Recipe: Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie with Almond-Filled Crust

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Fresh strawberry pie is a sure sign of summer. This year, I'm making not just any old pie, but a pie with a secret weapon, a layer of almond filling between two layers of pie dough. I used a new-to-me product, Love'n Bake Almond Schmear. It's sort of a spreadable marzipan coffee cake filling, and I found it on the King Arthur Flour Web site.

The shmear adds a complexity to what is really something quite simple. Use your favorite pie crust recipe, enough for a double crust, or a box of refrigerated pie circles. Roll out two thin circles of dough, spreading one with the almond shmear. Sandwich them together, top with a cheesecake filling, add the fruit and glaze, and you're on your way to making a memorable pie.

The fresh cream cheese filling resembles a no-bake cheesecake. It holds up well and won't make your crust go soggy. If you like to fuss, make individual tartlets using this same recipe and shorten the baking time.

I tried this pie once with strawberries, but blueberries, raspberries or a combination would work. Apricots would make really the best marriage of flavor, although with their short season, they are a bit harder to come by. For apricots, I would simplify the pie, too, like this: When you see fresh apricots in the store, buy them -- but don't refrigerate; let them sit on the counter until just getting soft. Dip in hot water to blanch, then remove the skins. Cut them in half, remove the pit and poach in sugar syrup until barely, just barely, tender. Gently remove and cool before arranging round-side-up on the cream cheese layer. Brush with strained apricot jam.

The only hard part is finding the Almond Shmear. Love'n Bake coffee cake fillings used to be available at Sur la Table at SouthSide Works, but the store no longer carries the products because of low demand. I'm hoping once you taste this pie, all of us can create a demand. I'm also bugging Whole Foods Market to stock the products.

My recommendations: The best bet is The Baker's Catalog from King Arthur Flour (kingarthurflour.com), amazon.com or lovenbake.com.

-- Marlene Parrish

For the crust

  • 1 batch pie dough, enough for a double crust pie or a package of prepared refrigerated pie dough
  • 1/2 cup Love'n Bake Almond Schmear, or as much as needed

For the filling

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

For the topping

  • 1- 1/2 pints fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or other jelly
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Make the crust: Divide the pie dough in two equal pieces. Roll out one piece of pie dough on a lightly floured work table into a circle large enough to line a 9-inch round pie pan. Spread the crust evenly with the Almond Schmear. Move the coated dough aside. Roll out the second piece of pie dough on the lightly floured work table to the same size. Carefully place the rolled dough on top of the Schmear-coated dough.

Place the layered dough into the pie pan. Trim the edges, pinch them together to seal and flute them with your fingers.

Chill the filled pie pan for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line the pie pan with parchment paper and pie weights or beans. Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven. Remove the pie weights. Prick the surface of the dough with a fork in several places then return it to the oven. Bake the pie crust until it is lightly golden and cooked through, approximately 15 additional minutes. It will look puffy. Allow the crust to cool.

Make the filling: Whip the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Chill the whipped cream. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla on medium speed in a mixer until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream.

Fill the cooled pie shell with the cream cheese mixture. Chill in the refrigerator.

Make the topping: Remove the stems from the strawberries. Halve each strawberry from the tip to the stem. Place the halved berries on top of the filled pie in circles until the cream is covered with the fruit. (You may also slice then fan each half strawberry before placing it on top of the pie.)

Combine the jelly and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat stirring with a whisk until the jelly melts and is smooth. Allow it to cool until lukewarm, then brush the strawberries with the jelly. Chill until ready to serve.

This pie is best served within 12 hours of making it.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

-- lovenbake.com



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