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Monday, June 8, 2015

Triple Berry Pie



Many years ago, I spent a summer working in the kitchen of a local country club. My job was preparing the cold foods. In that time of no pre-prepared ingredients, every day started with peeling and cutting into meticulously sized sticks 5 pounds of carrots, cutting pounds of cream cheese into cubes for garnishing some specialty salad, and washing heaps and heaps of romain lettuce.

Just across the kitchen from me was the large area given to Florence, the woman in charge of the home-baked breads and desserts that were a feature of the club's dining room. From her, I learned much about quantity cooking, and I still have a now tattered napkin on which I wrote some of her recipes that she tried to translate down to family-sized portions.

One of her specialties that appeared on the menu only when blueberries were in season was "Freshy Blueberry Pie." This featured the now standard method of preparing a glaze of part of the berries to pour over the rest of the berries that are simply washed and spread in a prepared shell. What made Florence's pie unique was that she spread a thin layer of cream cheese over the crust before putting in the berries and then the glaze.

For many years, I couldn't afford cream cheese, but I made blueberry (and then peach, strawberry, and raspberry) pies with the glaze and fresh fruit, and these were always favorites of family and friends. This week, I had some cream cheese that I wanted to incorporate into a fruit dessert, but a cheesecake would need more time and calories than I wanted to devote. Then I was reminded of Florence's pies, and I decided to try something new, using blueberries from the freezer, fresh strawberries on special this week, and some raspberry syrup in the refrigerator. The result was beautiful, refreshing, and a great end to a springtime supper with friends.

Note that slightly less than a package of cream cheese can be used. This is a good recipe to consider if you bought some cream cheese for another use and ended up with a partial package that doesn't work for any of those recipes that require the whole package. And you can use whipped cream cheese or the regular block form, whichever you happen to have.

Because not everyone has raspberry syrup on hand (but you really should try it if you have any kind of raspberry crop available to you!),  I have given an alternative glaze following the main recipe. Either way, this is an impressive dessert that showcases the fruit beautifully. It can be a frugal dessert choice too; buy the blueberries in season when on sale and freeze and then make this when the strawberries are at their seasonally low prices too.


Triple Berry Pie

 1 9” baked pie shell

Cream cheese layer
3/4 to 1 c low fat or regular cream cheese, softened (may use whipped cream cheese if desired)
1 T honey
¼ t nutmeg

Filling
2 T sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 T water
1 c raspberry syrup
2 t lemon juice
½ t almond extract
1 c blueberries—if using frozen, thaw slightly
8 oz fresh strawberries, sliced

1. Beat the cream cheese together with the honey and nutmeg until well blended. Spread evenly over the baked pie shell and set aside.

2.  Mix sugar and cornstarch until well blended and then slowly stir in water. Stir vigorously to be sure the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. 

3.  Place the raspberry syrup in a large microwave-safe bowl (it will boil up, so be sure to use a large enough container). Gradually add the sugar mixture to the raspberry syrup, beating with a wisk or fork to be sure there are no lumps. 

4.  Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture boils and becomes translucent. Stir in the lemon juice and almond extract along with the blueberries. Allow to cool slightly.








5.  Meanwhile, slice the strawberries and arrange in a single layer over the top of the cream cheese. Pour the blueberry raspberry syrup mixture over the top, spreading evenly and pressing down slightly to be sure the fruit mixture surrounds the strawberries completely.

6.  Allow to chill at least two hours.

  


Variation without Raspberry Syrup

Prepare the following mixture and use in place of the raspberry syrup in the main recipe.

1 1/2 c raspberries, fresh or frozen--if using frozen, include all juices
3/4 c sugar
water

Put the raspberries in a measuring cup and add water to fill the spaces so that there is a full 1 1/2 cups of berries and water.

Combine the raspberries, water, and sugar in a large bowl (the mixture will boil up) and microwave for about 3 minutes, until the berries are very soft. You may also cook the mixture on the stovetop, cooking for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a colander or sieve to strain out all or most of the seeds. Measure out a cup of the mixture to use in the main recipe.

Double Berry Pie

Substitute strawberries for raspberries in the variation above.



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