve with ice cream to take it over the top.

The filling ingredients.  I happened to have a vanilla bean, but you could substitute extract or my new favorite product,  vanilla bean paste.

The crust fitted into the pan.  At this point I should have filled with with beans for blind baking.

Spread the filling into the crust, which you blind baked.
Topped and ready for the oven.

You'll get a cleaner slice like this if you let the filling cool.  Not that I know because I dug into mine too soon.

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