The first time I ever made my apple chai-der pie (an idea that I shamelessly stole from the Internet, but eventually made my own), I thought I had died and done gone to heaven, y’all. The apples were good and the spiced black tea filling even better, but the real kicker was the streusel. Every time I make the streusel I have to remind myself that it’s going on top of another pastry and I can’t just eat all of it raw (and every time, my willpower fails and I eat most of it raw anyway.)
It’s also good baked.
I think it’s the cinnamon that makes streusel so addicting. And for some reason, I decided to swap out the cinnamon for orange zest in this recipe. What a strange idea.
I honestly could not tell you why I felt inspired to do orange-infused/scented anything, but just like my lemon cravings from last summer and early this spring, I started having these odd cravings for orange-flavored things. Orange cinnamon coffee cake muffins, orange shortbread, dark chocolate orange cakes. All of these things are on my mind.
This pie is overflowing with the four major spring/summer berries that we grow in North Carolina: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. It’s currently the peak of strawberry season so strawberries are providing the decorative accents to my citrus fantasies. They’re also taking up all of the space in my refrigerator and freezer.
I went to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago to get strawberries for jam, intending to buy two pounds of the berries, and accidentally, shamelessly going home with one five-pound basket. Most of those ended up in a failed strawberry-rhubarb pie, four of the berries went moldy, three pounds became jam, and the rest became the strawberry balsamic muffins.
The citrus counter-note to the berries, and the liquid base of the filling, is Cointreau, but could easily be orange juice, Triple Sec, or any other orange-flavored liquid. On top of the liqueur-laced berry filling is a streusel flavored with orange zest. Overall, it’s a much brighter, warm-weather version of the spicy apple original.
very berry spring pie with orange streusel
makes one 7″ pie (double the recipe for a 9″ pie)
loosely based on my apple chai-der pie recipe
Make the pie pastry, divide into discs for 7″ (or 9″) pies, wrap in plastic and freeze. If you plan to use the dough within 24 hours, refrigerate it instead. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out and filling the shell.
You can also prepare the pie shell all at once and freeze that until the streusel and filling are ready.
Make the streusel and chill or freeze, unbaked, until the pie shell is filled.
And finally, you can assemble the entire pie and freeze it, unbaked, until you’re ready to put it in the oven. The entire pie can go into the hot oven frozen.
2 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
zest of 1/4 of a large orange or 1/2 of a small-ish orange
4 Tbsp (2 oz) butter, softened
1 oz orange juice or Cointreau
4 oz fresh/frozen blueberries
4 oz fresh/frozen blackberries
4 oz fresh/frozen raspberries
4 oz fresh/frozen strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
2.5 oz granulated sugar
1 oz all-purpose flour or cornstarch
dash of salt
preparing the pie shell
Let the pie pastry warm up slightly, for about 15 minutes on the counter, just so you can roll it out without the dough cracking too much.
Sandwich the dough disc between sheets of plastic or parchment, floured lightly to keep the dough from sticking a lot. Depending on the day, and on exactly how much water you use to make the dough (which varies based on how much water you need), the dough can be on the wet side or dry side.
Roll the dough until it’s about 2 inches wider in diameter than the top of the pie pan, and approximately a quarter of an inch thick (so just around half or a third of a centimeter.)
Place the dough into the pie plate, and press it into the bottom and corners of the plate, lifting up the edges and placing them into the plate as you go, to avoid stretching. Roll the edges up under themselves so they rest on the edges of the pie plate and add about an inch of depth, then shape, press, or crimp the edges as you like.
I usually form a zigzag edge using my pointer and thumb of one hand and the pointer finger of the other hand. By creating more height/depth, you can add more filling.
Freeze the pie shell, unwrapped if you’re baking it the same day, or wrapped if you’re not baking it within 24 hours.
making the streusel
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the butter.
Mix in the butter, just until it forms crumbs.
Using a fork or pastry blender, break up any large-ish clumps of dough into smaller pieces.
Chill/refrigerate or freeze the streusel in a sealed container until the pie shell is filled.
filling the shell
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and starch (flour or cornstarch). This will make it easier to incorporate these with the juice/liqueur and berries.
In a large bowl, toss together berries, juice/liqueur, salt, and sugar-starch mixture until all the berries are coated with the juice/liqueur and sugar-starch mix. Mash up some of the berries.
Pour the berry filling into the frozen shell, spreading the filling out to fill up as much space as possible. The filled pie should be mounded, approximately 1.5-2x the depth of the shell. The filled shell can be frozen until ready to top and bake.
assembling and baking the pie
Preheat oven to 425 F/ C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch the over-boiled pie filling.
When the oven is fully heated, sprinkle the chilled streusel crumbs onto the filled pie shell so as much surface is covered as possible. Spread the streusel around if needed, and fill in some of the gaps made by the crimped pie crust.
Place the assembled pie onto the baking sheet and bake for 50 – 60 minutes until nicely browned and actively bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool the pie on a wire rack.
