You have two choices of reaction when it comes to the words "summer berry pie." You can get very excited and run (don't walk) for a fork and some whipped cream. Or you can think about what a tragedy it is to spoil perfect, ripe summer fruit by baking it, and decide instead to go eat a handful of fresh berries in protest.
Okay, surprise! You can have your cake (pie?) and eat it too—there's a third option: Make a fresh strawberry pie. Just like the excellent technique employed by the genius recipe for Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie, this recipe (an old classic, this version adapted from Land O' Lakes) preserves the flavor and texture of summer fruit at its peak by cooking some strawberries together with sugar and cornstarch, creating a thick, jam-like mixture—somehow jammier than a regular fruit pie, but without the cooked flavor—that helps to bind the remaining fresh berries together. It also transforms the pie into an actual baked good, instead of a slapped-together dish of raw ingredients (nothing against that, but there's a time and place for serious desserts—and it's Fourth of July weekend!).
The strawberry mixture sets as the pie sits, firming up enough to slice easily and hold together. I like to use a classic buttery pie crust here, because it's sturdy and cradles the filling well. Should you feel inclined, in the heat of July or the chaos of the holiday weekend, to make something quicker and less temperamental, a cookie crust (graham cracker or shortbread) would do nicely.
It's no flag cake or patriotic parfait, but this is an exceptionally delicious dessert and fairly foolproof. Sweet and bursting with real strawberry flavor, it needs merely a dollop of whipped cream. Make it for your Fourth of July picnic as a bright note on which to end a long, lazy weekend of barbecues, ice cream, corn on the cob, and beer.
For the crust
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 tablespoons very cold butter
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons ice cold water
For the filling + topping
- 5 cups strawberries, hulled
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Is there a dessert you make every year for the Fourth? Tell us about it in the comments.