Tag Archives: strawberry

Strawberry Chiffon Pie with Pretzel Crust

full pie

Strawberry season is quite an event in our household, and has been for as long as I can remember. Every year we comb our local pick-your-own-strawberries farm website for the date that promises pounds of our favorite sweet treat.

And I do mean pounds. As we’ve grown older, we are less distracted by the immediate temptation of a plump, ripe strawberry and are more focused on the promise of strawberry meals to come. We each choose a row with careful consideration and compete to see who can come away with the most full bucket. One of our best combined hauls came in at around 15 pounds.

Not one went to waste. They’re mashed for strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam, strawberry crumble and, one of my personal favorites, strawberry chiffon pie.

full pie to the side

Strawberry Chiffon Pie is one of those rare holdovers from what I call the “gelatin period of history” that actually tastes delicious and comes in a naturally occurring shape. This particular recipe is from my mom’s 1965 printing of The Settlement Cook Book.

As you might be aware, the 50s and 60s were rife with both social change and gelatinous foods. From random produce floating in towering Jell-O molds to savory aspics made from stock, there was nothing that people wouldn’t throw gelatin into. (If you’ve seen Julie & Julia, you know what I mean.)

I also like to imagine that the Space Race inspired everyday people to try their own science experiments, and making foods congeal seemed like the most accessible option.

This pie, however, is one science experiment I can get behind. It’s basically a strawberry-flavored whipped cream filling that is fluffy and creamy and requires minimal oven time. (Or none at all if you choose not to make your own crust.)

Speaking of crust — I decided to get a little wild with mine. Normally our family makes this pie with a graham cracker crust, but I love the salty/sweet combination that occurs when sweet strawberry cream meets salty pretzels. In fact, I’m going through a little “snack foods as pie crusts” period myself, so stay tuned for more innovation!

Strawberry Chiffon Filling
Makes enough to fill 1 9-inch pie crust, plus some extra for taste-testing

1 envelope (or 1 tablespoon) of unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup strawberries, mashed (with juices), plus more for decorating
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup of heavy creamy, whipped, plus more for decorating
1 prepared pie shell, like the pretzel crust below

1) Soak gelatin with cold water in a large bowl for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the boiling water, 3/4 cup of sugar, mashed strawberries and salt, then pour the mixture into the softened gelatin until the gelatin dissolves. Let cool.
2) In a stand mixer with the beater attachment or with a whisk, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating the egg whites until they’re stiff and glossy. Set aside.
3) When the strawberry and gelatin mixture begins to thicken as it’s cooling, fold in the whipped cream and then the beaten egg whites.
4) Pour the chiffon filling into the prepared crust, then cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or until the filling has set. Decorate with strawberries and whipped cream.

Pretzel Pie Crust
Makes 1 9-inch pie crust

3/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
(Tip: To crush the pretzels, place them in a freezer bag, remove all the air, then roll a rolling pin over the pretzels until they’re crushed. You might need to repeat this step several times.)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together butter, sugar and pretzels until well-combined. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, let cool, then fill with strawberry chiffon pie filling.

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Strawberry Meringue Buttercream

That’s right. Get me in a foreign country renowned for its baked goods, and I’ll bake cupcakes that look like they came straight out of an all-American Martha Stewart cookbook.

After baking wedding cupcakes, I swore cupcakes off for, well, ever. Those suckers are so cloyingly sweet that I predicted my making them again would result in a lengthy sugar-induced coma, followed by my dramatic demise, frosting oozing out of every pore. I mean, I had nightmares about the last cupcakes I baked. I desperately want to move on to  a new baked-good food trend–perhaps whoopie pies, or macarons. Sometimes, however, my cupcake reputation precedes me. Or, as in this instance (and many others, frankly), I could not keep my mouth shut and, one afternoon, out poured my admission: I was in a class where my nickname was Cupcake. My cupcakes have won awards. My cupcakes bring all the boys to the yard. Et cetera.

