I spent a bit of time in the bay area in the middle of April, and was treated to strawberries. Not the kind of California berries we think of up here in Seattle. Not those hard puckery strawberries white in the middle from being shipped half ripe. No, these were the beginning of the local soft varietal that ripens in the sun and is too soft to ship. Two weeks ago I was visiting Russell’s family on the east side of the Willamette valley in Oregon, and was again treated to the first of the season local berries. Being just 5 hours north, Seattle will be expecting the first of the ripe local strawberries, slowly crawling their way north, within the next two weeks.
To welcome the berries this far north, I have been working on a recipe for a Strawberry Buttermilk Pie. I tested it on the Oregon berries two weeks ago, the results so delicious it is making the weeks until our own berries ripen seem like months.
You’ll need a baked pie crust to fill. I’d give you a recipe, but to be quite honest, it’s not the recipe that makes a pie crust, rather your handling of it. Any crust you are comfortable making will do. If pie crust isn’t your thing, then simply fill pretty little dishes and serve it sans crust, perhaps with a little shortbread cookie on the side.
The recipe calls for gelatin, which is simple enough. The only crucial part to making the texture of this pie light is the temperature at which you fold the cream into the strawberry buttermilk base. The gelatin must be close to setting which makes the strawberry base thicker, or the whipped cream will loose volume when folded in, seeming to melt. To help I keep the strawberry and buttermilk in the refrigerator, well chilled, while I am preparing the rest of the recipe. When it comes time to add the gelatin, the cold temperature of the strawberries and buttermilk begin to set the gelatin with in just a few minutes. It seems tedious, but other than this critical step, this recipe is easy as, well, pie!
Strawberry Buttermilk Pie
1 prebaked pie shell, able to hold 5 cups of filling
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strawberry puree, strained of seeds
1/2 cup cream
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp gelatin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups cream, whipped to soft peaks
1. Whisk together the strawberry puree and buttermilk and keep cold in the refrigerator.
2. Place the water in a small saucepan (I use my stainless steel 1 cup measuring cup) and sprinkle the gelatin over. Let the gelatin sit to absorb the water, or “bloom”.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, lemon zest, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to distribute the sugar, then remove from heat. Over low heat, carefully melt the bloomed gelatin until it is completely liquid. Add the melted gelatin to the lemon cream, and strain. Let the mixture cool to room temperature on the counter for about an hour.
4. When the lemon cream has come down in temperature, whisk it into the strawberry buttermilk. Let the mixture sit for a minute or two, stirring to check the density of the buttermilk base. When it starts to thicken, much like a custard would, then it is time to fold in your whipped cream. If it is not thickening, place it in the refrigerator until you see it starting to thicken.
5. Take one third of your soft peak whipped cream, and fold it into the strawberry buttermilk, your main concern being to incorporate the two. Working in two more additions, carefully this time, fold in the whipped cream preserving volume and texture.
6. When the whipped cream is incorporated, transfer the strawberry buttermilk filling to the prebake pie shell or desired dishes. Let this set for 4 hours in the refrigerator.
I suggest serving this with sliced fresh strawberries and whipped creme fraiche.