Strawberry Cream Pie in a Thyme Scented Almond Crust

Strawberries were in season when I made this pie, but even more important than my strawberry obsession, I had a need to make a pie crust so I could get a photo of it (more on that a little further down). Given that rhubarb wasn’t gracing the grocery store shelves just yet and I couldn’t make my absolute favorite pie, strawberry cream pie seemed like a natural alternate choice.

Strawberry Cream Pie in a Thyme Scented Almond Crust

Not wanting to be too boring, I had a few ideas to dress things up a bit. For instance, I’d recently read of an odd flavor combo that I was eager to try: strawberries and thyme. So I decided to incorporate both thyme and almonds into the pie crust and I’m very glad I did. The flavor was fantastic–buttery, rich, almondy, and the thyme was very distinct. I was honestly surprised by how nicely the almond and thyme enhanced one another and made the crust a force to be reckoned with. And the best part: how nicely it complimented the strawberries.

Slice of Strawberry Cream Pie

Since I wanted the pie to be light, I decided to make a strawberry pastry cream as the pie filling, decorated with more strawberries. At this time of year in Florida, its easy to find yourself with way too many strawberries in the fridge…or maybe its just me since I buy about 3 lbs at a time, lol. This was just the right lightness and delicate texture I was hoping for although I would probably add a bit more strawberry to the pastry cream (maybe macerated in balsamic) next go around to make the strawberry flavor a bit more pronounced. Also, check out how cleanly this pie slices. I tend to be a klutz in the pie slicing department, pulling out a slice as shapely as this brought a smile to my face.

  • 1 all butter pie crust with some alterations
    • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup almonds
    • 1.5 sticks butter
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
    • 2-5 Tbsp ice water
  • Strawberry Cream Filling
    • Strawberry Compote
      • 1/2 lb strawberries
      • 1/8 cup sugar
    • 6 egg yolks
    • 1/2 cups sugar
    • 4 Tbsp flour
    • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
    • 2.5 cups whole milk
    • Optional: 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 lb strawberries
  • Optional: small dab of simple syrup or jelly (strawberry, orange, whatever) to glaze the top of the pie

Me rolling out the pie crust...since I always smile off into space while rolling dough

There’s a possibility that I’ll be a (very small) part of a cookbook in the coming year (and yes, of course I will keep you posted!), and as a part of that, I was asked for an action photo of me baking. If that photo doesn’t look natural, I don’t really know what does. I mean don’t you just stare off smiling into space when you’re rolling out dough? No? Just me?

Anyways, my short lived cookbook/modeling career aside, begin by making the pie crust. The technique here is very much the same as making pate brisee (so for the exhaustive details if you’re a first timer, check out that link!).

Begin by cutting the butter into small chunks. Put this in the freezer for at least an hour to firm it up a bit.

Meanwhile, toast the almonds (free of shells, paper, etc) in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Grind them up with the fresh thyme leaves in your food processor. Add the sugar, salt, and flour. Pulse this until these are all well mixed. Since the almonds are hot, let this cool for a bit before you proceed.

Thyme-scented Almond Butter Pie Crust

With the butter hard and the flour cooled back down, get some ice water. Add the butter to the food processor and pulse briefly a few times to mix it, but not to make it a homogenous mixture. You want unevenly distributed butter. You want coarse, crumbly pea-sized dough. Now, one tablespoon at a time, add the ice cold water, pulsing briefly as you add it. Feel the dough between each addition. You want to be able to shape it without it just crumbling and falling apart in a dry, powdery mess, but you also want to add as little water as possible. You can always add more water later with ease. Taking it out isn’t so easy, so be conservative. ;-)

With the dough mixed, dump it out of the food processor and form a ball. Wrap this in plastic wrap and give it 30 minutes in the fridge to firm up a bit. Then, roll it out with a rolling pin (staring off into space, smiling…) out to roughly 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. Lay your pie plate over the dough, cut the dough roughly 1 inch larger than your plate and then drape this piece of dough over and into your pie plate. To do this so it looks nice and sexy, I like to put my pie plate on the dough upside-down (with a sheet of plastic wrap underneath the dough. Then, I pick the whole thing up using the plastic wrap from four corners, and in one quick confident flip, things are right-side up and I peel the plastic-wrap away, gently letting the dough settle into the pie plate.

Reform the leftover dough, roll it out, and repeat (or just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and throw it in the freezer for another day). Yes, you have enough dough for two pie crusts (pies without a top layer of dough, that is).

Finally, for this recipe, you need to bake the crust blind. I personally never bother with baking beans and never seem to have much trouble. I like to let the crust rest in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes once I’ve gotten it into the plate, and then it goes straight into a 375°F oven for roughly 10 minutes. Once time is up, just let it cool down while you go about the rest of your business.

