We are two thirds of the way through summer, and it is now peak season for pie makers. There are still berries to be had. Peaches abound. And soon, as fall enters, we’ll have apples by the ton. In just two months, fresh pumpkin pie will tempt us.
I like pies of all kinds, but fruit is dearer to me than even chocolate. I remember my first lemon meringue pie, from the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angles. Like a first kiss, that first pie was confirmation that life could be grand.
Suzen and I have collected pie books aplenty over the years. Pie books tend to be slim, with a few dozen recipes. Slimness is not bad and those smallish books have some wonderful ideas.
But when I am in a pie mood, when I need a pie encyclopedia for something different, where do I turn? I happen to be ambidextrous and therefore I can do two page turns at once. If you love pie, then there are two very thick books that you want to consult. Great Pies and Tarts by Carole Walter is a bible at almost 500 pages. Pie by Ken Haedrich comes to us with over 600 pages. Both books are wonderful and both are indispensable. And, they complement each other.
Do you want a tangerine pie, then you need Great Pies and Tarts. Is there a watermelon afoot in your kitchen, then you need Pie. And, Great Pies and Tarts does not address watermelon while tangerine does not appear in Pie. It turns out that these wonderful books truly complement each other.
If the slim books have a few dozen recipes, these two tomes have hundreds. Does size, or quantity, matter. It does.
When you ask someone to name a pie, they are going to answer “apple.” Then “cherry” and “berry” will pop up. “Peach” perhaps. “Watermelon?” Never.
Besides offering the most delicious spectrum of flavors, these two books serve a vital role. They capture and preserve a tradition of American pie recipes that might otherwise be lost. Pies from different eras and a different America. You won’t find a “Deep-Dish Pluot Pie with Oatmeal-Walnut Crumb Topping” in the freezer section of your supermarket. You will in Pie. “Creamy Green Grape Pie?” Not in the store but Carole has the recipe ready and waiting for you.
Over the coming weeks, you’ll see some great recipes here from these books — I’ve already posted Ken’s Watermelon Chiffon Pie. And, recipes for crust, lots of recipes. Pie crust is something that frightens too many of us to a shelf in our store we can find one “pre-made.” That’s really good marketing talk for manufactured. You want your own crust, your own personal crust, and we’ll have many good ideas here for you.
Along the way of this pie journey, you can visit Carole Walter at her website or join Ken Haedrich’s Pie Academy for lots of serious instruction. Just click here and enjoy:
“I’m making dessert tonight,” Suzen said.
“What a coincidence, so am I” I said.
“We don’t need two.”
“I bought the watermelon.”
“You,” Suzen began, “have a large bug somewhere in your anatomy.”
“Yes,” I admitted. “Yes, I do and to cure it I’m making this pie.”
The name, Watermelon Chiffon Pie, had teased at me for over a year. To my credit, I had asked Suzen on multiple occasions. She eats pie, she does just not spring to make it.
Thing is, I had no idea how this might taste. Watermelon juice has a wonderful flavor, yet the juice itself is very “thin” to the tongue. I’ve done a variety of chiffon pies in the past year and everyone had a key component: some liqueur. This pie has none. Not even one of those watermelon schnapps creations you might have. Truthfully, watermelon liquors can be awful: sweetish, yet harsh with a chemical aftertaste.
How does this pie rate? It’s wonderful. Soft and subtle. The watermelon flavor is there, but does not overpower.
What crust to use? Look at yesterday’s post for a graham cracker crust from the same source as this book: Pie by Ken Haedrich.
Two technique matters are important here. First, the way in which the whipped cream and eggs whites are added is important. The method here eliminates of the globs of whipped cream, egg whites, or — worst of all — pieces of watermelon-gelatin.
Second, the method here for getting out the watermelon juice is a bit time consuming. And, I did not follow it. Instead, I put watermelon chunks in our Vitamix and in seconds had watermelon liquid. It’s much faster. The liquid, by the way, is not thin juice but has some fine pulp. I could have used that, for a different texture. Instead, I pour 4 cups of pulp through a sieve and got just under 3 cups net of pure juice.
One these endless summer nights, you want something very refreshing. Nothing is better than this pie.
Watermelon Chiffon Pie
Yield: 1 9-inch pie, enough for 6-8 people
- 1 graham cracker crust, prepared and baked [see the recipe here on this blog!]
- 6 cups watermelon flesh [seeks are fine]
- 1/3 cup granulated water
- 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- Confectioners’ sugar for garnish
- Fresh whipped cream for garnish [optional]
Combine the watermelon and granulated sugar in a very large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash until the mixture is quite liquid. Set aside for 15 minutes. Drain the mixture through a strainer, reserving almost 2 ¾ cups of the watermelon juice. Discard the pulp and seeds.
Put ¼ cup of the juice in a medium-size bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 3 to 4 minutes to dissolve. Meanwhile, heat ½ cup of the juice in a small saucepan over medium heat to a near boil. Whisk the hot juice into the dissolved gelatin. Pour the remaining 2 cups of watermelon juice into a large bowl and stir in the gelatin-watermelon juice mixture. Stir in the lime juice. Place in the refrigerator.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg white is a medium-size bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Clean and dry the beaters. Using a chilled medium-size bowl and chilled beaters, beat the heavy cream with the mixer until it holds soft peaks. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth and stiff but not graining. Refrigerate.
When the watermelon juice mixture start to firm up, add about one-quarter of the whipped cream and beat with the electric mixer until smooth. Add the beaten egg white and remaining whipped cream and gently fold them in with a large rubber spatula. If necessary, use a whisk — very briefly — to smooth the mixture and break up any large globs of white or whipped cream. Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell, shaking the pan gently to settle the filling. Cover with loosely tented aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
To serve, garnish each slice with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, then add a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.
Source: Pie by Ken Haedrich