If you're looking for inspiration in your pies, turn to the folks who are winning contests. Among winners in the recent National Pie Championship is this creation from Naylet LaRochelle of Miami. She prepared a crust from scratch (using Crisco, one of the event sponsors), but you can save time using a ready-made crust. Look for more winning recipes at www.piecouncil.org.
-- June Naylor, Special to the Star-Telegram
My big fat Italian strawberry-basil wedding pie
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1 prepared and baked pie crust for a 9-inch pie
For the filling:
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup whipping cream
1 (10-ounce) jar Smucker's Strawberry Spreadable Fruit
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
11/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled, crushed and some of the liquid drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1. For filling, combine gelatin and 1/4 cup whipping cream in a small microwavable bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each, until gelatin is completely dissolved. Let sit 5-8 minutes or until slightly cool to touch.
2. In a large bowl, stir together strawberry spreadable fruit, mascarpone, vanilla extract, salt, lemon peel and gelatin mixture until well-combined. Add fresh strawberries and basil; stir until combined.
3. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat on high remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the strawberry mixture. Pour filling into cooled, prebaked pie shell. Refrigerate 2-3 hours, or until filling is set.
4. Top with freshly whipped sweetened cream, or make this vanilla bean-white chocolate mousse topping: In a small saucepan, melt 3/4 cup white chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons cream, stirring often, over low heat until completely melted. Remove from heat; stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste. Let chocolate cool (but not harden). In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into cooled white chocolate mixture until well-combined. Spread over top of pie, or pipe in a decorative manner. Return pie to refrigerator for 2-3 hours or until topping is set. Garnish pie with white chocolate curls and/or white fondant flowers, if desired.