For years I’ve made a strawberry icebox pie for the little one’s birthday. For years the pie has refused to gel. We’ve eaten soupy pie with a soggy graham cracker crust for the past 13 birthdays.
Every year I vow to fix the problem. Every year I fail. It’s a testament to the recipe that my son still asks for it.
But this year is different. I finally cracked the code.
I’m embarrassed to admit how simple the solution was. Rather than mashing the berries to extract their juices, I chopped them in the food processor. The sharp blade rendered more juice than my potato masher, giving the sugars more to thicken. The pie gelled beautifully; the crust stayed crispy; the juices stayed in our pie slices rather than pouring onto our plates.
“I didn’t remember this pie being so good,” the birthday boy said after taking his first bite. “Can you make it for me next year?”
Strawberry Icebox Pie
This pie is a mash-up of recipes and techniques: Ron Silver and Jan Bervin’s graham cracker crust (from “Bubby’s Homemade Pies”); a 2003 strawberry pie recipe from “Bon Appetit” magazine; and years of tinkering from me. I made this the day before my son’s birthday, and it kept in the refrigerator beautifully.
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Kosher salt
- 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 5 cups quartered, hulled strawberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I used the last of the Meyer lemon juice stashed in my freezer)
- Zest from 1 orange
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, the sugar, a pinch of kosher salt and the melted butter. Toss with a fork until everything is moist, then spoon the mixture into an 8- to 9-inch glass pie plate.
Press the crust along the bottom and up the sides of the plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool completely.
Pulse 2 cups of strawberries in a food processor until you have pretty finely chopped berries. Place the berries and all their juices in a large saucepan and add the sugar, cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.
Bring the berries to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let them boil until the mixture is quite thick, tasting along the way and adding more lemon juice if your berries seem too sweet. (I like my pie to have a bit of tartness.)
When you can scrape a spoon across the bottom of your pan and have the berries stay to its side, take the saucepan off the heat. Place the berries in a large bowl. Refrigerate the bowl until the mixture is cool.
Once cool, stir in the remaining 3 cups of quartered, hulled strawberries and the orange zest. Turn the mixture into your pie plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Serve as is, or grate a little bittersweet chocolate over the top.