Once again Gourmandistan was lucky enough to experience Dewees Island, a place we have grown to love over many years. Our route to this small South Carolina island always includes an overnight stay in Asheville, North Carolina, possibly the hippest place in the Tarheel State and now home to one of Michelle’s mother’s dear friends who was also Michelle’s favorite high school English teacher.
In Asheville, we enjoyed another dinner at Chai Pani and left with homemade bread and Kilwins caramel corn as we headed south. As it has been a somewhat cold and wet spring, we had yet to experience local Kentucky strawberries. We were happy to have our expectations confirmed that South Carolina still had some, and bought several pints at a farm stand not too far from our coastal enclave. Some of the berries went into bowls of yogurt, oatmeal and cereal, but many went into an icebox pie with an intriguing gelatin-based strawberry topping based on a recipe Michelle found in a back issue of Garden & Gun Magazine.
With its dense crust and cream cheese-thick center, we found this “pie” to be more like a cheesecake with a firmly set layer of strawberry puree. At the beach, we used a large spoon to break up the pretzels, resulting in a very firm crust that tended to shatter when touched by a knife. The various resulting shards of crust, center and topping were delicious, however, and we wondered what it might be like with a less “rustic” bottom layer.
Our return through Asheville meant another visit with our formerly Western Kentucky friend, who gifted us with more delicious bread and some North Carolina strawberries.
Once home, Michelle decided to use the berries to make another icebox pie, this time pulverizing the pretzels for the crust in our food processor. In her familiar environs Michelle discovered the crust was more comfortable in a springform than it had been in a regular old pie pan from the beach house kitchen, but even the finely-ground pretzel crust did not easily cut, even with a sharp knife.
We think this “pie” might be better served as bite-sized bars, but even though we must eat our wedge-shaped pieces with one hand ready to catch straying crust bits, we are happily making our way through the North Carolina berry version. We hope to return again to Dewees Island, and see our now-Ashevillian friend again. And, should the weather cooperate, we may be able to bring along some Kentucky strawberry pretzel icebox bars.
STRAWBERRY PRETZEL ICEBOX PIE
(adapted from Garden & Gun Magazine)
- Generous 3 c. pretzels
- ½ c. lightly packed light brown sugar
- 3 TB Ovaltine chocolate malt powder (optional)
- 1-3/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350° F, with a rack in the center.
Crush pretzels into a fine meal in a food processor. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and malt powder and stir to combine. Then, drizzle in melted butter and mix until fully incorporated. Scoop the mixture into a 10″ springform pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust mixture firmly into the pan.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly toasted. Cool the pan on wire rack, then freeze until ready to use.
- 1 c. heavy cream
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 8-oz. package cream cheese
- ¾ c. confectioners sugar
Combine the cream and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until soft peaks form. Remove the whipped cream from the mixer bowl and reserve in a another bowl.
Add cream cheese and powdered sugar to the stand mixer bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.
Spoon filling into pie crust. Smooth surface with a spatula, and then return pie to the freezer.
- 1 lb. ripe strawberries, hulled
- 1 (¼ oz.) envelope unflavored gelatin
- ¾ c. granulated sugar
Purée strawberries in a blender or food processor. Reserve ½ cup of purée in a small bowl, and combine the rest with sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring sugar and strawberry purée almost to a boil, stirring frequently.
Meanwhile, add gelatin to the ½ cup of reserved strawberry purée and mix. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then add to the simmering strawberry/sugar mixture and whisk to dissolve gelatin. Once gelatin is dissolved, remove from heat. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve while it’s still hot. Then let cool to room temperature.
Poor cooled strawberry mixture over pie. Return to freezer overnight. A few hours before serving, put pie in refrigerator.