This admission was followed by a shocking revelation: my family didn’t know what a cupcake was! As a self-assigned American Ambassador to Germany, I could not allow this ignorance to continue. Sure, the country already has yeasty soft pretzels, vibrant fruit tortes, and, my personal favorite, nuss-nougat croissants, but without cupcakes, Germany is a country still lacking in the ultimate vehicle for carbohydrates, butter and sugar.

Thus, I found myself baking cupcakes for one of my German family member’s birthdays. As much as I gripe about baking yet another dozen cupcakes, I derive great pleasure from the oohs and aahs that my cupcakes always elicit. Somewhere around the time that I take those little cakes out of the oven, they transform from the bane of my existence into my personal pride ‘n’ joy. Piping frosting on them is the closest I’ll ever get to being an artist.

My friend Kasey discovered this buttercream recipe, so I finally have a strawberry frosting I can be proud of, unlike last time. The recipe actually is Martha Stewart’s strawberry meringue buttercream, though I changed the wording in the directions to better represent how I interpreted the recipe, and included the European conversions I needed to make since I now lack proper measuring cups. I used the same chocolate cupcake base I always use.

Even I enjoyed the result of this cultural immersion experience. But, seriously, I need to learn how to make nuss-nougat-filled croissants before I ever delve into cupcake-making again. Recipe suggestions welcome!

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream:
Makes enough to frost 16 or so cupcakes piped fancy-style, 24 cupcakes when simply spread on
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
1 1/2 cups (350 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) strawberry jam, pureed in a food processor or blender

1) Set a heatproof mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir in egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is a glossy white. Remove bowl from heat and beat egg whites with an electric mixer until the egg whites form stiff peaks and the mixture is cooled. (It has to be cool or the butter will melt!)
2) Slowly combine butter into the egg mixture a few tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. Add vanilla, then stir in strawberry jam puree until the frosting is smooth.

Berry Pudding Cake

This recipe always reminds me of my high school graduation. My mom made it for my party since I raved about it constantly. For the record, my college graduation is 39 days away.

Cringe.

It’s simple, sweet and ideal for a spring/summer dessert, served warm with ice cream or whipped cream. It’s also wonderful for breakfast, served cold. I use Whole Foods’ frozen mixed berries in mine, but only until I can find some fresh, local berries!

Besides making this cake this weekend, I also filmed a video for a contest I’ll tell you all more about Monday. In the meantime, I’d really appreciate it if you could vote for my friends‘ video. I’m making the cupcakes for their wedding–we had a tasting this weekend that was divine.

Simply click here and click the thumbs up. Aren’t they precious?

Berry Pudding Cake:
Serves 12
5 cups fresh or frozen berries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I sometimes use almond extract)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1) In a 9 x 13 cake pan, evenly spread fruit and pour 1/4 cup sugar over the berries.
2) Stir the eggs, oil, orange peel, vanilla and remaining 1 cup of sugar in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the flour and baking powder.
3) Pour batter over the berries and gently spread to cover berries.
4) Bake at 350 degrees until top springs back slightly when pressed in the center (about 45 minutes).

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

As I mentioned, I set aside a few chocolate cupcakes on which to perform experiments of a sweet ‘n’ sinister nature.

Well, consider this second post a crucial feature of any food blog: food failure.

I envisioned a chocolate-covered strawberry in cupcake form, a la Hello Cupcake‘s “Prima Donna.” My results were more akin to a faintly pink, sugary, semi-liquid mess. Like my face at our midnight breakfast, post-prom.

I used the same buttercream recipe, but substituted the mint and milk with a few tablespoons of pureed strawberries. Too much liquid, not enough thickener. (I added meringue powder, to no avail.) And yet, despite the puree overload, the flavor wasn’t nearly intense enough. I’ve tried strawberry jam in the past, but it’s equally disastrous and even more sweet.

Does anyone have a strawberry frosting recipe that doesn’t melt under pressure?