Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Crumbly strawberry pie

No-one ever pops over unannounced these days. You know, the way they used to do back in 'the old days'. Whenever that was. I can imagine it, a small countryside village, and in the afternoon your neighbour knocks on your door, just to say hi and hear how you are. Well, at least that's how it goes in my imagination. Then of course you invite them in and sit down with a cup of tea, some ginger cookies, scones, tea cakes, jam and clotted cream. Unhurriedly you enjoy the tea and gossip about what has been going on in the village. That just doesn't happen anymore. Obviously most of the time I'm actually glad that doesn't happen, imagine someone coming over to gossip just as you are about to leave for the gym. Or just got back from work and all you want to do is turn on the telly and switch off your brain. As long as I have lived here, I don't think anyone has just knocked on my door unannounced. Well, obviously no-one has knocked on my door as they wouldn't get into the building in the first place. What I meant was no-one has buzzed my door buzzer unannounced. Except from time to time the drunk people leaving the club downstairs at 3am in the morning who find it funny to just press every door buzzer. However, today my door buzzer went off unannounced. I didn't answer as I expected it to be a salesman or TV licence inspector or whatever (just to be clear, I don't have a TV so I don't need a licence!!). Then right after that my phone beeps. 'Is you in?". It wasn't just some random door buzz, it was actually someone I was happy to see. And even more lucky, I had happened to bake these great crumbly strawberry pies right before my surprise visitor appeared. Maybe I should just start baking more often, as it seems to attract surprise visitors!

So the inspiration for the strawberry pies was leftover pie crust from my apple pies I made a while ago (sometimes my blog posts wait for quite a while to get published, don't worry, I haven't stored my pie crust for a month). A strawberry tart recipe on Pinterest has been haunting me for ages, so the leftover pie crust with some leftover strawberries that was my perfect excuse. Given that I already had the crust ready made, my strawberry tart is not exactly like the one in the recipe above, but I thought any strawberry tart or pie would calm my craving a bit. First, I was planning to do a classic tart with custard and fresh berries. But then I remembered how wonderful roasted strawberries taste like, so I thought I would do a baked strawberry tart. I only had enough dough to do the crusts, but I was worried the strawberries would burn without a crust on top as well. So, inspired by another recipe on Pinterest, I decided to put a crumble on top. I mean, who doesn't love a good crumble? Well, at least I do. I love oats, and mixing them with butter and sugar can only make it better. So voila, there it was, my crumble strawberry pie. Funnily enough, when I was doing my grocery order online the other day, it turned out Green&Black vanilla ice cream was on sale. I love Green&Black white chocolate, so I thought I should give the ice cream a try. But of course, only because it happened to be on sale. All these coincidences came together beautifully not only to create a delicious dessert but to top that all up, this was all on the day I had my unexpected surprise visitor.

The pie crust dough I had left over were from my apple pie baking antics the other day, and if you can recall, I actually made two different types of dough. One was a buttermilk and butter crust, whereas the other one had part of the flour replaced with almond flour. There was only a little bit left of the almond one, so I made one crust out of that and the three other using the buttermilk one. As you will see from the pictures below, only one was playing nice...

Crumbly strawberry pie (makes 4 individual sized crumbles):

Almond flour crust (the recipe actually makes enough for at least eight small pies, so you can freeze half for later)

200 g strawberries
1 1/2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

3 tbsp (40 g) butter
3 tbsp (26 g) whole wheat flour
3 tbsp (26 g) light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp (26 g) oats 
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
The crusts before baking. The one on the
top right is the almond flour one.
The crusts after baking. Only the almond flour
one kept it's shape, the rest ended up on the 

bottom of the pastry tins. Not sure if it the dough
doesn't like to be in the fridge over night, or if it 
was just from baking them without weighing 
down the pastry.
The howto:
Prepare the crust ahead of time, so that it can rest in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably over night. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Roll the crust and put into pie tins, prebake for 10 minutes. If you want to do things correctly, you should line the crust with parchment paper and use baking beans to weigh it down. Obviously, I couldn't be bothered to do that, but I think the crust turned out quite nicely despite me being lazy. Well it did for the almond flour dough, whereas the buttermilk dough just didn't keep it's shape in the tin and melted together to a disc at the bottom of the tin (see picture below).  For the filling, hull the strawberries and cut into slices. Mix with the rest of the ingredients. For the crumble, combine all ingredients, and use a food processor to pulse a few times to form a crumbly mixture. Scoop filling into the pre-baked crusts, top with crumble and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

The verdict:
The amount of vanilla in this recipe is rather generous. For me that worked out perfectly as I love the taste of vanilla and think that if it's the only spice, it should be quite strong. The poppy seeds also bring nice taste and texture to the filling. Baked strawberries just get a great lovely sweet flavour, and the scent coming out of the oven if just amazing. In the summer there is no better way to enjoy strawberries than fresh in a tart, but when it's not prime strawberry season anymore, you get so much more flavour into the strawberries by baking them. And the strong flavour of vanilla is just amazing, with the soft flavour of cardamom to complement the vanilla and strawberries.

I had two types of pastry for the pies, as I wanted to try two different pastries when I was baking my apple pies earlier. One was made with almond flour whereas the other was a buttermilk and all wheat flour pastry. As you can see from the photos, only the almond flour pastry dough behaved nicely, so I recommend you use that one, or some other pastry you know will bake nicely without melting into an unaesthetic mess on the bottom of the pie tin. Not that eating the ugly pies was all too horribly traumatising, they were still good. But the almond flour one made a beautiful pastry which kept the strawberry juices inside the pie. The crumble on top was a nice finishing touch to the pies, and the wholemeal flour and oats nicely complement the soft strawberry filling and vanilla flavour and the crumbly pastry crust. All this served warm, with melting vanilla ice cream on top was quite a treat, and given that my pastry was ready made, very quick to prepare. Fast food to fulfil a sweet tooth craving.

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