Despite it being uncomfortably hot and humid this summer, I can’t help but keep baking. The abundance of local fruit has had me churning out treats like the humble peach cobbler to a custardy raspberry tart.
Now, mid-way through the season, I’m lost for inspiration and resorting to simply eating all the berries and stone fruit I cart home from the farmers market out of hand. That’s not exactly a bad thing, but seeing Jennifer Garner bake strawberry chiffon pie with her mom on her #pretendcookingshow on Instagram gave me the push I was looking for to turn the oven back on.
In the most charming Reel, Jennifer and her mom, Pat Garner, bake a chiffon pie using a recipe from the Southern Living Cookbook, which was published in 1989. For over 30 years, this chiffon pie has been a go-to summer dessert in the Garner household and has proven to be timeless. I know this retro dessert is going to be the highlight of my summer baking.
What Is Chiffon Pie?
Chiffon pie is topped with a light, airy filling—though this can mean many things. Most often, the filling is a custard that’s been mixed with beaten egg whites or meringue, as is the case for this pumpkin chiffon pie.
Jennifer’s strawberry chiffon pie is even easier. The filling is just a fluffy combination of whipped cream and chopped strawberries. (The original recipe calls for peaches.)
For me, what was most noteworthy about the chiffon pie that Jennifer made is the crust. Most chiffon pie recipes I’ve seen call for a crumbled cookie crust, like ones made with graham crackers or gingersnap cookies.
The crust for this recipe is a baked meringue that’s given a crust-like structure with the help of saltine cracker crumbs and chopped pecans. The crust is not only light and airy, it’s also wonderfully crunchy and chewy. Jennifer says the combination of the meringue, whipped cream, and fruit is “kind of like Eton mess,” a beloved British dessert.
How To Make Chiffon Pie
Though it would be a delight for us all to get our hands on the Southern Living Cookbook, you can find the recipe created by Mrs. Clifford B. Smith, Sr. on Jennifer’s Reel. I’m definitely giving it a try because it looks so good and easy. Here’s what you do:
Beat egg whites with sugar until stiff peaks form. Then fold saltine cracker crumbs, baking powder, chopped pecans, and a splash of vanilla into the meringue. Spread the mixture out into a buttered pie pan to form a crust. Bake the crust for 30 minutes and let it cool.
In the meantime, beat heavy cream with a little sugar until thickened. Fold in sliced strawberries and spoon the mixture into the crust. Refrigerate until it’s time for dessert. It’s as easy as it sounds!
3 Tips For Making Chiffon Pie
There are so many reasons to try this pie this summer. It doesn’t require the oven to be on for an excessive amount of time, which is a win this time of year, and it comes together without fuss. If you try it, here are three tips:
- Toast the nuts: While the recipe doesn’t call for toasting the pecans before folding them into the meringue, doing so will give the crust a deeper flavor. Since the oven will already be on, simply spread them out on a small rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until toasty and fragrant.
- Keep an eye on the egg whites: When making the meringue, it’s best to keep a close eye on it. Slowly add the sugar as you whip the egg whites, and stop mixing as soon as you have stiff peaks. Overmixing will lead to a grainy, lumpy, and dry meringue—I’d still eat it, but it’s not ideal.
- Swap out the fruit: Follow Jennifer’s lead and use whatever fruit you’d like—raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, cherries, plums, and nectarines all sound delicious.