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Strawberries in pastries

11 May 2022
What a pleasure it is to go to the local farmers market and see the first strawberries of the season! Their appearance marks the end of winter, and signals the arrival of backyard dinners, barbecues, and cocktails in the evening sun.

A fresh strawberry picked when fully ripe needs no enhancing to taste great, and is a real delight when biting into its firm yet melt-in-your-mouth texture… with just the right mix of sweetness and acidity for incredible flavor whatever the variety: Gariguette, Ciflorette, Cléry, Mara des Bois, or Charlotte. And while always delicious just plain or with a dab of whipped cream, strawberries are also tasty in tarts, pavlova, cream cakes, and sorbets to name a few scrumptious desserts.

Based on expert advice provided by Nicolas Bernardé, Frédéric Cassel, Claire Damon, Maëlig Georgelin, Pierre Hermé, and Mathieu Kamm, we would like to share a few tips on how to prepare, store, and cook strawberries to maintain their incredible flavor.

Which strawberries should you choose?

Il est essentiel de choisir des fraises cueillies à la pleine maturité afin qu’elles aient eu le temps de développer leurs arômes et que leur chair soit sucrée et juteuse.

Whenever possible, choose strawberries that are picked fully ripe, this provides them with enough time for their flavors to develop and their skin and flesh to become sweet and juicy.

The strawberry is a delicate fruit that, once ripe, does not travel well. Always pay careful attention to their origin. If grown far away from your local store or market, they were definitely picked before fully ripening to be “presentable” to customers. Always buy locally-grown strawberries whenever possible.

Depending on the weather and region, strawberry season begins in March/April and continues through August/September when the plants flower a second time. All strawberries sold in France in October and February are grown too far away. In any case, avoid eating strawberries in the fall and winter; you will enjoy them that much more in the spring. 

Should you wash strawberries before eating them?

Il faut mieux éviter, car laver les fraises les abîme et altère leur goût. Mais si vous tenez à les laver, nous vous recommandons de les passer rapidement sous un filet d’eau claire avant de les équeuter. En effet, les rincer après équeutage les gorgerait d’eau. 

Should you keep them refrigerated?

In general, you should prepare them quickly and avoid refrigeration. However, if you need to conserve them for a few days, place them in the vegetable tray of your refrigerator. Take the strawberries out of the refrigerator twenty or so minutes before eating them to enjoy their full flavor.

Keep in mind that strawberries are fragile and lose their flavor and nutritional value if you store them too long. We recommend buying fresh strawberries right before you need them.

Can you freeze strawberries?

When defrosting, strawberries lose most of their water content as well as their color and shape. However, you can freeze them if you plan to make coulis, compote, or sorbet. In this case, add sugar before freezing with a 10:1 weight ratio of strawberries to sugar.

How should I cook strawberries to store them whole?

Claire Damon shares her technique for cooking strawberries:

  • Choose strawberries picked at the end of the season or when the plants flower for the second time: they are less hydrated (so sweeter) with more flavor. After washing and sorting them, leave them overnight in a large stainless steel mixing bowl and add sugar with a 10:1 weight ratio of strawberries to sugar.
  • The next day, strain the strawberries, boil the resulting syrup, place them in the syrup, bring back to a boil, let everything cool, and then refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, heat the syrup to 105°C, place the strawberries in the syrup, and then let them simmer for a few minutes until you obtain the desired texture.

What pairs well with strawberries?

Strawberries pair well with:

  • other fruit such as bananas, passion fruit, rhubarb, other berries, lemons, and grapefruit,
  • nuts such as pistachios and pine nuts,
  • flowers such as roses, lavender, violets, and jasmine,
  • herbs such as mint, verbena, basil, and lemon thyme, 
  • spices such as pepper, vanilla, and pink peppercorn.

Here are a few recipes from our chefs, inspired by the strawberry’s incredible taste and flavor:

Feel free to use the comments section to share your feedback, tips, or questions about preserving and preparing strawberries.

Marie Loones for Relais Desserts