When I was young, my brothers and I would go with my parents to pick strawberries at a farm on Woolridge Ferry Road. That farm no longer exists, but there are others in the area.
Kentucky’s growing season for strawberries is from May 17 to June 15. If you have never tasted fresh, home-grown strawberries, you are missing out.
In honor of the upcoming strawberry season, today’s recipe is Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie from confessionsofabakingqueen.com.
You will need a pound of fresh strawberries and divide these berries in half with one half of the berries to be diced into small pieces.
When you dice food, you are cutting the pieces into small blocks or dice. Dicing ensures even cooking as the pieces will be uniformly sized. The other half of the strawberries will be sliced thinly.
In a medium pan, mix the diced strawberries, granulated sugar, pure vanilla extract and the zest of a medium lemon (one tablespoon).
When zesting any citrus fruit make sure you remove just the thin, colored skin or zest of the fruit. The white soft pith underneath has a bitter taste. I prefer to zest my fruit with a microplane as it produces a finely grated zest.
Cook this mixture on medium heat for three to four minutes, smashing the berries. In a small bowl, whisk together the juice of a medium lemon (two tablespoons) and cornstarch to make a slurry.
A slurry is a concentrated starchy liquid that will thicken sauces and gravies. A slurry prevents starch from clumping when added to any hot liquid.
Add the slurry to the strawberry mixture and cook for five minutes or until thick stirring occasionally. Once your strawberry mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and add your sliced strawberries. Transfer this to a clean bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to cool.
While the strawberries are cooling, prepare the graham cracker crust. You will need to either crush graham crackers into fine crumbs or purchase a box of graham crackers crumbs. Mix the crumbs, sugar and melted butter and it should resemble wet sand. Press this crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for five minutes and let the crust completely cool.
To prepare the cream cheese filling, beat the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract two minutes. Slowly drizzle heavy whipping cream into this mixture on medium-high speed of the mixer. Once all the heavy cream has been added, turn the mixer off and scrape the bowl.
Turn the mixer back on and mix an additional two to three minutes or until light and fluffy. This mixture should be thick.
To assemble the pie, spoon the cream cheese filling evenly over the cooled graham cracker crust. Top the cream cheese with the cooled strawberry mixture. Place six to eight toothpicks around the pie and cover with plastic wrap. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving and a helpful hint to serve the pie is to use a clean sharp knife dipped in hot water. It will result in nice clean slices and then top with fresh whipped cream.
Can you prepare this pie with store bought strawberry glaze, a premade graham crust, and eight ounces of thawed Cool Whip?
Yes, you can, but take the time to prepare this pie from scratch. Trust me, the results taste better when made from scratch, including the whipped cream added to the top.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie
1-pound fresh strawberries, divided
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 medium lemon (1 tablespoon)
Juice of 1 medium lemon (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
2 cups graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
8 tbsp (1 stick) salted butter, melted
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
12 ounces (1½ packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup (6 ounces) heavy whipping cream
TOPPING - OPTIONAL (MAKES TWO CUPS)
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Divide the strawberries in half. Slice the first half into small diced pieces, and slice the second half into thin slices. In a medium pan add the diced strawberries, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and zest of one medium lemon. Cook over low to medium heat for three to four minutes using a spatula to press down and squash the berries.
In a small bowl, whisk together the juice of the zested lemon and cornstarch to create a slurry. Add the slurry to the strawberry mixture and cook for five minutes, stirring every so often. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and add the remaining sliced strawberries and transfer to a clean bowl to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, crush the graham crackers till they become a fine crumb. In a large bowl add the graham crackers and granulated sugar mixing to combine then add the melted butter, mix until you have a wet sand texture all around.
Press graham cracker mixture into the bottom and slightly up the upsides of a 9-inch pie plate. Place in the oven to bake for five minutes, until slightly golden brown. Let cool completely while you make the filling.
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or large bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract for two minutes on medium to high speed. Slowly drizzle in heavy cream with the mixer on medium-high speed.
Once all the cream has been added turn the mixer off and use a spatula to scrape the bowl, turn the mixer back on and mix for an additional two to three minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy, you want a thick whipped cream.
Pour whipped cream cheese filling into cooled graham cracker crust and spread to make an even layer. Top with chilled strawberry mixture, doing a spoonful at a time to help ensure the cream cheese filling is completely cooled.
Place six to eight toothpicks around the outside of the pie to drape plastic wrap on top and chill the pie in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving.
Optional: Top with fresh whipped cream. Use a clean knife dipped in hot water to cut clean slices. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
TOPPING – OPTIONAL
Place mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill.
Pour heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
Do not over beat. Overbeating turns this mixture into butter.