Cook the pastry cream until thick

So with the crust out of the way, onto the pie filling. First, prepare the strawberry compote. This is very simple: hull and dice up the strawberries (don’t worry about them being pretty). Toss these with the sugar in a saucepan and set aside for 15 minutes. They’ll release a good bit of juice, at which point, you should simmer them over medium heat for 10-15 minutes to thicken things up a bit. Set this aside.

With that going on, prepare the pastry cream. This is something I’ve covered before and its a great thing to have in your arsenal since its delicious and simple to make (and easy to tweak for whatever your purpose…like a strawberry pie!).

In a saucepan, add the milk as well as a slit and scraped vanilla bean. Scald this and let it steep for an hour to infuse the milk with vanilla. Once time is up, remove the used vanilla bean and reheat the milk mixture over medium heat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until lightened in color. Add the sugar and beat until ribbony, followed by the flour and cornstarch, working until well mixed.

After beating in the strawberry compote, pour the strawberry cream into the baked pie crust

Now, temper the egg yolk mixture with a bit of the hot milk, stirring constantly. Then transfer all of the yolk mix into the milk pan and whisk constantly over medium heat. Within a few minutes, the mixture should thicken up considerably. You’ll know the pastry cream is done cooking when you can stop stirring, wait ~5-10 seconds, and see large bubbles just begin to come up and breach the surface. Once you do, remove from heat and pour in the strawberry compote. Beat this well until evenly mixed into the pastry cream.

Pour this into your pie crust and smooth it out immediately (it will set somewhat quickly, so if it is unsightly and lumpy, it’ll stay that way).

Decorate the top with strawberries and glaze them with melted syrup/jelly for that wet shine

Before the pastry cream totally sets, you’ll want to decorate with strawberries (so you can press them into the cream a little bit so they stay put). Simply hull the remaining 1/2 lb of strawberries and slice them up, arranging however looks attractive to you. There’s no rhyme or reason to this step and I am no authority on what looks good.

Slice of Strawberry Cream Pie in a Thyme Scented Almond Crust

Finally, the last decorative flourish: glaze the strawberries. This step is kind of optional, but its so ridiculously easy, you shouldn’t skip it. All you do is warm up some syrup or jelly (anything that goes reasonably well with strawberries will do) and then lightly brush it over the strawberries on top. This gives the berries a nice sheen (important if you’re say, photographing them for a food blog you happen to run…in theory) and it keeps them looking fresh if you happen to have leftovers in the fridge for a little while.

With everything put together, you’ll probably want to give the pie a few hours in the fridge so the pastry cream can chill and totally firm up. Once it has, cut yourself a slice, and enjoy!

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29 Responses to “Strawberry Cream Pie in a Thyme Scented Almond Crust”

  1. chocolateshavings Says:

    That pie sounds delicious – strawberry and thyme seem like a great interesting combo! and congrats on your possible opportunity to take part in a cookbook!

  2. Heather Says:

    yummmm!!! that pie sounds amazing! i’ve done a strawberry thyme julep before and thought it turned out beautifully – it’s a wonderful flavor combo!

  3. The Duo Dishes Says:

    People just don’t understand what thyme will do with fruits. We love to heat apricot preserves with thyme and brush it over apple and peach galettes. Fabulous! You’ve got a good pairing with the strawberries.

  4. Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. Says:

    This pie sounds so delicious. Strawberry and thyme sounds like a great combination. (By the way, did I miss it or did you forget to add the thyme to the recipe? How much did you use?)
    The photos are gorgeous!
    And a question: would you like to submit the recipe (and a photo) to the cake collection event on my blog?
    Details here: http://www.familyfriendlyfood.com/cake-collection/
    Thanks! Nurit

  5. ingrid Says:

    Yum, that pastry cream looks wondeful. Yes, I might have a pint or two or three in the fridge seeing as I’m in rainy FL. :-)

    Your photos look great & thanks for the tip on glazing the strawberries.

    Oh, and good luck with the cookbook.
    ~ingrid

  6. helen Says:

    The filling looks wonderful! I now know what to do with all the frozen strawberries in my freezer. Thanks!

  7. Hélène Says:

    Beautiful pie. You’re lucky to have an early strawberry season.

  8. beth Says:

    this pie looks amazing! i love the flavour combination!

  9. brilynn Says:

    That looks awesome! I’m surprised how cleanly it cut.. I have difficulty with pastry cream. I think I’m so concerned about scrambling the eggs that I don’t cook it long enough and it doesn’t thicken properly.

  10. _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver Says:

    “If that photo doesn’t look natural, I don’t really know what does. I mean don’t you just stare off smiling into space when you’re rolling out dough?”

    LOL. =D

  11. nina Says:

    Handsome baker…handsome pie!!!!!!

  12. Lynn Says:

    What a gorgeous pie! I’m waiting (not so patiently) for strawberries to come into season here. Right now we’ve got tasteless, hard imports. Bleh.

