When faced with seasonal fresh strawberries, few desserts are as welcomed as pie, and this version with jello is one of those easy recipes that screams sunny days and outdoor eating, with a sweet well balanced filling and lots of strawberry flavor. It lasts for several days, but I never get to experience that as it disappears so quickly!
This is one of those great recipes that I made one day just because, and it was quickly labeled as one of the family's favorites. A bit of a surprise, as using commercial jello is not something I ever envisioned doing, much less post about it. Yet, here I am. Sometimes a recipe just works and ends up being a delicious dessert alternative, and I'd be doing a disservice not sharing it with you.
It has several steps, but you can make the pie shell in advance or even use store-bought. And the gelatin mixture, which might sound complicated, is very easy to work with.
The strawberry cream pie I've been making for years is the one my grandmother handed down and it involves clear, plain gelatin. No funny colors or flavors. I love it and make it often. But this one today is different as it packs more strawberries, is taller, uses a different pie crust, and doesn't have so much cream filling. A more relaxed, Summery version of this classic which is now filed under delicious pies to make often.
Like many old-fashioned bakers who do it for a living, I rarely use store-bought shortcuts except for cookies maybe, when making cookie crust or the best oreo cheesecake ever. Or should I say I rarely used, past tense, because I have been incorporating a few supermarket pantry staples lately, and I have to say I'm hooked with some of them, like using boxed cake mix for dump cakes. But that's another conversation.
So let's get into the details of each component.
Homemade pie dough is my first option, always. But I keep a few frozen doughs at all times in my freezer. For this pie I like the Flaky Homemade Pie Crust or the Sweet Shortcrust Pastry if you like a sweeter pie.
This recipe doesn't go into the oven, so you need a fully baked pie shell (pie crust).
Fully bake it: the filling in this pie is cold and needs no oven which suits us very well for hot days, doesn't it. Still, we first have to blind bake it (which means using pie weights or something similar during the first 15 minutes so that the dough holds its shape as much as it can) but then we continue after removing the weight until it's completely baked and golden.
Make it ahead. You have different options:
1. Room temperature: fully bake the pie crust and leave it at room temperature. This works if making it the day before or several hours before adding the filling (it has to be completely cold), and if the room is cool.
2. Refrigerator: make the dough, line the pan or pie plate, cover it with plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer until ready to use. I've kept pie doughs ready like this for a month.
3. Freeze the dough: you can also make the dough and freeze it, well wrapped, before rolling it out. Take into account that you'll need to defrost it first in the refrigerator which takes a day or so, and then roll it out and bake it with enough time to let it cool completely before adding the filling.
Did I tell you this is a no-bake filling? It does involve a bit in the stovetop to make the gelatin mixture, but it's just a few minutes, I promise.
This is a pie recipe that begs to be made with fresh fruit. The flavor is superior, there are different types in the markets, and they are also cheaper. So when there are in season strawberries available, we take advantage of them, don't we?
How to prepare them.
The strawberries are washed, hulled, cut, and mixed with sugar (image 1). We let them macerate for a while and then we drain them (image 2). That juice is sweet and syrupy and will add a lot to the filling. An extra boost of flavor that you don't want to miss!
Gelatin mixture or jello filling
Don't be put off by the fact that there is gelatin (strawberry jello powder to be more exact) in this pie because the process is really easy and hard to mess up with since the jello is mixed with cold water from the tap. It's then cooked with the rest of the ingredients. The important thing is to check the heat and whisk constantly.
It's also part of the filling, and is cooked together with the jello to help achieve that solid but smooth texture we all love. Cornstarch is a thickener, a white powder used a lot in baking and cooking, not to be confused with corn starch which is cornflour.
Being a plain (in appearance only!) and simple fresh strawberry pie, I think adding a creamy topping adds a lot, both in looks and also when you bite and find many contrasting textures: the smoothness of the jello, the rusticity of the strawberries and the creaminess of the topping.
I have my favorite cream topping recipe that I use for pies, cakes and desserts in general and is a classic chantilly cream made firmer by the addition of cream cheese.
- More stabilized whipped cream: this is a tip from an old dessert cookbook by Nancy Silverton that I adopted years ago when I had a cafe, and never looked back. The whipped cream has more consistency without tasting like cream cheese. So it's a win on all front.
- Chantilly cream: if you want to make it the traditional way, simply omit the cream cheese and follow the same instructions.
- Cool whip: since we're already hopped on the strawberry jello bandwagon, we might as well open up to commercial whipped toppings, such as Cool Whip, which is an imitation whipped cream sold in supermarkets. If you like it, by all means use it.
