Strawberry Pie (with bonus gluten free dough recipe!)

Strawberry Pie 1

Finish tilling gardenIt has been more than twenty years since I sat in the garden at the farm house. The wide patch of strawberries sat perpendicular to the rows of onions, potatoes, green beans, and corn, and I sprawled out in the gap in between. With my Tonka trucks and dirt movers, die cast cars and a small trowel, I mounded dirt, made roads and dug rivers. My parents spent the day bent at the waist, weeding, planting, and tending to their precious crop, and our Black Labrador wondered about. She eventually ended up huffing and plopping right down in the middle of my ‘town’. Nosing my leg for attention, I complied and drove cars up and over her like a big mountain.


I didn’t even give my husband a chance to think about it or plan something special. When I saw that my neighbor wanted to remove the neglected raised garden beds from his property, I eagerly made a deal that we (my husband!) would remove them if I could have all the (rich and beautiful!) soil they contained. “Hey, Honey…. you don’t have to worry about getting me anything for Mother’s Day! Just move these for me!”

“Fine, but you get to move the dirt.”

Raised Beds Before and After

(Here is a before and after of the rebuild/relocation.
It took me two weeks to play in, I mean move, the dirt.)

So now I have a garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, cabbage, oregano, basil, and asparagus. For those of you wondering how I planted all of that in just these two boxes? Well… I kinda, sorta, expanded to a third. And I might have two blueberry bushes now, too.

Is this my midlife crisis?

I better just eat this pie and think about that for a while.

(There are three – count em! – THREE recipes here. Two pie crusts, and the strawberry pie filling with topping.)

Strawberry Pie  (Adapted from From Cook’s Country Icebox Strawberry Pie – June 2009)

Serves 8

It is imperative that the cooked strawberry mixture measures 2 cups; any more and the filling will be loose. If your fresh berries aren’t fully ripe, you may want to add extra sugar to taste in step 2. Use your favorite pie dough or use the ‘Oil Pie Crust for Fruit Pies’ or ‘Gluten Free Pie Crust’ below. This pie is even tastier after living in the refrigerator for twenty four hours.


1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled (see recipes below)


2 pounds frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (or two 1/4 ounce envelopes of Knox Gelatine)
1 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin


4 ounces cream cheese , softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Filling Preparation:

Cook frozen berries in large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until thick and jam-like, about 25 minutes (mixture should measure 2 cups, exactly). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, water, and gelatin with a fork. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar, and salt into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Fold fresh berries into filling. Spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Filled pie can, and is better tasting, after refrigerated for 24 hours.)

Topping Preparation:

With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, slowly add cream in one continuous stream. Stop mixer and scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Return mixer to medium/high speed and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Serve pie with whipped cream topping. (I spread the topping over the entire pie and smooth with an off-set spatula. Others prefer to dollop the topping on each piece of sliced pie. Do what feels right to you – I won’t judge!)

Oil Pie Crust (for fruit pies)

1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons milk
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack to the middle position.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, salt and sugar on low for about ten seconds. In a steady stream, slowly add oil and milk. Mix until dough is a sandy texture.

Transfer dough to a glass or aluminum pie pan. Pat dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using a fork, prick the bottom four times, and evenly around the sides eight times. This will help prevent bubbling while baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is no longer moist and is starting to slightly brown.
Cool the baked pie crust on a wire rack for at least one hour before filling.

Gluten Free Pie Dough

Yields 1, 9″ Pie Shell

2 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 tablespoons very cold sour cream
1 1/2 ounce white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
6 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend**
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon zanthan gum
8 tablespoons frozen butter cut (with a very sharp knife) into 1/4 square inch pieces

**Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, plus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)
¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)


(Notes: Use a seven cup, or larger, food processor for this single batch. If you want to make a double crust pie, do not double this recipe in one food processor batch. Take the time to do it twice, trust me. This is experience talking. Do not skimp on freezing the butter. Again, trust me on this one.)

In a small bowl, combine the ice water, sour cream and vinegar with a fork. Place bowl in freezer while you prep the next steps.

Place flour blend, sugar, salt and zanthan gum in the food processor. Combine for five seconds. Scatter frozen butter pieces over top and pulse ten times. Dollop the (very cold) sour cream mixture over top and pulse until the texture is sandy, about ten times.

Spread a large piece of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Carefully dump the contents of the food processor onto the wrap. Gather the dough into the center and work it into a solid six inch round disk. Wrap the disk tightly with the wrap and refrigerate for one hour. (This one hour resting time is important. Your dough will be sandy and gritty if you skip this step.)

Rolling the dough:

Prep your pie pan. Lightly grease the very bottom of the pie pan – not the sides. Set aside.

First rule – do not add flour!

Adding flour to the rolling process negates the resting time to rid of the gritty texture. Instead, place two lengths of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Slightly overlap them to make a continuous 18″x18″ covered work surface. Unwrap the chilled dough disk and place it in the center of your prepare surface. Cover the disk with another two sheets of wrap, again, slightly overlapping to make a continuous 18′”x18″ sheet.

Using a rolling pin, start in the center of the dough disk and roll out to the edge. Bring the pin back to the center and roll out the edge in a different direction. Do this over and over again until the disk doubles is size. Sometimes the dough will not roll out in a perfect circle, leaving gaps and cracks. Stop, remove the top wrap and pinch the dough into a circle. Replace wrap and continue to roll from the center in all directions until you have a pie shell measuring about 12″ across.

Transfer the dough to the pie pan:

Remove the top layer of wrap from your pie shell. Lift the bottom layer of wrap and slide a flat hand under the dough to the center of the circle. With your other hand, invert the pie pan over your dough and carefully turn (slowly flip) both hands over, ending up with the pie pan right side up and the dough resting inside. Work the dough into the sides of the pan and very carefully remove the (now top) layer of wrap.

