"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

How bad could it be? Not your soccer mom’s strawberry pie

by Julie Tilsner on June 22, 2010

in Sugar and Spite, Sweet!

Lynn.housewifeI have many Stay-At-Home, PTA-type mom friends, each and every one of them a bad-ass who saves the world every day.

I am not fit to join their ranks, but since they like me, they let me play along sometimes. This year, the amazing Lynn asked if I wanted to contribute something to the PTA’s end-of-the-year bake sale.

They stopped allowing baked goods in classrooms of California public schools a while back. Nobody is quite sure why. Peer pressure? Liability? Peanut allergies? At any rate, that sort of put the kaibosh on the proverbial PTA bake sale too, until someone figured out a work-around. Last year’s bake sale — the first the school had sponsored in years — brought in more than $700 — all gravy for the school with no middleman taking a percentage cut. Everyone was so impressed at the huge haul this most cliched of cliched events brought in that everyone discreetly looked the other way when pressed about its legality. Ill-gotten gains? Bake Sale? We don’t know what you’re talking about…

All this goes to say, Don’t F*** with the PTA ladies. Naturally I couldn’t say no to such a subversive plan.

For my contribution, I decided to make a strawberry pie. And while I was at it, I reasoned, I could make good on my promise to make Jack his strawberry pie.

A strawberry pie? Lynne cocked a dubious eyebrow. Why not? I said. It’s strawberry season. And it’s just strawberries and crust. How bad could it be?

Turns out my strawberry pie wasn’t bad at all, it just wasn’t that spectacular. Nor was it at the bake sale.

I made this easy basic pie crust. Yes. I made my own pie crust. Because again, I have to do everything from scratch to redeem my miserable, Wonder Bread and Pilsbury-rolls-in-a-tube childhood. Actually went and bought a tub of shortening. I had to cut it into the flour using two knives, since I remain the sole person in America without a food processor. But getting my hands in there is a good lesson. I could see how the fat plays a role in the flakiness. Fascinating. Pastry is intriguing me more and more.

For the pie itself –

*   1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
* 1 quart fresh strawberries
* 1 cup white sugar
* 3 tablespoons cornstarch
* 3/4 cup water
* 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Wash and cut your strawberries in quarters lengthwise. Arrange half of them in the baked pastry shell. Mash the rest of them and combine them with sugar in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water. Gradually stir cornstarch mixture into boiling strawberry mixture. Reduce heat and simmer mixture until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour mixture over berries in pastry shell.

CHILL for several hours before serving. Did you read that? Start this damn pie at least four hours before you need it, so you have time to CHILL.

And in the end, it was this stupid detail that foiled my bake sale plan.

You knew it was gonna be something, didn’t you? Lynn didn’t seem too surprised when no pie materialized. And no matter. The table groaned with myriad other goodies. And in the end, our school raised more than $1,000 for its coffers.

Without our bad-ass PTA bitches, the public schools in this state would crumble completely. We’re the last line of defense (of course I’m a member, too. It’s important. You just won’t ever see me at a meeting.)

So who ate my strawberry pie? The nits — both of whom were in shock and awe when I served it to them on a plate with whipped cream. And various neighbors’, all of whom professed middling enjoyment.

So it wasn’t the most incredible strawberry pie. It was strawberry pie. How bad could it have been?

Maybe I’ll give the blackberry cobbler another whack this year. Stay tuned…

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith Seaman June 22, 2010 at 12:44 am

(Ahem) Don’t F with PTA dudes, either! And while Lynn is certainly amazing, so are you!


Joey June 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

Note that cheesecake has to be chilled OVERNIGHT! That has caught me out more than a few times.


Robin June 22, 2010 at 9:32 am

Well, at least the pie made it to my house. He He!


Amy Yannello June 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm

The chef in our house (my brother) would absolutely FLIP if I made this, so I think I’m gonna. // Thanks for the recipe — I think it’s easy enough that even I can do it! // NOTE: I’ve been caught red-handed taking a frozen cheese cake to a church potluck, not knowing it needed to thaw for 2 hrs. or some such nonsense… so, yeah, I’m not that bright! 🙂


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