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Easy as (icebox) pie

"Icebox pies." They sound so retro _ and, in many cases, they are _ as cooks have been making variations on the theme for years. When I was growing up, my mother was a master of chocolate chiffon pie, grasshopper pie and lemon-peach pie, along with variations on the no-bake cheesecake and instant pudding pie themes.

These are pies that don't come from the oven like your usual apple, cherry, peach, berry and pecan pies.

In her new cookbook Icebox Pies: 100 Scrumptious Recipes for No-Bake, No-Fail Pies, (Harvard Common Press; $16.95) author Lauren Chattman writes that the "reality is that you don't have to be a domestic goddess or fantasy grandmother to make these desserts," adding that the pies are perfect for contemporary cooks who crave nostalgic, simple, homey, hassle-free indulgences.

Whether you're already acquainted with cool, refreshing refrigerator pies or just discovering them, they are are made to order for summer entertaining. These are the homemade, no-brainers that you can fix in a jiffy _ that require no baking and no heating up of the kitchen (use the microwave oven, if necessary) _ just refrigeration.

Versatile and convenient, these pies lend themselves to lots of creative flavor combinations. How about a rocky road or candy pie made with an instant chocolate pudding mix and whipped cream? Or a coconut banana-cream combo with instant coconut-cream pudding zipped up with flaked coconut _ and then layered with banana slices?

Icebox fillings are either the no-cook or the cooked variety, the latter prepared in a microwave oven or on the stove. Use pudding mixes, cream cheese, fresh fruits, chocolate and many other ingredients in tandem. Flavors can run the gamut from strawberry, raspberry, espresso, lime, banana, lemon, chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter and much more. Mix and match and stir in anything that strikes your fancy. Keep in mind that grated citrus peel, a splash of liqueur such as Chambord or Grand Marnier or Kahlua will add extra zip.

No rolling of any dough is required for the crust, as most feature graham cracker, chocolate or vanilla wafer, or Oreo cookie-crumb crusts, sometimes in combination with other ingredients, such as a variety of nuts, chocolate chips, shredded or flaked coconut and the like. For variety, try lemon, ginger, macaroon, oatmeal, shortbread or amaretti cookie crumbs, all blended with a little melted butter.

To save time, use precrushed graham or Oreo chocolate cookie crumbs (which taste the same as crushing the cookies yourself) available in boxes in supermarket baking sections.

In lieu of oven baking the crumb crust (to avoid heating the kitchen), set it by microwaving on high power 30 to 40 seconds. (Chattman prefers to crisp the crusts in a preheated 350-degree oven six to eight minutes.) If you don't have time to turn out a quick homemade crust, you can rely on store-bought cookie-crumb crusts _ however most don't taste great and are reminiscent of cardboard.

Although some cooks include frozen ice cream pies in the icebox pie category, we prefer to classify them as freezer (or ice cream) pies or frozen desserts _ and therefore have skipped including any such recipes. For convenience and ease, we've also opted to overlook any gelatin-based icebox pies, which are more time-consuming (although not difficult) to make.

All icebox pies must be refrigerated until the filling is set or firm _ and timing varies from recipe to recipe. Generally figure on three to four hours or longer. Also note that pies are best consumed within a day of preparation.

To dress up the pies, Chattman suggests topping pie slices with coffee-flavored whipped cream, warm hot fudge or caramel sauce, raspberry sauce, chopped or sugared nuts or candies, toffee bits, fresh fruits (slices or whole berries), shaved chocolate, dessert fruit salsas and more.

No, all pies don't come from the oven. These cool creations prove it.

Gianduia Pie

} cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (see note)

1{ cups heavy whipping cream, chilled

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 13-ounce jar Nutella

1 prepared 9-inch chocolate cookie crumb pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

Place skinned hazelnuts in bowl of a food processor and chop very fine. Combine cream and vanilla in a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Place Nutella in a medium mixing bowl and stir in \ of whipped cream. Gently fold lightened Nutella mixture into remaining whipped cream. Fold in chopped hazelnuts.

Scrape filling into prepared crumb crust and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Cover pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate until filling is completely set, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day. Garnish slices with whipped cream and a drizzling of chocolate sauce, if desired. Makes one pie; six to eight servings.

