Happy February! The month of love and friendship. With everything that’s been going on in the world we could really use some love. This year Chris and I have decided not spend money on useless Valentine’s Day gifts and chocolate (we’d rather spend money for our next trip), but rather focus on spending quality time together and spread the love through homemade treats.
Last Saturday I had the best time baking all day. I love being in the kitchen and being creative. In one day I made some delicious shortbread cookies, and a tasty strawberry pie. As I was working on the pie crust I thought it would be cute to decorate the pie with hearts and make this a Valentine’s Day pie. I was so happy of how it turned out! Not to brag, but it looked really cute for a first attempt ever!
Growing up I always made Italian fruit (or chocolate) pies, but the crust is quite different. Italian crostata is crumblier and drier than a traditional American pie. It resembles more the consistency of cookie, rather than pie crust. It is very flavorful, but due to its consistency it is quite hard to decorate.
It was so fun to experiment with such forgiving crust. Easy to knead and easy to work with. Of course my experience was full of trial and error, so here is a few things I have learned.
- You do not want to add too much water while you are kneading, yet you want to make sure your dough is malleable and not dry. I find that using a spray bottle filled with water to moisten the dough helps big time. If your dough ever fills dry, spray some water on the dry area and knead away.
- Letting the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes is also very helpful. While you are kneading, your hands will produce body heat which can cause the shortening to melt. This means your dough will become too soft and impossible to work with. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. The shortening will congeal and make your dough more elastic.
- Chances are your filling will bubble and flow out of your pie. When my pie came out of the oven the top was covered in strawberry filling. I was pretty mad. All the hard work for nothing. After it was totally cooled down, I spend a few minutes examining the pie. The filling had hardened just enough to become gelatinous. I took a fork and started peeling the excess filling and there it went. Easy peasy. It did leave a few red stains, but nothing a little bit of scraping could not take care of.
- The previous point brings me to cooling. It is of vital importance that you let your pie cool down. When I was little, I would watch old American cartoons and see grandmas leaving pies on the windowsill – which would always get eaten by some glutton character – and remember thinking “why would she leave it on the windowsill!”. Well, your pie needs between 6-8 hours to fully cool down. If you keep it in a warm house (in cartoons they did not have AC, or maybe grandma was in the middle of cooking a feast), the pie will never cool down. Allowing your pie to cool will reduce chances of having a runny filling. No one wants empty pie shell and filling on the side!
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup water
- 22 oz strawberry pie filling
- In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Add the shortening and continue mixing with a fork. You want to continue mixing until your mixture looks like small little balls.
- Add water a little at the time as you keep stirring.
- Knead the dough as necessary until it is moist and malleable.
- Cover the dough with some plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Cut the dough into two parts. Roll on part of the dough and lay it in a greased pie dish.
- Fill the dish with pie filling of your choice.
- Roll the remaining dough. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut your design. Lay the the crust on top of your pie. Pinch the edges to carefully seal the pie.
- Add any extra decoration you might like.
- Bake pie at 375. Bake until pastry begins to color around the edges, about 30 minutes.
So there you have it folks. I hope you enjoy your pie and please, share any tips you might have in a comment below. Share the love!