02

People grumble about summer cooking because of the heat.

But I couldn’t disagree more.

03

I love how when opening a warm oven, the hot, dry air curls around my neck, assuaging the chill from the air conditioner.  I love how cooking jam makes sweat bead on my brow and my forearm tingle with jam spatter.  And I love the aromas of summer cooking — sumptuous peaches that smell like an orchard, buttery grilled corn-on-the-cob, and sticky-sweet strawberries mellowing in sugar as they patiently cook into a conserve.

04

This mansikkapiirakka finds a way to take everything I adore about summer baking, and wrap it up with a perfect little bow.  It begins as a baking sheet of ripe strawberries, which turn tender and plummy under ribbons of slow, molasses-like balsamic vinegar and honey.  Next, a gooey, buttery crust sends the rich aroma of warm cookies through the house.  Finally, a plush custard filling completes the pie.

08

Mansikkapiirakka is a Finnish strawberry pie, the cousin to the better-known mustikkapiirakka, blueberry pie.  The Finns do right by pie.  Their crust is closer to a sugar cookie than a flaky pie crust.  The dough is wet and melds with the yogurt-based custard to create a creamy, cakey middle layer that’s just divine.  And the custard itself is like a gentle cheesecake.  Although the traditional recipe does not call for roasting the berries, I love the depth of flavor brought out by roasting, along with the sultriness of the balsamic and honey.

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Finnish Roasted Balsamic + Honey Strawberry Pie (Mansikkapiirakka)

Makes one 9″-11″ pie | Cook time about 2 hours

For the Crust

  • 3/8 C butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the Strawberries

  • 3 C strawberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

For the Custard

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 C plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a pie or tart dish — any diameter between 9″ and 11″ will work — and set it aside.
  2. Prepare crust by creaming the butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix until well-incorporated.  Add flour and baking powder a little bit at a time, mixing continuously, until batter is smooth and very sticky.
  3. Fill prepared pie dish with batter, and use a spatula to distribute the batter evenly.  It will likely be too soft to build up along the rim or edges of the pie tin.  Place in refrigerator to firm up while working on next step.
  4. Rinse, hull, and halve strawberries.  Toss in honey, balsamic, and olive oil until evenly coated.  Place strawberries onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Place strawberries into oven and roast for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aide.
  6. Place crust from refrigerator into oven and bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven.
  7. While crust is baking, prepare the custard by combining eggs, honey, yogurt, buttermilk, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Stir until smooth and well-incorporated.
  8. Upon removing crust from oven, it should be lightly set.  Push some batter up along the rim of the pie dish to build the sides of the crust.  Simply use a spatula to push some of the dough from the middle up along the rim of the pie dish.  Smooth the batter to be even in thickness across the middle of the pie dish.  You should now have a trough-like pie crust, with raised edges, that you can fill.
  9. Gently pour filling into pie crust (you may not need all that you’ve prepared), then arrange strawberries on top of filling.
  10. Return pie to oven and bake for another 40 minutes or until custard is just set (still slightly wobbly).
  11. To prevent custard from cracking, turn off oven and cool pie in oven.

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