One of the unexpected ways that 2016 started was when I crashed my 12-year-old Toyota Corolla. Nobody was hurt, thankfully, but my car didn’t make it through. It was one of those things that shouldn’t make you feel sad, because after all, its just a car. But it was paid for, and it got me from point A to point B without much fuss and reasonable gas mileage. Plus, I was totally unprepared for the change. I was used to my car. It has quirks and dents, but we understood each other. It met my needs and I sort of met its needs. And we said goodbye so impersonally in the junkyard where I cleaned out 8ish years of notes, burned CDs, checkbooks from closed bank accounts, pens, and gum wrappers. I even discovered a photo of the previous owners in the glove compartment. It was John and Sherri, circa 1996, with lots of teased hair and unfortunate mustaches and awkward fitting denim. A treasure.
Anyway. So began the treacherous journey of car shopping. We knew that our cars were nearing the end of their lives, and we had discussed the possibility of one day buying something else, but it was definitely not on our radar. New cars are luxury items. For the fancy and well-established adult. And most days, I definitely don’t feel fancy, and I certainly don’t feel like a well-established adult. More like an pseudo adult barely keeping up with life.
To make a long story short, we decided to get a Subaru Forester. And oh man. I definitely feel fancy now. Did you know that cars now have seat warmers? And back up cameras? and CD players that work?? Not to mention fancy blue tooth and a million different other little things that make me feel like I’m driving a space ship, at least compared to my old ride. I know you’re only here for the food, but I cannot recommend the Forester enough. It feels so safe, I have great visibility when I’m driving, it’s big enough to haul stuff in without feeling like I’m driving a tank. And its supposed to be good in all types of weather and terrain, which is great because driving in JXN MS is like going off road, every day.
So that’s one of the reasons why there has been a lack of posting lately. Plus I recently recovered from a cold, which made me want to eat nothing other than soup and crackers for a lot of days. But now that all thats behind me, I’m here to talk about the best pie I’ve ever eaten and definitely the best one I’ve ever made. And the timing is perfect, because nothing says I Love You the way homemade desserts do, since Valentines day is coming up. If you find yourself in a part of the population that generally hates Valentines day, that’s fine. You can write this off as a seasonal pie, because somewhere, strawberries are in season.
This pie in an incredibly rich twist on the classic chocolate covered strawberry, which is going to feel old and flimsy after you try this pie. A small slice goes a long way, so its good for sharing with a group of friends or lovers that you love, or not sharing at all, it’s that good. It has a ginger snap crust, a silky layer of dark chocolate ganache, a cloud-like layer of strawberries topped with a generous portion of whipped cream, ever so slightly sweetened. I used some beet juice to help the strawberry layer pop with color, but you could also use natural food coloring, which is essentially the same thing. But beets are a lot cheaper, if you’ve ever tried to buy the natural food coloring, and not worth it if you don’t use it very often. I actively avoid artificial food coloring, and you should too. It will still be just as delicious without the happy pink color, just maybe not as aesthetically pleasing. For the record, I have a juicer, which is how I obtained said beet juice. You could also use a blender, or if you can find frozen beets, thaw some of them and obtain juice that way.
This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite things I’ve ever baked.
The Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Pie
For the ginger snap crust: slightly adapted from this cookbook
About 25-30 two inch gingersnap cookies
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
heaping 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
Egg white wash (1 egg white + 1 teaspoon water, whisked together)
Using a food processor, grind the cookies into fine crumbs. Add the sugar, salt, and melted butter and pulse until just incorporated. If you don’t have a food processor, I would put the cookies in a plastic bag and then double with another plastic bag, and whack them with a hammer/something else heavy. You may have to break up the larger pieces with your hands. Then in a bowl, stir in the salt and sugar, then add the butter, and stir/mash with a fork.
In a shallow, metal pie plate (I used one of the disposable aluminum ones) pour the crumbs out and spread evenly over its base. Press the crumbs up the sides of the pan with your fingers and into the corners. You might want to use a cup with a flat bottom to help keep things smooth. Place the crust in the freezer for about 10 minutes, while preheating your oven the 350 degrees F. Next, place your pie pan on a cookie sheet, and bake for about 12-13 minutes, the crust will be slightly darker and fragrant. After removing from the oven, brush with the egg wash and bake for one minute more. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
For the Chocolate Ganache Base: also inspired by this cookbook
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped small/roughly
In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil, then add the chocolate pieces, and then remove from the heat. Give it one good stir, then let it sit for about 5 minutes. Next, whisk gently to combine. Scrape the ganache into the prepared pie crust and spread evenly over the bottom. Place in the refrigerator while you make the rest of the filling.
For the Strawberry Filling: adapted in spirit, and technique, from this recipe
3 large egg yolks (the yellow part. I always have to remind myself)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2/3 of a cup strawberry puree, from fresh or frozen and thawed strawberries
optional: 1/2 teaspoons of fresh beet juice, or 1-2 drops of natural red food coloring, more or less of each, depending on your preference.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the zest and the egg yolks until thick, about 5-ish minutes. Add the milk, and beat for about 4 more minutes. Whisk in the strawberries and juice, if using. Pour mixture into the prepared pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. The filling should be set, and maybe have the slightest of ‘jiggles’ to it, but not browned. Let it cool completely before adding the whipped cream (otherwise, you’ll end up with a horrible mess of melted whipped cream. You don’t want that)
For the Whipped Cream topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat until stiff peaks are formed. You can also do this by hand, it will just take longer. Spread generously over the top of your fully cooled pie. Allow to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving, if you can wait that long.