Spring is here when the strawberries start tempting you, as you pass through the produce department at the supermarket. Am I right? They're not perfect, but they are just so darn promising of warmer days. I can't wait to get down on hands and knees to creep along the rows of berries, filling a colander and contemplating strawberry shortcake, stopping to brush the dirt off a particularly beautiful berry and pop it in my mouth to sample the juiciness. Berries and cream, berry smoothies, strawberry ice cream, spinach salad with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette, strawberry jam ... is it any wonder that I always fall for the first berries that come in from 'where ever'? I'm a strawberry junkie.
Today I made strawberry custard pie.
How beautiful is this pie ? Think light fluffy pastry cream that has been set up in a cookie crumb crust.
Think fresh strawberries with a warm strawberry jam brushed over top. Think a dollop of whipped cream and a cup of coffee to accompany. Think Springtime bliss ...
This pie starts out with vanilla cookies made into a buttery crust that gets a quick bake to set it up. I used the whole box of cookies and made two crusts ... one pie for the woman who won the '12 Months of Pies' at our little church's holiday fair silent auction and one pie for a dinner party here at the grey cottage. The custard is just full of sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, butter, and whole milk.
Surprisingly, this custard cooled really fast once it hit the ice bath. Then, it was a matter of filling the tart shells and letting the custard set up while the strawberries were prepped. This is the point where one should leave the tart covered with plastic wrap to chill. I prepared the first tart and delivered it, but in the time between placing the berries and brushing the warm jam and getting the pie to Mrs. Lammela's fridge, the strawberries had begun to macerate and the top of the pie became 'juicy soupy'. Tasted great, but not very aesthetic. What can I say? A better strategy is to prep the berries and dress the pie just before you want to serve it.
Yup. This one's a keeper recipe ... I can't wait for strawberries from the back yard garden! Come on Springtime! The bright red berries are just so darn pretty and this custard is really like velvet - yum! The recipe I followed gave an option for melting dark chocolate and brushing a layer onto the cookie crust before putting in the custard. I may have to break down and try that next time I make the pie. I figure if you're going to go for a rich decadent dessert, you might as well really GO FOR IT ...
This recipe comes from the Culinary Institute of America's cookbook ... the crust comes from the side of the box of cookies.
Strawberry Custard Pie
Makes: 2 pies
2 ½ c. vanilla cookie crumbs ( I use Nabisco Nilla Wafer cookies – one large box)
5 tbsp. butter, melted
4 tbsp. sugar
- Combine the crust ingredients with a fork, tossing to coat the crumbs well and incorporate the sugar.
- Divide evenly between two 9-inch pie plates and press firmly up the sides and across the base of the plates.
- Bake in a 350° F oven for ten minutes until golden brown and set.
- Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
½ c. cornstarch
1 ½ c. sugar (divided)
4 c. whole milk
8 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 pinches salt
4 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, broken into 4 lumps
- Combine the cornstarch and ½ c. sugar in a deep bowl, whisking to combine.
- Add 1 c. milk and stir to combine.
- Add the beaten egg yolks and stirs to combine.
- Place the rest of the milk (3 c.), sugar (1 c.), and salt in a deep, heavy saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Remove from the heat and temper the egg mixture by stirring 1 cupp of hot milk into the bowl of egg mix while whisking vigorously. Add another cup of hot milk and continue beating … another until the hot milk is all beaten in.
- Return the whole custard mixture to the pan and place it back on the stove, lower the heat just a bit.
- Whisk constantly in a slow gentle manner until the custard begins to thicken.
- When the custard comes to a bubble, turn off the stove, remove the pan to a counter top and whisk in the butter lumps and vanilla extract.
- Prepare an ice bath and turn the custard back into the mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the ice bath and give the custard a stir every couple minutes until tit is cool enough to turn into the pie shells.
- Divide evenly between the pie shells, cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Strawberry Topping Ingredients:
2 quarts fresh perfect strawberries, hulled and sliced thickly top to tip
1 cup strawberry jam, warmed in a saucepan until it melts
Just before you want to serve the pie, lay the strawberry slices over top the cool custard and brush the berries generously with the melted jam.
Serve as is or place a dollop of sweetened whipped cream atop each slice, as it is plated.