After my pie-making fiasco of a few weekends ago, I thought some of you might be pleased to know I *finally* had baking success this weekend!
As regular readers know, I have been researching old department store tea rooms this year. Hess's in Allentown, Pennsylvania was home of the legendary Patio Restaurant, and while it wasn't actually a tea room, definitely not a white-tablecloth kind of place, Hess's and the Patio are so important in retail history that I think it would be a mistake not to include them in any study of department store dining. Plus, Hess's Strawberry Pies were so famous even Liberace once ordered them by the dozens as Christmas gifts for friends! I simply had to master making some version of this pie. But let me hasten to say that I am calling mine a Hess-inspired Strawberry Pie. A wonderful PBS video shows the actual thing, and good heavens, that pie was a monster—8 inches high and 10 pounds! So I've scaled mine down, hopefully recalling a bit of the flavor of the original. Sure wish I could have shopped and dined at Hess's. Go here if you'd like to see the video, and tune in right at the 15 minute mark.
This time, I used the cooking technique from one Hess's Strawberry Pie recipe I found and the ingredients from another Hess's Strawberry Pie recipe (there are quite a few of them if you look online). The ingredients from Michael Lisicky's recipe at lostrecipesfound.com worked best for me, although I did adjust some of the cooking method. Here's the pie recipe as I made it.
Hess-inspired Strawberry Pie
1-1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons corn starch
1 (3-ounce) box strawberry Jell-O
1-1/2 quarts fresh Driscoll strawberries (or the biggest ones you can find)
1 baked Pillsbury deep-dish pie crust
1 pint heavy whipping cream
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the 1-1/2 cups sugar, water and corn starch over medium-high heat until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes or as long as it takes to get a nice thick texture. Stir in package of strawberry Jell-O and mix well. Remove from heat for a few minutes, then chill mixture in refrigerator until cooled but not set.
While mixture chills, clean and hull strawberries. Use a sharp knife to remove the hulls with the tiniest cuts you can possibly make. Fold strawberries into the gelatin mixture and toss gently with a rubber spatula until every strawberry is covered. Mound mixture into baked crust and pat it down with your hands as firmly as you can without crushing the berries. Refrigerate until set. When time to serve, pour whipping cream and the 2 tablespoons sugar into a chilled bowl and beat with electric mixer until thickened. Garnish pie with whipped cream as desired. (And may I just add that this pie tastes divine? I think it was worth all the effort!)