    Love the pie crust rolling action shot!

  13. Rob Bertino Says:

    Mike,

    You’ve showcased some interesting, appealing recipes. I want to share this recipe that I made this past Easter weekend.

    Zesty Slow-Cooker Italian Pot Roast

    Ingredients:

    4 medium potatoes, cut into quarters (4 cups)
    2 cups fresh OR frozen whole baby carrots
    1 stalk celery, cut into 1″ pieces
    1 medium Italian plum tomato, diced
    2 1/2 lb. beef bottom round roasts OR lb. beef chuck pot roast
    1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
    1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell’s® Condensed Tomato Soup
    1/2 cup water
    1 tbsp. chopped roasted garlic * OR chopped fresh garlic
    1 tsp. each dried basil leaves, dried oregano leaves and dried parsley flakes, crushed
    1 tsp. vinegar

    Directions:
    PLACE potatoes, carrots, celery and tomato in 3 1/2-qt. slow cooker. Season roast with pepper and place on top.

    MIX soup, water, pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley and vinegar. Pour over all.

    COVER and cook on LOW 10 to 12 hr. or until done.**

    TIP: For thicker gravy, mix 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water. Remove roast from cooker. Stir flour mixture into cooker, cover and cook on HIGH about 10 min. or until mixture boils and thickens.

    *To roast garlic, place whole garlic bulb on piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with vegetable oil and wrap. Roast at 350°F. for 45 min. or until soft. Peel and chop garlic.

    **Or on HIGH 5 to 6 hr.

  14. pam Says:

    I love a picture of a man rolling a pie crust!

  15. Bunny Says:

    Mike I stare off to the side while rolling out pie dough all the time( hee hee!) But then I’m senile. Maybe a tsp of strawberry extract to enhance the strawberry flavor??? It looks terrific!!

  16. Dragon Says:

    This pie is seriously gorgeous. Good luck with the cookbook!

  17. Sophie Says:

    WAW!! What a perfect creation!!! It looks great eh superb!!
    I absolutly love it!
    Yum Yum Yum!! Great job, Mike!

  18. anticiplate Says:

    I always always always put a little bit of herbs in my pies, crisps, or crumbles. oh! and….NIce action shot! :)

  19. shammi Says:

    This post made me drool while laughing, or vice versa perhaps – either way, not a pretty sight… unlike your model photo and the photos of all those scrumptious strawberries and that slice of PIE… :) what I wouldnt have given to know you and be your neighbour just for a bite of that pie…!

  20. Kevin Says:

    I like the sound of the thyme in the crust. What an amazing colour the strawberry cream has!

  21. Marie Says:

    Looking good Mike! and so is this pie!

  22. Sam Says:

    I’m intrigued by the strawberry and thyme combo, I’ll have to try that. The pie looks fantastic!

  23. Dana Zia Says:

    Hey Mike! Beautiful pie! Not quite strawberry season here on the North Oregon coast, nope. But it will be! And this pie will be in the cue. I like the idea of the crust with almonds and thyme. I have a killer strawberry balsamic vinaigrette that I love to make. Until then, strawberry fields forever!
    Dana Zia
    http://danazia.wordpress.com/

  24. Coffee & Vanilla Says:

    Wow, that is one delicious pie!! Would love to have a slice right now with my coffee :)))

    Have a great day and don’t forget to send your entry for chocolate-making kit giveaway on my site!

    Margot

  25. EasyTomatoes.com » Blog Archive » Tips to Organize Your Kitchen on a Budget Says:

    EasyTomatoes.com » Blog Archive » Tips to Organize Your Kitchen on a Budget…

    I started assembling ingredients while the rice cooked (in the rice cooker, received the same Christmas from my sister- in- law). I sliced up avocado, cucumber, and the fish, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to make a Japanese omelet. For starters, I had…

  26. If I Could Escape Says:

    I came across your website looking for a strawberry cream pie recipe to make for a July 4th BBQ my family and I are going to. Your recipe looks perfect! Thanks!

  27. Black and White Croquembouche « Willow Bird Baking Says:

    [...] and White Croquembouche Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with help from: Mike’s Table (strawberry pastry cream), Chef Lou Jones (vanilla pastry cream), Peter Kump and Nick Malgieri [...]

  28. Jan Says:

    THANK YOU!
    The crust turned out FANTASTIC with macadamia nuts. I toned down the thyme a little since they are not as strong as almonds. I had to soften the berries a little for the top for my elderly father, and they went beautifully on top.

  29. Eva Holman Says:

    Hi Mike. The Strawberry Cream Pie with Thyme Scented crust looks delicious for Memorial Day! I was wondering, however, could this same recipe be made with cherries instead? There is a problem with strawberry allergies in my family. Thanks.

    Eva

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