Bon apple-tite, y’all
previous fruit-y monthly muffins:
The first time I ever roasted strawberries was during my short stint working in a restaurant. In fact, the first time I’d ever eaten roasted strawberries was during that job. We filled hotel pans (deep baking pans) with whole hulled strawberries (leaves and dense white core removed), a hefty layer of sugar, and a generous sprinkling of thick balsamic vinegar, and then we popped them in the oven until darkened, softened, and swimming in a thick, sweet strawberry syrup.
I may not have been enamored with that job, but with those strawberries, I was in heaven. To be entirely honest, hulling and prepping strawberries is sort of therapeutic. I prepped pounds (like, humans’-worths of pounds) of strawberries for roasting to serve with French tartlets, for slicing to decorate the tarts, and for plating with cheese, fruit, and local greens for a cheese plate.
I did vow never to make another gelatin-based dessert again, but I held on fast to my strawberry roasting and prepping knowledge.
I’ve recently begun experimenting with jam-making, and though the final product still leaves something to be desired, I can break down a village’s worth of strawberries in a breeze. You should see my freezer. I went to the farmer’s market for the first time in a very, very long time a few weeks ago, searching for 3 pounds of local berries for jam, and went home with 5.5 pounds. Now my pantry is full up with attempts at different flavors of strawberry jam (strawberry margarita jam, strawberry-orange marmalade, strawberry rhubarb jam, etc.) The last weekend of May, because I just can’t help myself when spring berries are involved, I went berry picking with a friend in Raleigh and made the best d**ned strawberry-basil jam I ever did lay my tastebuds on.
Ever since coming up with the two berry-based muffins last summer, I’ve wanted to do something with strawberries. Something a little bit…different. It wasn’t too hard, as I’ve never actually had a strawberry muffin before. I guess strawberries aren’t popular muffin berries. I figured it might be nice to put my balsamic roasting skills to the test and do a roasted strawberry and balsamic-flavored thing. I also figured, cleverly, that if I’m using vinegar, I can easily make these vegan (vinegar + baking soda = eggs.) I then thought, stupidly, that I could just replace all the liquid with balsamic or red wine vinegar for a real powerful vinegar taste.
And then I discovered why people don’t normally make vinegar-flavored things. The first batch quickly found its way into the trash and I’m still trying to convince people that no these are not “vinegar muffins” nor do they taste like vinegar.
I used both roasted and fresh berries to get the balsamic-roastiness and the juicy sweetness of un-roasted strawberries, and then I added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the glaze just to make people aware of the vinegar’s presence in the pastry. The muffins themselves are whole wheat muffins and all of the sugar ends up roasting with the berries to produce a blood-red syrup, so the muffins end up seductively ruddy.
balsamic-roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic vinegar glaze
makes one dozen
vaguely based on previous muffin recipes
Roast the strawberries for half an hour at 375 F/ C, until the sugar syrup is foaming and boiling. Let the roasted berries cool, then strain out the syrup and set it aside. Store syrup and strawberries in refrigerator in sealed plastic containers. You can store them combined or separated, but you’ll end up straining them before you make the muffin batter so you might as well separate them now anyway.
roasted strawberries ingredients
8 oz fresh strawberries, hulled (and halved if you want)
4 oz granulated sugar
1 oz balsamic vinegar
5 oz whole wheat flour
5 oz all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
4 oz butter, melted and cooled, or canola oil
2 large eggs
7 oz whole milk or buttermilk
4 oz powdered sugar
0.4 oz balsamic vinegar
0.6 oz whole milk
roasting the strawberries
Preheat the oven to 375 F/ C.
Hull the roasting strawberries (and halve if you want), and arrange in a single layer in a cake or brownie pan, or a hotel pan at least two inches deep, with the cut end down and the tip pointing up.
Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the strawberries, then sprinkle the vinegar over them as well. You should have one layer of strawberries with a heavy layer of sugar and a splattering of balsamic vinegar.
Roast the berries for about 30 – 45 minutes until the sugar and vinegar have formed a syrup and the syrup is boiling/foaming. The strawberries should be very tender.
Remove and let cool. Strain out the syrup and set it aside. You’ll mix the syrup into the muffin batter before you add the roasted berries.
making the muffins
Preheat (or change the temperature) the oven to 350 F/ C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter/oil, and cooled strawberry-balsamic syrup (without the berries.)
Quickly whisk together the dry and wet ingredients in the large bowl, and fold in both the fresh and roasted berries.
Using a large cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake the muffins for 20 – 25 minutes.
The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, or when they spring back like foam when pressed lightly.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Let the muffins cool completely before glazing.
glazing the muffins
Whisk together powdered sugar, vinegar, and milk until smooth. The glaze should be like a thick syrup: runny but slow. Taste and adjust, adding more of any ingredient as needed.
Using a spoon or whisk, drizzle the glaze over the muffins and let it set up before eating.
You can wrap the muffins, glazed or unglazed, individually in plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for a bit longer. If the muffins start to go stale or firm, then microwave them for 10 – 15 seconds before eating.