By Angela Denstad Stigeler
Few culinary creations can rival the simple pleasure of a ripe, sun-warmed berry. Plucked from its plant and popped into one’s mouth in an instant, the berry becomes the emblem of the season—bright, luscious, and fleeting. Their often playful balance of sweet and tart flavors make them the perfect foil to a summery salad and the succulent stars of many homey desserts.
Preferring freshly foraged fruit, I like to keep my summer berries as close to their natural state as possible. But when you want a little something more than just a bowl-full, a chilled berry pie is a true delight. Here, the fruit is served fresh in a pastry crust atop sweetened cream, which has been enriched with tangy cream cheese. Held in place by a quickly cooked sauce of the berries’ own thickened juices, this dessert is a balance of light and rich tastes, and feels fancy without being fussy. Most of all, it highlights summer—at its berry best.
Fresh Berries and Cream Pie
1 pre-baked 8 or 9-inch pie shell, preferably homemade
4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pint fresh berries, or enough to fill the pie shell
3/4 cup mashed or pureed and sieved berries
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
With the whisk attachment of a standing mixer, whip the cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Gradually pour in the cream in a steady stream and continue to whip until light and fluffy. Spread 2/3 of the cream mixture evenly into the pie crust. Top with the berries, arranging neatly, stemmed side down if using whole strawberries.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the cornstarch. Stir in the berry puree, lemon juice and butter and bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Carefully pour the mixture over the berries, evenly filling the pie. Refrigerate until set, at least an hour or overnight. Serve cold and use the remaining cream to garnish individual slices.