Summer berries are here, huzzah! To celebrate, I was going to make a typical fruit tart with cream cheese filling. But then I remembered this wonderful berry pie recipe from Cooks Illustrated and decided to combine the two. It takes some time to put together, but if you like berries and the tangy richness of cream cheese, this pie’s for you!
I went with a graham cracker crust because they’re easy and I secretly think they’re the best part of cheesecake anyway. This is the only part that requires baking and if you use a store-bought graham cracker crust, you won’t have to turn on your oven at all!
Once the crust is baked and cooled, in goes a berry puree that is thickened with cornstarch and simmered briefly on the stovetop. I used frozen berries – they’re cheaper and why not if you’re just going to blend them all up!
After the berry puree has firmed up in the fridge, a lemony-sweet cream cheese layer is spread on top. I found “Greek Cream Cheese” at the market (a combo of cream cheese and greek yogurt) and it tasted great! But you can also use regular or low-fat cream cheese.
And finally, the fun part – decorating with whatever fresh fruit you like! (I realize mandarin orange segments aren’t berries, but they’re happy and yellow so whatevs.)
Berries & Cream Cheese Pie
10 full graham crackers
1 tbsp granulated sugar
5 tbsp melted butter
Berry Filling Ingredients:
2 cups mixed frozen or fresh berries (I used strawberries and raspberries)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (for a healthier version, use neufschatel or Greek Cream Cheese)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1/2 lemon
1. GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Break graham crackers into big pieces and place them and 1 tbsp of sugar into a food processor. Process about 30 seconds or until you have fine crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate using a spoon or measuring cup to get the crust even on the bottom and up the sides. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; transfer to wire rack to cool while you make the berry filling.
2. BERRY FILLING: In a food processor, puree 2 cups of the mixed berries until fully smooth. Press the puree through a mesh strainer and into small saucepan. Reserve a couple tablespoons of this puree to glaze the fruit which will top your pie. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt, then whisk this mixture into the saucepan with the puree. Cook the puree over medium heat, stirring constantly until the puree has thickened to the consistency of pudding. Stir in the lemon juice, then let the puree cool slightly. Pour the puree into the graham cracker crust and refrigerate at least two hours or until the puree has set. (If you’re in a hurry, you can stick the pie in the freezer for 20 minutes).
3. CREAM CHEESE FILLING: In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, combine the softened cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest until smooth and well mixed. Once the berry puree layer is set, spread the cream cheese filling carefully over the top until it is even with the top of the graham cracker crust.
4. DECORATE! Slice up your favorite fruit. Toss red or darker colored fruit with the reserved berry puree to give them a nice shine. (Lighter colored fruit may look discolored when combined with the berry puree). Decorate the top of your pie and refrigerate for a few hours to set before serving.