June 15, 2012

Diner-Style Strawberry Pie

We all LOVE fresh strawberry pie here!  It's the essence of summer!  It's also, sadly, one of those delightful treats you can only make a few precious times in the summer.  That is, if you want to use fresh, orchard strawberries, which is the best way to make this pie.  I can remember growing up being so happy when June came around and a famous restaurant chain would finally offer their "fresh" strawberry pie.  It tasted pretty good, then I grew up and made a homemade strawberry pie, with freshly picked berries and thought, "Wow!  So this is what it's supposed to taste like!"  The problem with so many recipes (or even diner pies)  is that sugary filling they use, I call it "gelatinous goo"- you know,  the jello-like liquid you can get in a tube at the store?  Just toss in some fresh strawberries and throw it in a ready made pie crust and there you go!  I think a better use for that stuff would be for caulking windows!  I find any fruit flavor has been lost in all that sugary gel.  I've had a favorite recipe for a fresh strawberry pie I've used for years now and it is delicious!  The problem is it would look perfect, I'd pop it in the refrigerator to chill, and take it out only to find it was becoming a gloppy mess.  I tried increasing the cornstarch in the recipe but still had the same results.  Then I learned something from the geniuses at America's Test Kitchen-cornstarch tends to lose its hold as it is chilled.  So I tried the recipe below, from Cook's Country.  It is a little more time consuming than my usual recipe, but it's the one I will make from now on.   It's simply the best strawberry pie I've ever tried!  It has the most incredible fruit flavor, I couldn't wait to share a slice with one of my best friends!  Her one word pretty much sums it up-"Amazing!"  Enjoy, and have a great summer!


2 pounds frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and
sliced thin
1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled


4 ounces cream cheese (light is fine)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Cook the frozen berries in a large, deep saucepan over medium-low heat until berries start to release their juices.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly until thick and jamlike.  A heat- proof rubber spatula works well for this.  It may take 30 minutes or so to cook this down (great time to read your kids a book).  You want to be sure the mixture measures exactly 2 cups.   You may have to measure and then cook it down some more, this is crucial to the "setting up"  of the pie.  When you have exactly 2 cups, leave it in the pan and remove from heat.  In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, water, and gelatin.  Let stand until the gelatin softens and mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  Now stir gelatin mixture, the 1 cup of sugar, and pinch of salt into the cooked berry mixture.  Return to a simmer, about 2 minutes.  Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.  When filling has cooled, fold in the fresh berries.  Spread evenly in the prepared pie shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours (up to 24 hours).  For the topping:  Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed.  Beat until smooth, about 30 seconds, then add cream while mixer is running.  Whip about 2 minutes, until stiff peaks form.  (Be careful not to over whip or you'll have butter!  This only took about a minute for me).   Serve pie with topping, make a great cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!

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