Partly, this is because last week, when I was leaving campus after the screening of Iphigeneia in my Greek class, I got an email from the Berkeley Public Library telling me that the Joy the Baker Cookbook I had requested was ready for pick-up. And as I waited for the eternally late and legendary 51, which has been immortalized in the poetry of an alumna of my current department, I began to flip through it, wondering which recipe would grab me first.
Though a sucker for peanut butter and sorely tempted by the Peanut Butter Birthday Cake (doesn't even matter that it's not my birthday), I found myself instead eyeing the no-roll pie crust and remembering the cherry cheese pies that my grandmother and I had baked when I first started this blog back in June 2010. While I'm certainly not a woman to get excited about pie, these pies truly did strike me as the embodiment of pie perfection: almost a cheesecake, but really a pie with flaky crust. With the taste of them haunting my memory, I quickly began plotting my next steps, how I would combine Joy's easy pie crust and my grandmother's cheese filling with the pretty strawberries that the Greek had brought home...
And on Saturday afternoon, that's just what I did. Since this was basically the first time I had baked since the Sachertorte and Caramelized Garlic Tart of February, I let my imagination run away with me. I toasted some unsweetened coconut flakes. I took a small square of Italian dark chocolate and shaved it with my zester; sprinkling it on the pie, I liked that the whole thing looked like it had been properly seasoned. Truthfully, it was a well-loved pie, from my first inkling of its imminent creation to my final bite of coconut-covered strawberry cream.
The fact that I'm already wondering what kind of pie I'll bake next confirms it.
Strawberry Cheese Pie with Toasted Coconut and Chocolate Shavings
Yields 7-8 generous slices of creamy, sumptuous pie
Both a family- and Joy the Baker-inspired creation
For the Easy-No Roll Pie Crust (from the Joy the Baker cookbook):
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen
1 heaping tablespoon cold cream cheese
3 Tbsp. milk, cold
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. canola oil
-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.
-Grate frozen butter on a cheese grater.
-Add the frozen butter pieces and cream cheese to the flour mixture and use your fingers to incorporate them into the flour quickly. The mixture should look like a combination of a small pebbles and oat flakes. As Joy says, it should look "shaggy."
-Whisk together the milk and oil and add, all at once, to the flour and butter mixture.
-Use a fork to combine the wet and dry ingredients; make sure that all of the flour is introduced into the liquid.
-Dump into the bottom of a nine-inch pie plate (N.B. the recipe was for a ten-inch pie plate; I used a nine. This meant that my crust was a little thicker, which, for a cheese pie, suited me just fine. I also had a little extra dough at the end, which I formed into a cookie. It was delicious).
-Press the dough into the pie plate and up the sides with your fingers.
-Try to create an evenness, but don't worry if it's a bit marked up from your fingers. The baking will take care of those.
-Heat the oven to 350 F.
-Place foil over the pie dough and cover the foil with uncooked beans (I used some old limas).
-Place pie in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
-Then, remove the foil and baking beans and continue baking for an additional 6-8 minutes (N.B. Joy's recipe said 4-6, but it took a little longer for mine to begin to look golden).
-Remove from oven and let cool before filling.
For the Cheese filling:
1 block of cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream
-Beat whipping cream until light and fluffy with peaks and then set aside.
-Cream the softened block of cheese and add the powdered sugar. Cream again until they are mixed well.
-Add the whipped cream into the mixture and gently fold.
For the toasted coconut (optional):
-Preheat the oven to 300 F.
-Line a cake pan with parchment paper and spread 3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes across it. Try to spread them as evenly as possible.
-Put in the oven for about 5 minutes; coconut browns quickly and you don't want it to burn!
To assemble the pie:
-Cover the pie crust with a thin layer of toasted coconut (N.B. depending on your preferences, you could substitute chocolate instead).
-Spoon in the cheese filling, making sure to spread it evenly.
-Cover the cheese filling with the toasted coconut and sprinkle 3/4 of the shaved chocolate (N.B. I used just a small square of a large bar, but you could use as much as you like) on top.
-Wash and dry about 5-6 medium-sized strawberries.
-Chop them roughly--for the outer edges of the pie, I used halves; as I worked my way to the center, I was cutting them into fourths--and spread them over the pie.
-Dust with the remaining bit of chocolate.
-Let chill in the fridge.
-In about an hour or two, remove and begin slicing and eating to your heart's content!