I’ve always struggled with strawberries in baked goods. They’re usually too sweet, kind of mushy, and if they happen to have enough acid they lose that lovely berry flavor. And anyway, who needs to bake strawberries when they’re perfect unadorned? Ripe, juicy, fragrant, sweet, and tender, any additions would be gilding the lily.
Enter Laurel, my lovely friend and baking/LA History compatriot, who told me about a new “no bake” blueberry pie she tried recently. Gushing about the fresh, bright flavor, and hearing some “no bake pie” buzz on the radio waves from Evan Kleinman, my curiosity was piqued and we started brainstorming no bake candidates for summer fruit pies.
Wanting to prove my stomach wrong, I decided to go with strawberry. It’s not baked, so it doesn’t mess with the texture too much, and the addition of citrus and not too much sugar keeps the filling perfectly balanced. For that extra kick of pure strawberry flavor, sliced up fresh strawberries are piled on at the end. My favorite part of the pie though, is the lemon verbena whipped cream. It’s the ultimate summer herb, imparting a citrus/mint/basil/earthy perfume to whatever it touches. It also makes lovely decaf tea. It’s in season now, so I’m buying bunches of the stuff, but if you can’t find it fresh, you can find it dried online pretty easily.
Light, creamy, fresh, citrusy, sweet, and all on a flakey butter pie crust. It’s the dessert epitome of summer, and will be gone in a second (just ask Laurel’s brothers). Enjoy!
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
2/3 cup water
4 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 pie crust, blind baked in a 9 inch pie tin or if you’re short on time, bought from a store.
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
10 lemon verbena leaves (fresh or dried, and if they’re hard to find, 4 lemon peels are fine)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
To blind bake, roll out and place your dough in your pie pan; add a sheet of parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights (this is to ensure the pie keeps its shape). To fully blind bake, bake it at 425 F for 10-15 minutes or until the sides begin to brown. Remove the paper and beans/weights and reduce oven to 375 degrees, baking for 5 more minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt. Blend in water and 2 1/2 cups strawberries. Bring to a boil, stirring and roughly smashing the strawberries. Boil, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, a minute or so. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract, butter, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cool.
For the lemon verbena whipped cream, combine the sugar and a 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and add the leaves. Simmer for 3 minutes (until the sugar is fully absorbed) and turn off the heat. Let the syrup fully cool. This can be done up to a week in advance for extra flavor. Strain the syrup and add it to the whipping cream along with the vanilla. Whip to form soft peaks.
Add the strawberry mixture to the pie crust, and top with the remaining fresh strawberries. Dollop the whipped cream in the center, and spread, still revealing the strawberries at the edge. Garnish with chopped strawberries. Enjoy!