When making whipped cream, start beating with an electric mixer until medium peaks form. Then change to a hand whisk until you have the firm peaks you need. This way you have a slim chance of over beating and curdling the cream.Vintage Kitchen Tip
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Strawberries: use fresh ones. This pie is just not the same with frozen ones. I did try using frozen, and you can thaw them and use the water as part of the cornstarch gelatin mixture. But the flavor is just not there completely. And the appearance of shriveled strawberries is not very appealing either. So I don't recommend them. If you only have frozen, I suggest making a different dessert, like the Strawberry Crisp recipe, or using them for our wonderful Strawberry Sauce and topping a cheesecake.
- Gelatin: my number one tip for working with this ingredient that many feel is difficult, is beware of the temperatures of the strawberry preparation when adding the gelatin. That said, this recipe makes it easier because it's all dissolved and mixed before heating it. So there's less room for issues. I use regular jello, but I don't see why using sugar-free jello wouldn't work. If it solidifies it's good to use.
Other recipes you might like:
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A great seasonal dessert with homemade crust, a sweet, well balanced filling, lots of strawberry flavor and a dollop of topping that adds creaminess.
**The estimated time given doesn't include baking the pie crust.
For the crust:
- 1 recipe for Flaky Pie Crust (or Sweet Shortcrust Pastry if you like a sweeter dessert), fully baked
- Or use a store-bought one, preferably all-butter
For the filling:
- 1 ½ pounds (25 ounces) fresh strawberries, weighed after hulled (about 1.8 pounds or 830g if weighed whole)
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons (1.4 ounces) strawberry jello powder
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the topping:
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 8 whole strawberries
For the crust:
If you have the pie dough but didn't bake it, here are the steps.
- Roll pie dough on a lightly floured surface and line an 8-inch pie plate.
- Prick the bottom with a fork and put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven at 350°F/180°C. This will take the ten or fifteen minutes that the dough needs to be in the cold.
- Put a large piece of foil or parchment paper on top of the dough and fill with weight, this might be ceramic weights, dried legumes, dry rice, even flour. Something that can go into the oven and adds weight so that the crust doesn't rise and puff up while baking.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until you can easily lift the paper and remove the weight. You will see that the dough is white and starting to dry out.
- Bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until golden and dried.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
For the filling:
- Wash, dry and hull the strawberries.
- Put in a large bowl and cover with the sugar.
- Mix lightly and let macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Transfer to a colander that is placed over a bowl and let the juice from the strawberries drain for about 15 minutes.
- Have ready a large bowl with ice and water.
- Gather this juice and mix with half the water.
- Sprinkle the jello powder on top and mix until it's completely dissolved.
- Put the other half of water and cornstarch in a medium saucepan, mix until dissolved and put on the stove at medium heat.
- Add the gelatin mixture, whisking constantly. Don't
- Cook until it thickens, stirring or whisking all the time, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom and adjusting the heat if it's too high.
- Remove when it comes to a soft boil and whisk quickly until completely smooth.
- Put in the ice water bowl in the same saucepan if it fits or transfer the jello mixture to a medium bowl. I usually use the same bowl from the strawberry juice.
- Whisk regularly while the mixture cools down and starts to thicken, but just until it's like thick syrup. Important: don't let it set too much because you won't be able to mix it with the fruit!
- Add the strawberries to the gelatin, mix to coat and pour into the baked pie shell.
- Cover with plastic wrap or a freezer sheet and refrigerate until completely set.
For the topping:
- Beat cold cream and cream cheese in a large bowl, adding powdered sugar.
- When you start to have medium stiff peaks, change to a hand whisk and beat until you have stiff peaks. This is the best way to avoid over beating and curdling the preparation.
- Put in a piping bag and make rosettes on top of the pie. Decorate with a whole or half strawberry.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Strawberries: use fresh ones. This pie is just not the same with frozen ones. I did try using frozen, and you can thaw them and use the water as part of the cornstarch gelatin mixture. But the flavor is just not there completely. And the appearance of shriveled strawberries is not very appealing either. So I don't recommend them. If you only have frozen, I suggest making a different dessert, like the Strawberry Crisp recipe, or using them for our wonderful Strawberry Sauce and topping a cheesecake.
Gelatin: my number one tip for working with this ingredient that many feel is difficult, is beware of the temperatures of the strawberry preparation when adding the gelatin. That said, this recipe makes it easier because it's all dissolved and mixed before heating it. So there's less room for issues.
Keywords: strawberry jello pie