Do you know one of the main reasons I love food?
I know.... it sounds stupidly simple. But, here's the thing;
Flavors are why we eat (well, besides the whole maintaining life thing). Flavors entertain us, they please us, they add variety to our lives. Without flavors, why would we love food?
Let's say you have a base flavor that you love. Say...strawberries.
You love the flavor of strawberries. It is a unique taste only owned by a strawberry, and it is delicious and pure in its natural, untouched form.
Then, one day you have an experience where your familiar strawberry flavor meets another, and transforms into an experience.
Say, you were in Spain. An Ecuadorian woman, who is married to a Frenchman, just served you a dessert of the finest french cheeses paired with a strawberry and rosemary salad on the side.
Let's just say.
At that moment, two separate but familiar flavors come together and completely transform each other into more than the sum of their parts. A new flavor is born.
Because of flavor experiences like this (combining familiar yet uncommonly paired tastes together like rosemary and strawberry), you find yourself in a constant search to discover more of them. Not only that, but once these combinations are discovered, it also becomes an on-going challenge to apply them in even more unexpected places.
Like in a pie.
In a series of fortunate events, I found myself at the doorstep of creating this recipe. First, it started in Spain (okay, maybe the hypothetical Ecuadorian woman story a was a true, personal story); A flavor combination was born. Then, a friend moved into a new house; A pie had to be made. After, a conversation was held with a dear friend, coworker, and Baking Empress; Creative genius was piqued. Then, multiple flavor combinations formed into one big harmonious new flavor, in a completely foreign dessert setting; A recipe was born.
Strawberries and rosemary...rosemary and orange...orange and fig balsamic vinegar...fig balsamic vinegar and strawberries...
Yes, it had to be done. And yes, it is good. A homerun, high-fivin', 'no way!', 'what the...', 'this is cool', head back, eyes closed, rockin' good pie. And a one-way ticket to Flavor Town.
Strawberry Pie with Rosemary-Orange Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (you can use all AP flour)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons orange zest
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut up into ½” cubes and thoroughly chilled
½ cup ice cold water
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered
2/3 cup sugar (or less depending on sweetness of strawberries)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar (you can use regular balsamic, but the fig is just that much more sweet and unique)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 egg, slightly beaten with a splash of water or milk
To make the crust:
Pulse flours, sugar, salt, orange zest, and rosemary in a food processor until combined. Add cold cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough just comes together and you can squeeze it in your hand to form a mold without it falling apart. The amount of water needed will depend on the day.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and press down with your palm, smearing the dough out in a few different directions before bringing it together and forming a loose ball.
Divide the ball in two and form each piece into a flattened dish about 1” thick. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
To make the pie:
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees 10 minutes before taking out your first dough disk. Once chilled, take one dough disk out of the fridge and roll it out with a rolling pin - …or, if you’re me…a wine bottle… - to 1” beyond the edge of your pie pan. Press the dough into the pie pan, making sure it is an even thickness and height all around the pan. Trim any excess dough, leaving a bit on the rim for the top crust to eventually adhere to.
Place a piece of tinfoil over the crust and fill with pie weights, uncooked beans,
- or…if you’re me…rocks that you’ve gathered (and washed and dried) from the patio outside. This is to prevent your crust from puffing up too much and to maintain its shape.
Blind bake (that is what it’s called when you bake your bottom crust before adding a filling) your bottom crust for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 375 degrees.
Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the filling and roll out your second pie disk, making sure to keep it cold if there is a time gap. Pour filling into the bottom crust and brush exposed edge with egg wash. Cover with the top rolled out crust. Crimp edges to form crust rim.
Brush egg wash all over top crust and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut small slits in middle of pie with a sharp paring knife.
Place the pie back in the oven at reduced temperature of 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 40 minutes longer. If the outer crust gets too brown in the middle of baking, cover just the edge with thin strips of foil and continue baking.
Let cool almost completely before diving in. This is the most difficult part of the recipe.