Recipe 38: Strawberry Chiffon Pie

So what if it’s only a week after Christmas and you’re on a self imposed diet to lose the few pounds you packed on over the holidays. There is always room for a slice of pie. This pie is light and airy and if you substitute the whipped cream for something slightly more healthy such as the low fat recipe included below you can now have your cake… well in this case pie AND eat it too.

The general consensus of American food historians is chiffon pie (chocolate & other flavors) first surfaced in the United States sometime in the 1920s. Precursors can be found under different names but the underlying inspiration is likely meringue.

Who gets credit for “inventing” the chiffon pie? A gentleman by the name of Monroe Boston Strause. In Clementine Paddleford’s words describing the man:

“Monroe Boston Strause, pie engineer. Here is the man who invented chiffon pie–and his recipe…Fruit-fragrant chiffon will be the pie star on the menus of tomorrow, is the prediction of Monroe Boston Strause, number-one pie engineer of the nation. And pie man Strause ought to know: Commercial bakers in 48 states look to him as style leader in the building of America’s favorite dessert. Monroe Boston Strause has a weakness for that pie called chiffon; it’s an invention all his own. But chiffon pies postwar will have a different kind of thickening from those of today. Cornstarch is being outmoded by new gelatinizing agents, tasteless, clear as glass, that can be combined with the filling without beating. Fresh fruit chiffons will taste like fresh fruit. It was in 1921 that ambitious, red-headed Monroe Strause, 16, went into the business with an uncle who fancied himself a pie baker. Cream pies were Uncle Mike’s speciality–stiff with cornstarch. Monroe couldn’t bear the sight of them, let alone promote their sale…Determined to make his first business venture succeed, the youngster began fooling around with pie fillings. He started with a recipe for the French cream used in ├ęclairs in which boiled sugar syrup is added to beaten egg whites, then the cornstarch filling folded into this. Anything for lightness, so Monroe began piling in the egg whites. First thing he knew he had a filling ethereal. This creation he carried home to show off to his mother. ‘Why, it looks just like a pile of chiffon,’ she said and so the pie was christened.

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (about 1 quart) crushed fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp gelatin
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup cranberry juice
2 cups whipping cream, divided
1 baked 9″ pie crust
strawberries halved, for garnish

Directions

Combine strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and let stand 30 minutes. In another bowl combine gelatin and cranberry juice. Set bowl into larger bowl of boiling water stirring until gelatin has dissolved. Stir gelatin mixture into berries. Refrigerate until partially set. In a large bowl, whip 1 cup of cream. Fold whipped cream into berry mixture. Pour filling into baked and cooled pie crust and chill until firm. When ready to serve, whip remaining cream and spread or pipe onto top of pie. Garnish with strawberry halves.

Yields 6 to 8 servings

FOOTNOTE: This recipe can be made with most soft fruits. Try using peaches or raspberries for a nice twist or made with a healthy whipped cream substitute as follows:

Healthy Whipped Cream

With only 5 calories per tablespoon, this is a great healthy whipped cream you can prepare yourself. Prepare this whipped cream substitute just before serving, as the mixture deflates rather quickly. You can speed up the process by having the ingredients pre-measured and ready to go.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

Put the skim milk in a small metal bowl, set in the freezer, and let stand just until ice crystals begin to form-about 15 minutes. Remove from the freezer and add the dry milk powder and cream of tartar. With a hand electric mixer, whip the mixture at high speed until foamy. Beat in 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice and continue beating until the mixture begins to thicken. Beat in another teaspoon of the lemon juice and, if desired, the sugar, and continue beating until the mixture peaks softly. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice and continue whipping to stiff peaks. Fold in the vanilla extract, if desired, and serve immediately as a dessert topping.

Makes 2 cups.
Preparation: 25 min., including 15 min. refrigeration

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