What would summer be without strawberries? Now that their tiny, dimpled faces are blushing at the markets once again, it's good to have some solid recipes up your sleeve. Shortcake is a given, but for something a bit more fancy, a pie is always a crowd-pleaser and the perfect closer to any balmy summer meal.
Great strawberry desserts start with top quality berries. When shopping, look for the fruit with the deepest red color and minimal green spots. They should have shiny, plump flesh, free from bruises or rot. Avoid containers that are secreting excessive juice, which might indicate that there are punctured or rotten berries within. To keep fresh strawberries, spread them in a single layer over paper towels uncovered in the fridge, and only wash directly before consumption or cooking.
When making desserts with fresh strawberries, I find that I get better results when I cook with my senses. Before adding any sugar to the berries, I take a moment to smell and taste to get a sense of their sweetness, which can vary widely. For very red, sweet berries, I'll use less sugar; for berries that are tart and more green, I'll kick it up a bit. It's a small step that can help you strike a balance between sweetness and acidity and it makes all the difference in the final product.
(And if strawberries and rhubarb are more your thing, here's a recipe for you.)