You may not be aware of this, because you may be summering in the Southern hemisphere or on the space station or fielding an expedition to the North Pole, but it is HOT out here in Texas. I’m talking 107°F without a cloud in sight. And since the Dallas area has some kind of religious aversion to trees, there’s not much shade to be found, either.
Times like these call for desperate measures. For things crisp and cold topped with fresh berries and then frozen again because fresh berries just aren’t cold enough. It helps that this pie is also easy to make, enough so that I didn’t mind making it between 11:30 PM and 1:00 in the morning so that it would be nice and frozen for the fourth of July shindig I was heading to after work. Another bonus to baking in the middle of the night? It’s not so damn hot. Only about 85°F. My air conditioning can do more than growl helplessly at 85°F, even with the oven on.
I found the idea for this lovely pie here, and my first thought was “Cool. But that looks finicky. Why not use an Italian meringue?” So I did. I also used chocolate graham crackers instead of Oreos, because I’m not allowed to have Oreos in the apartment. It isn’t safe. The filling, even at room temperature, is a pile of sticky goodness that I just wanted to eat out of the bowl (Note to everyone who ate these pies: I did not. I did, however, lick the spatula once the pies were in the freezer. And it was great.) and I’d like to try to make meringue cookies using this much berry flavor. I don’t know if that will work, though. It’s a lot of berries.
Ingredients (makes 1 9-inch pie. I doubled the recipe and made two. Each pie serves about 12.)
For the crust:
9 chocolate graham crackers
3 T granulated sugar
1/2 t salt
5 T butter (6 if your graham crackers are freakishly dry, like mine were.)
For the filling:
3 cups mixed berries (I used half blackberries and half raspberries)
1 cup sugar (divided use)
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites
extra berries, for garnish
We start with the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Then you want to crush the graham crackers. There are about 84,000 ways to do this, including putting them in a bag and handing them to a husband or child, but my favorite is this.
Put them in a food processor and process until you have a fine powder. This leaves no big chunks you have to pull out and eat so no one finds them.
Add the sugar and salt to the crumbs and stir with a fork.
Then stir in 5 T of melted butter. If you can’t get a pinch of the crumbs to stick together at this point, add another tablespoon of melted butter and stir it in, too.
Press the crumb into a buttered pie dish. I forgot to butter my pie dish. This made removing pie slices complete with crust virtually impossible. Butter your pie dish, kids!
Bake the crust at 350F for about 15 minutes. Set the crust aside while you make the filling. Oh, you can turn off the oven. We’re all stove top from here on out. Rinse out your food processor and fill it with berries.
It’s worth noting that when one doubles this recipe, the berry puree surpasses the maximum liquid fill line of a seven-cup food processor. This line is not a polite suggestion. It is the point at which your food processor starts oozing berry puree underneath the blade. On the plus side, you can use a blender if you have one, and liquify as many berries as you want.
Pour the puree into a fine mesh strainer and scrape it down until everything that isn’t a seed is in a bowl. This took me twenty minutes. I need a slightly less fine mesh strainer. You could skip this step if you are very fond of seeds, but I don’t think most people are. I can’t stand them, and obviously I represent complete normalcy with regards to taste. Set the berries aside.
Pour 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
While the sugar starts to cook, whip the egg whites and a pinch of salt to soft peaks in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat on low speed until your sugar reaches the soft-ball stage.
Oh. I don’t use (or own) a candy thermometer. The one time I used one is the one time I burned caramel. Just use your eyes. when the bubbles in your boiling sugar look lacquered and the syrup makes long thread as it drips off of the back of a spoon, it’s done. At that point, pour the boiling sugar into the egg whites. Whip the sugar and egg whites together for a long time, until the bowl is room temperature. This took me almost ten minutes. When you’re baking after midnight and have to get up for work at 5:30 the next morning, this seems like forever. I did it anyway.
Now pour the berry puree over the whipped meringue.
And fold the mixture together.
Pour the berry meringue into the pie crust.
Oops! there was some unmixed berry in the bottom of the bowl! No matter, we’re going to cover that up. Put the pie in the freezer at least 4-6 hours. Arrange 12 red raspberries and 12 white raspberries (okay, so they’re yellow. I didn’t name them) around the perimeter of the pie.
My white raspberries came with a mangled, leafy raspberry branch, so I plucked the best looking leaf and posed it under a white raspberry in the center of the pie. A mint leaf would do fine as well. Or no leaf, since no one’s going to eat it anyway.
Let it soften for 5-10 minutes before serving. It’s perfect on its own; I think whipped cream or ice cream would just be too rich and a bit redundant. I mean, it’s a frozen meringue. Do you really need to add something cold and sugary to it? If you decide it needs an accompaniment, a pile of fresh berries or a squeeze of berry puree would do nicely.