Gently roll the extra dough under the edge and pinch all the way around the pan, making the design of your choice.

Strawberry Pie 3

Loosely cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for one hour, or the freezer for thirty minutes.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake 24-30 minutes, rotating half way through, until no longer doughy and slightly brown along the edges. Cool completely before adding fruit filling.


Peanut Butter Pie (Mystery Man Part 1)

PB Pie

I was in need of an escape. Nearly nineteen years old, a full time student and holding two part time jobs, I really didn’t have time for a new hobby, but if I continued to be this anti social there would be a lot of cats and Wheel of Fortune in my future. Something had to be done.

I decided to start at the book store. Maybe I could find a good read, a book club, or someone who enjoyed coffee as much as I did. Wandering around, and just about to give up on my new ‘hobby’, I ran into a familiar face. James was the big brother of a girl I knew in high school. He and I crossed paths at the climbing gym the year before (another flash-in-the-pan hobby) and frequently met up there until he moved away.

We enthusiastically caught up and I was just about to breath a sigh of relief that I could re-up on an old hobby when he mentioned climbing was no longer his thing. Deflated, and flashes of cats and game shows in my eyes, I turned away and said goodbye. “Wait!” I heard from behind me. “I am teaching Swing Dancing now. You should come out tonight!”

I walked through the door at the Country Western club and paid my cover fee. The interior was not blaring boot-scootin’ music and there were no cowboys in sight. There were girls with hair pin curls and saddle shoes, and guys with suspenders and drivers caps, energetically jumping around on the dance floor to Zoot Suit Riot.

James waved me over and gave me a short dance lesson and sent me on my way.

I was hooked.

Week after week I returned to that venue, then ventured out to the other bars in town. Swing Dancing was hot, and there was a place to go four nights a week.

Night after night there was a man sitting at a secluded table drinking a gin and tonic. The club owners would stop by and share a handshake and smile. He moved from the table only when the music moved him, and he only danced with the ladies who were experienced dancers.  He never wore the suspenders and cap like the rest. The black fedora, four-button vest, and tasteful tie added to the mystery.

I was new to the scene and practically lived for the day I was a good enough dancer that Mystery Man would come my way and ask for a dance. Never missing a Swing Night, I was determined. Dancing with anyone who would say yes, I fine tuned my skills and had a blast all at the same time.

One particular evening I danced with a regular who was kind of known as the ‘know-it’all’.  Even though most of the girls rolled their eyes at his egoistical manner, I never turned down a dance. That is when it happened. He grabbed my hands to pull me into an aerial and did not follow through – dropping me on my head.

I was o.k. – hey, things like this happen and I picked myself up and looked into the face of Know-It-All. He was laughing. Laughing! Disgusted, I walked off the dance floor and recovered with the encouragement of my new found friends. The next song started and I immediately scanned the room for another partner, eager to get back on the horse. Turning on the bar stool, I swiveled into Mystery Man, who had is hand out asking me for a dance.

Elated on the inside, but trying to stay cool on the outside, I took his hand and we proceeded to the floor. Initially nervous, I wondered if I would be good enough, but found confidence in his leads. The nerves fading away, I started having fun. Not missing a step as the last bar of the song concluded, I decided  my first dance with Mystery Man was a big success. He led me off the dance floor and said “If you need a dance partner, please come and ask me – don’t dance with him.”


For Father’s Day Mystery Man requested this pie. This is a multi-step recipe, but don’t worry – I’ll take the lead.


First thing first – PIE DOUGH

You can use store-bought pie dough shells, use your own recipe, or give a Gluten Free Pie Dough (post coming!) recipe a try.

You will need TWO pie dough shells for this recipe – cooled to room temperature.


Peanut Butter Pie
Yields 2 pies

2 baked pie shells

Step 1
4 cups milk, scalded
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks, beaten with fork
2 teaspoons vanilla

Step 2
2 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter

Step 3
4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar



Step 1

• In a heavy medium sauce pan, melt the butter and peanut butter briefly and stir with a wooden spoon. Whisk in hot, scalded milk. Remove from heat until directed.
• In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and vanilla with a fork until completely incorporated and as smooth as possible.
• Measure out 1 cup of the hot milk mixture. While whisking the egg yolk/corn starch mixture constantly, slowly add the 1 cup of hot milk mixture until smooth and silky with no lumps.
• Put pan of milk back on medium-high heat and add the smooth egg yolk mixture, whisking until smooth. Continue stirring. Bring to a boil and cook until thick and the whisk leaves trails through the pudding-like mixture.

PB Pie 2
• Transfer immediately to a medium bowl. Cool on the counter for 1/2 hour. Place plastic wrap directly on top of pudding to prevent skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for about 3 hours, or until completely cold.


Step 2

• Put the ingredients for the crumbs in a medium bowl.
• Using a fork, mix the ingredients together to make “crumbs”.

Step 3

Topping and Final Assembly
• In a stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy – about 45 seconds
• Add 1/2 cup sugar.
• Beat on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form. Set aside.

• Put 1/2 cup crumbs in each pie shells, spreading evenly. Reserve the remaining crumbs for the top of the pie.
• Divide the pudding between the two pies, spooning into the shells (and on top of the crumbs) spreading evenly.
• Dividing the egg whites, spread over top of the pudding mixture and make sure it is all the way to the edge for a good seal.
• Sprinkle tops of the pies with the reserved crumbs.
• Bake on low broil for 2-3 minutes until topping is light golden brown.

Chill for three hours, then serve.