Sometimes finding the perfect dessert can be agonizing. Will it complement the main meal? Will it look great and taste even better? What food allergies am I dealing with? Who won’t eat it unless it’s chocolate? Who won’t eat it if it is chocolate? Can I make it the day before?
Other times, the perfect dessert finds you. You’re casually scrolling through your instagram when boom! There it is. The strawberry balsamic pie you didn’t know existed but are now fully committed to making.
Such was the case with this stunner of a pie. It certainly caught my eye with all it’s sweet, buttery, spring strawberry glory. It kept my attention when I read it wasn’t just any strawberry pie, but strawberry balsamic pie. Plus I already had two pie crusts in the freezer ready to go. Then I remembered I’d had it before, in a concrete at the Shake Shack in Brooklyn. All of a sudden, dessert went from a challenge to an event basically ordained by the dessert gods.
They’re real. I promise.
Of the many things to love about this pie, I think my favorite it its acknowledgement of strawberries’ natural sweetness. Of course there’s sugar in the pie, but not an unseemly amount. After all, the balsamic and apple add their own sweetness. The bitters and black pepper didn’t stand out of course; they were there to enhance the overall flavor. I used orange bitters and a thick, syrupy blueberry balsamic because I had them on hand, but they’re certainly not required and the recipe calls for the straightforward versions of both.
And oh. my. goodness. When I took the pie out of the oven, it was pure heaven. Butter and fresh strawberry jam came wafting right up, carrying a palpable nostalgia right alongside them. Childhood memories of warm toast with butter and jam found in a grown up version of strawberry pie. What a lovely surprise.
Balsamic vinegar lends its tangy sweetness to ripe, red spring strawberries in this decidedly grown up strawberry balsamic pie.
1 recipe perfect pie crust (This makes enough for the top and bottom crust)
2 lb. fresh strawberries, quartered
1/4 c. plus 3 TBSP granulated sugar, divided
1 small baking apple, peeled (I used Granny Smith)
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar (the thicker then better)
2 dashes bitters
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
1-2 TBSP tapioca (depending on how thick you want the filling)
2 grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
egg wash–1 egg whisked with 1 tsp. water and a pinch of salt
demerara or turbinado sugar for finishing
1. Roll out one disk of the pie crust and fit into a pie plate. (You can use a deep dish here, but it isn’t necessary.) Trim the edges to leave a one-inch overhang. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least two hours and up to overnight.
2. Prepare the filling by sprinkling 3 TBSP granulated sugar over the berries. Toss gently to combine and macerate for one hour.
3. Once the berries are macerated, drain them of any excess liquid. Grate the apple into the bowl, then add in the vinegar and bitters. Toss to coat. Add in the brown sugar, cornstarch, tapioca, black pepper, salt, and remaining granulated sugar. Gently toss to combine. Set aside.
4. Remove the pie dish from the freezer. Roll out the second disk of pie dough to an 11-in. round and cut into long thin strips.
5. Pour the strawberry mixture into the bottom crust and use the strips of pie dough to form a lattice crust. Crimp edges as desired. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set the pastry.
6. Preheat the oven to 425° F and line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat. Prepare the egg wash.
7. Remove the pie from the refrigerator, brush the crust with the egg wash, and sprinkle generously with finishing sugar. Place the pie dish on the baking sheet and into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry just begins to brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° F, rotate the baking sheet, and bake 35-40 minutes more, lining edges with foil if they brown too much. Allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
Yield: 8-10 slices