Fresh Strawberry Pie

May. School was finally out! I woke up early to the fresh summer breeze rustling through my curtains as the sun tried to peek through. Birds sang in the woods nearby. Summer was not a time for sleeping in. I went outside for my morning chores, feeding the dog, chickens, and pony. On my way back inside to enjoy my breakfast on the back porch, I made sure to peek in the strawberry beds. The blossoms were gradually forming into berries–it wouldn’t be long!

By the end of May, the first ripe strawberry would appear. Of course Lauren and I would argue over who got the first one…or we’d have to cut it in half. But as we got into June, berries were in full swing and we couldn’t seem to keep up with them! My mom bustled around the kitchen making jam, muffins, mascarpone pie, and strawberry rhubarb coffeecake. We’d pile them on pancakes, waffles, yogurt, or just eat them straight out of the patch. But you couldn’t call it June in our house without a fresh strawberry pie!

Note: this pie is best enjoyed on the back porch during thunderstorms on a cool summer night.

An essential part of this recipe is using a pie crust from scratch. I’m still perfecting my technique and don’t really have a recipe because I learned from my grandma who goes by guess! But I hope to master the art of pie crusts soon and share the recipe when I have it!

Ingredients

Pie

1 9-inch homemade pie crust, baked

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (local and organic is best)

1/3 cup raw honey

1/2 cup sugar

3 Tbs cornstarch

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp butter

Whipped Cream

8 oz. heavy cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Pie

Take half of the strawberries and cut off the stems. Then arrange the berries on the baked pie crust, hull side down.

In a saucepan, put the rest of the strawberries, honey, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Cook on medium/low until combined and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Allow the sauce to cool before pouring over the strawberries and pie crust. Chill before serving with homemade whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks begin to form. Slowly add the vanilla and sugar and continue whipping until it reaches desired consistency. Scoop a generous dollop on a slice of pie and enjoy!

Lemon Cheesecake

Around Easter last year, I shared a recipe for Egg-Free Lemon Cheesecake. Since then, I have improved the recipe and would like to give an updated version. This is a great recipe to have on hand for spring and summer or right now in the middle of January when we sometimes wish it was already spring.

This cake features a soft graham cracker crust, sweet lemon filling, and is topped off with a tangy, curd. It’s a rather involved recipe, so I would recommend reading through it before starting so you know what you’re getting into. Enjoy!

Makes one 8 inch cheesecake or four 4 inch cheesecakes

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Filling

1 cup white chocolate chips*

2 Tbs. melted butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. raw honey

2 tsp. lemon extract

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Zest of one lemon

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

1/4 cup water

1/8 tsp. sea salt

2 Tbs. corn starch

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted butter.

Grind graham crackers in a food processor and until they are just small crumbs and you have 1 1/2 cups worth. In a small bowl, mix the cracker crumbs with sugar and add melted butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips* on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, honey, lemon extract, sea salt, and lemon zest. Use an electric mixer to blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined. Do not over-mix.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking and caving.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, remove the cake let it cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator. Wait at least three hours before serving.

While the cheesecake cools, it is time to make the lemon curd! In a small saucepan, heat the cream, lemon juice, sugar, butter, water, and sea salt on medium heat. Whisk frequently. After about 2-3 minutes, add the cornstarch and whisk continuously until it thickens. You will know the curd is thick enough when it has a custard-like consistency and the whisk leaves a mark in it. Allow to cool slightly before spreading over the cheesecake with a small offset spatula. Do not wait for it to set up completely, as it would be hard to spread. Any leftover curd can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!

Tips

*Be sure to read the ingredients on the white chocolate chips and avoid artificial flavors. I use Trader Joe’s brand because they contain actual cocoa butter.

Make sure you put together the spring form pan correctly. Otherwise, oil from the crust will leak into the oven causing a huge mess. I’ve learned this the hard way. Three times to be exact.

Line a baking sheet with foil and put the spring form pan on it while baking. This will prevent any major mess in the event that some leakage does occur.

Again, whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but this is crucial to cheesecake success! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

If the cake does cave in, the curd will fill the space. To make the edges more appealing, you can make a little buttercream frosting and pipe a boarder around the cake. No one will know that it’s caved in and you get frosting too!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

The lemon curd is naturally an cream color, so if you want it to be yellow, simply add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.