What is the perfect Fourth of July dessert? I use the following checklist to decide what I'm going to make:
1. Is it cold and refreshing, a treat I'll want to eat after a day at the beach? I like things like ice pops, fruit salad or a cool and creamy trifle.
2. Does the recipe include fresh fruit in season? July is the time to take advantage of juicy seasonal fruits.
3. Does it display the colors of the flag? Pineapples and mangoes are summery, but they don't say “Star- Spangled Banner” the way raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries do.
4. Does it have the right pedigree? Instead of celebrating with tiramisu or a croquembouche, I like to choose a dessert in the American idiom. A cobbler, crisp, shortcake or pie would be just the thing after hot dogs and hamburgers.
This year, I plan to hit it out of the park with a dessert that satisfies every requirement: A no-bake icebox pie filled with raspberries and cream and topped with blueberries. As a bonus, it is easy to make and can be prepared two days before serving.
The filling takes just a few minutes to put together: Briefly warm raspberries and sugar on top of the stove to melt the sugar, add some unflavored gelatin, gently fold the fruit into the cream, and scrape the mixture into a prepared crust.
A little unflavored gelatin gives the filling stability. If you've never used gelatin, you may worry that this ingredient will produce a rubbery and synthetic-tasting pie. It won't. It will give the filling a pleasantly firm texture, prevent the fruit and cream from releasing moisture into the crust, and it makes the pie easy to cut into neat and pretty slices.
To get gelatin to do its job, first soak it in a little cool water to dissolve it. Then heat it by stirring it into the warmed raspberries to activate its thickening properties.
You can purchase a pre-made graham cracker crust at the supermarket, or you can make your own. It's simple: Grind 11 whole graham crackers, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add 5 tablespoons of melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Then press the mixture firmly into a pie pan and up the sides. Bake it in a 350 degree oven until it is firm, 6 to 8 minutes. Be sure to let it cool completely before you add your filling, or it will melt into a puddle.
RASPBERRY-AND-CREAM ICEBOX PIE WITH BLUEBERRY SAUCE AND WHIPPED CREAM
For the pie
3 tablespoons cold water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 pint fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon framboise or other
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 prepared graham cracker crust
For the blueberry sauce
1 pint blueberries, washed and picked over
1/4 cup sugar or more to taste
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Make pie: Place cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let gelatin stand to dissolve.
2. Combine raspberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch. Stir in gelatin mixture. Scrape into a bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Combine heavy cream, liqueur and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Whip with an electric mixer until cream holds soft peaks. Gently fold cream into raspberry mixture.
4. Scrape filling into prepared pie shell. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
5. Make blueberry sauce: Combine berries and sugar in a medium bowl and stir, mashing about half of the berries with the back of a spoon and leaving the remaining berries intact. Let the berries stand, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved.
6. Make whipped cream: Combine cream, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whip with an electric mixer until cream holds stiff peaks. Do not overwhip.
7. Slice pie, spoon blueberry sauce and whipped cream over each slice, and serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.