Note: To toast and skin hazelnuts, place nuts on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, wrap nuts in a clean kitchen towel, and allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes. Rub with towel to remove skins (it's okay if bits of skin stick to some of the nuts).

Source: "Icebox Pies: 100 Scrumptious Recipes for No-Bake, No-Fail Pies" by Lauren Chattman (Harvard Common Press; $16.95).

Raspberry and Cocoa Mascarpone Cream Pie

3 tablespoons raspberry jam

1 prepared 9-inch chocolate cookie or graham cracker crumb pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

{ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

\ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 pint fresh raspberries

Spread jam across bottom of prepared crust using a small rubber spatula. Refrigerate crust.

Combine mascarpone cheese, cream, powdered sugar and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat mascarpone mixture until smooth. Spread mascarpone mixture over jam. (At this point, pie may be refrigerated up to a day before continuing with recipe.) Cover pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate until filling is completely set.

Just before serving, arrange as many raspberries as will fit on top of cocoa mascarpone. Place slices of pie on individual dessert plates and scatter any remaining raspberries around each slice. Makes one (9-inch) pie, six to eight servings.

Source: "Icebox Pies: 100 Scrumptious Recipes for No-Bake, No-Fail Pies" by Lauren Chattman (Harvard Common Press; $16.95).

Banana Coconut Cream Pie

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups crushed chocolate Oreo cookie crumbs

2 (3.4-ounce) packages (each 4-serving size) coconut cream instant pudding and pie-filling mix

2 cups cold milk

2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, whipped

1 cup flaked coconut

2 bananas, sliced

To make crust, melt butter in microwave oven on high power 40 to 50 seconds. Mix with cookie crumbs until well-blended. Press mixture evenly and firmly over bottom and up sides of a 9-inch-deep glass pie dish. Microwave on high power 30 to 40 seconds to set. Set aside to cool.

To make filling, in a medium bowl, combine pudding mixes and cold milk. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed 2 minutes (mixture will thicken). After whipping cream, remove 1 cup and reserve for top of pie.

Fold remaining whipped cream into pudding mixture until blended. Fold in } cup coconut. Turn of pudding mixture into cool crumb crust, spreading evenly. Top with half of the banana slices. Spread with another of pudding mixture, then remaining banana slices. Top with remaining pudding mixture, spreading evenly. Spread top with reserved 1 cup cream. Sprinkle with remaining \ cup coconut. (Coconut can be lightly toasted, if desired, spread out on a paper towel in a microwave oven on high power about 30 to 35 seconds; watch carefully after 20 seconds as coconut burns easily; cool before using). Refrigerate pie 3 to 4 hours or overnight, until set. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Source: Los Angeles Daily News.

Quick Rocky Road Pie

1{ cups cold milk

1 (5.9-ounce) package (6-serving size) instant chocolate fudge pudding and pie-filling mix

1 tablespoon grated orange peel (optional)

1{ cups heavy whipping cream, whipped

1 cup miniature marshmallows

} cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 (9-inch) baked chocolate cookie crumb pie crust (store-bought or homemade)

In a medium bowl, combine cold milk and pudding mix. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed 1 minute. Fold in orange peel and whipped cream until well-blended. Stir in marshmallows and { cup nuts.

Turn mixture into crumb crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle remaining \ cup nuts over top. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or longer, until set. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: Other flavor pies may be prepared using the same proportions of milk, different instant pudding and pie-filling-mix flavors and whipped cream as noted above. For variety, stir in mini chocolate chips, assorted nuts, coconut, grated citrus peel, etc. or layer the pudding mixture in crust with fresh raspberries, fresh strawberry slices or banana slices (do not use fruits with lots of juice as they'll make pie too runny). Also, use different kinds of cookie crusts, if desired.

Source: Los Angeles Daily News.

Fruit Topped No-bake Cheese Pie

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)

1 (8-ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 (6-ounce) graham cracker crumb pie crust (store-bought)

Fresh strawberry halves

Fresh blueberries

Beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well-blended. Gently stir in 2 cups whipped topping. Spoon into crust.

Refrigerate 3 hours or until set. Spread remaining whipped topping over top. Arrange strawberries and blueberries in design desired on top of cheesecake. Store leftover cheese pie in refrigerator. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Substitute fresh raspberries, sliced peaches or nectarines for strawberries and blueberries, if desired.

Source: Los Angeles Daily News.

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