Mid July already passed when I arrived to the island where I spend my summer vacation. To me, July is the most magical summer month, with those hot days when the sun sets late and the sea is only occasionally disturbed by the light afternoon breeze. August born, I was always a little sad not being born in July. Late August announces the end of summer and its days carry a note of nostalgia. Celebrating my birthday at that time is like celebrating the end of those long summer days, and it just feels wrong. Anyone else born in August, can you relate?
I’ve said it more than often, summer mornings are my favourites. I wake up early, to the sound of the first crickets just starting to sing their never-ending daytime song. The air is still fresh from the night and the sun is slowly rising in the east, just above the endless sea and the high mountain that can be seen far away inland. In this hour the village is still empty, only the brave few are up, heading to the market and the grocery which had just opened.
I sit by the sea for some time, to clear up my head and take the fresh air before the July’s sun starts to burn everything on its path. On my way home I stop at the local market to take some ripe tomatoes and a cucumber for a light lunch. I will not bake today, because the temperatures are too high. Instead, I go on writing the recipe for the pie I made just before coming here.
I enjoyed all kinds of berries this season. While I baked pies and tarts for those warm Parisian summer afternoons, I ended up being particularly fond of ricotta pie with fresh strawberries. Strawberries can still be found at certain local markets so I am sure I will make this pie again before the autumn leaves start to fall and before I use all the peaches and figs from the garden. I might make this pie for my birthday, using a mix of strawberries and wild blackberries that grow everywhere here on the island. But those blackberries deserve a story of their own. I will tell you more about them soon, I promise.
Summer strawberry ricotta pie
For the pie crust
230 g plain white flour
20 g almond flour
100 g non refined brown sugar
125 g butter, cold
pinch of salt
For the ricotta filling
250 g good quality ricotta
80 g non refined brown sugar
seeds of half vanilla bean
250 g fresh strawberries, sliced
You can work in a bowl or directly on a clean non-stick surface. Measure and mix together flour, almond flour, sugar and a pinch of salt. Add cold butter cut to small cubes. Mix the flour/sugar mixture together with butter using your fingers until you obtain a sand-like texture and there are no more big pieces of butter left. Work quickly to prevent butter from melting. Once the butter is incorporated with the flour and sugar, make a well in the middle of the mixture and add one egg. Combine everything together. Using the palms of your hands drag the mixture over the surface a couple of times to well combine the ingredients. Do not work the dough too much. Form it into a flat round shape, wrap it in film and leave in the refrigerator for minimum one hour (best is to leave it overnight).
Take out the dough out from the fridge and place it between two pieces of baking paper. Roll the dough into a round shape with a rolling pin. Be careful that the dough doesn’t stick to the paper too much. You can prevent this be regularly rotating the dough. The dough will also stick if the temperature is too high and the butter in the dough starts to melt. If this is the case, place everything in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up and then continue rolling it until the dough is approximately 3 cm larger than the baking pan and half a centimetre thick. Remove the upper baking sheet and place that side of the dough on a floured baking pan. Carefully remove the upper piece of baking paper and gently press the dough so that it is aligned with the sides of the pan. Do not press too hard because the dough could break. Place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or until you prepare the filling.
In a medium size mixing bowl combine ricotta, sugar and one egg. Whisk everything together until you obtain an even aerated mixture. Pour the mixture on the prepared pie dough. Bake at 180° for around 40 minutes. The ricotta will start to puff up and become golden on top when it’s done.
Take the pie out of the oven and leave it to cool down. Once the pie is completely cooled, place the cut strawberries on top of the pie with a pointed side down. Start from the middle of the pie placing the strawberries in a clockwise direction until all of the pie is covered. Serve immediately.