Ocean City Today

Fresh strawberry pie with pastry cream recipe

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | May 17, 2018

(May 18, 2018) Swirls of aromas play a delightful tune and remembrances of homemade pies grace my thoughts.

Store-bought desserts eludes my daily fondness; I welcome challenges and fresh strawberry pie with pastry cream is right up my alley.

For those who are not familiar with pastry cream, it is a thick custard that contains milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch and flavoring. Many custard sauces tend to be thin; pastry cream has much more consistency and for that reason is used as a filling for eclairs, cakes, tarts or pastries.

Fresh strawberry pie is delicious by itself, but incorporating a foundation of pastry cream adds a level of decadence. The following pastry cream recipe is easy to follow but a few suggestions equate perfection.

Chalazae (kuh-LAY-zee) are cordlike strands of egg white proteins that are attached to the yolks. They are neither imperfections nor the beginning of the embryos. Their purpose is to anchor the yolk in the thick egg white.

Chalazae do not interfere with the cooking of eggs. However, when making custard it is best to remove them. Crack an egg over a small bowl and allow the egg whites to slip through your fingers. Using your other hand, detach the tiny strands of protein.

Remember to keep whisking pastry cream the entire time that it is cooking. If you do not keep it moving, it will burn at the base of the pan.

If your pastry cream has a few lumps, do not be concerned. While the thickened cream is warm, using the back of a spoon, stir it through a mesh sieve for a velvety finish.

The strawberry filling is the next consideration. The recipe calls for more strawberries than are needed. The increased amount of strawberries will account for any damaged fruit. A few drops of red food coloring can be mixed in with the strawberries for a more dramatic look.

The presentation is always a major consideration. Whole, halved, or sliced strawberries are up to the individual chef. I prefer whole berries because of their striking appearance. In addition, plating rules specify that height, color and texture must be highlighted when presenting a dish.

Fresh strawberry pie with pastry cream is an easy way to broaden your baking skills while impressing your guests. Adults and children alike will give this recipe thumbs up. Memorial Day is almost here, and this strawberry delight will be a huge hit.

This recipe can easily be converted to a tart, just replace the pie dough with tart dough. Also, feel free to change the fruit according to personal preference. Enjoy!

*The pastry cream recipe is an adaptation from a recipe taken from the Cook’s Illustrated website.


Fresh Strawberry Pie with Pastry Cream

Pastry Cream

2 cups half-and-half

½ cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

5 large egg yolks, chalazae removed

3 tablespoons cornstarch

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 4 pieces

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Stir occasionally to dissolve sugar.

2.  Whisk egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a separate bowl. Add cornstarch and whisk until well blended.

3.  When half-and-half mixtures reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk hot half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Make sure you add a little of the hot mixture at a time, otherwise the eggs will scramble.

4.  Return mixture to saucepan, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula. Increase heat to medium-high and continue to cook until cream thickens and comes to a light boil, remember to constantly stir.

5.  Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.

6.  Transfer pastry cream to a medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.

Strawberry Filling

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1-quart fresh whole strawberries, washed and stems removed

½ cup cold water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

a few drops of red food coloring (optional)

1.  Mix sugar, cornstarch, ½ cup crushed strawberries, water, lemon juice and food coloring (optional) in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thickened. Chill in the refrigerator.

Pie Crust

1.  Using a 9-inch glass pie dish, bake your favorite homemade pie crust or refrigerated pie crust according to directions on package. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 15 minutes.


1.  Spread cooled pastry cream evenly in cooled pie shell. Artistically arrange whole strawberries on top. Pour cooked strawberry mixture over whole strawberries. Refrigerate until the pie sets, about 3 hours.


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