Well Dined


Berry Picking

Last weekend, a friend and I went berry picking at Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD. It was the end of strawberry season and the beginning of tart cherries, so we got to pick both. There is nothing more satisfying or fun than harvesting your own food (though my legs are sore from squatting to pick strawberries, and my arms are sore from reaching up for the cherries).

The farm has a nice open patch of grass for parking next to the main store - which sells vegetables, herbs, and flowers; jams and sauces made at the farm and elsewhere; and already picked berries (sold at a higher price than if you pick your own). From the store you can either walk (a long way) to the berries, or hop on the tractor that drives back and forth between the fields and the store. You can bring your own containers, or pick up a cardboard carton from the store. I ended up with almost 7lbs of berries! I decided to make pies with my haul - a sour cherry lattice pie and a strawberry icebox pie.

My cherry haul.

The cherry filling inside the crust, dotted with butter.

The finished lattice topping.

The baked pie.

My strawberries, cleaned and hulled.

The graham cracker crust.

Making the filling.

The finished pie.

Sour Cherry Lattice Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

Pate Brisee, recipe follows
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 lbs fresh sour cherries, pitted (about 6 cups), or 1 3/4 pounds frozen sour cherries, partially thawed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
vanilla sugar* or coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one disc of dough to a 13 inch round, 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate, and trim leaving 1/2 inch overhang. Refrigerate crust for 30 min while you prepare the lattice strips.

On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll out second disc of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut 14 strips (12 inches long and 1/2 inch wide) with a fluted pastry wheel or a sharp knife; use a ruler if you have trouble making even strips. Place strips on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and refrigerate until cold, about 10 minutes.

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add cherries and vanilla, and toss. Pour cherry mixture into prepared pie plate. Dot top with butter. Lightly brush exposed edge of crust with egg.

Make the lattice: Lay 7 strips of dough across pie. Fold back every other strip. Lay another strip perpendicular in center of pie. Unfold the strips over perpendicular strip. Fold back the strips that are under the perpendicular strip. Lay a second perpendicular strip next to the first. Unfold the strips over the second perpendicular strip. Repeat, weaving strips across half the pie. Return to center, lay a perpendicular strip on unwoven side of pie, and repeat. Trim strips to make a 1-inch overhang. Tuck extra under rim of crust, and crimp to seal. Brush lattice with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Refrigerate 30 min until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer pie plate to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling (if using fresh cherries, begin checking after 1 hour; if using frozen, it will take about 1 hour, 35 minutes). If top begins to brown too quickly, tent with foil and continue to cook.

Let pie cool completely on a wire rack.

*I keep a jar of sugar with vanilla bean pods in it. Whenever I use a vanilla bean, I toss the empty pod into the jar. The sugar becomes infused with vanilla flavor. It is great for baking and for coffee. When the sugar starts to run low I fill up the jar again, shaking it every now and then to distribute the flavor.

Pate Brisee
adapted from Martha Stewart
This is seriously the BEST dough recipe. It is flexible, it won't crack, it is super tender and flaky and awesome. It is important that everything be COLD.
Makes two 9 inch single-crust pies or one 9 inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/2 cup chilled butter flavored Crisco, cut in pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Whisk or sift together the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and shortening, and cut together until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the ice water evenly over the flour and work together with your hands until the dough just holds together. Do not overwork.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide in two. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form two discs. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 min before using.

Strawberry Icebox Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

10 graham crackers (2 1/2 by 5 inches)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 quarts strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate. In a food processor, blend graham crackers until finely ground. In a bowl, combine crumbs, butter, 3tbsp sugar, and salt. Press mixture into the bottom and up the side of the pie plate. Bake until crust is lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, cranberry juice, 3 cups strawberries, cornstarch, and salt. Using a potato masher, gently mash strawberries. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until very thick, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in remaining strawberries. Pour into cooled pie crust. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours (or up to 1 day). Top with whipped cream, if desired.

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