Fruit pies are a hit with me any time. If I had to choose between all of the desserts available to me, it would be pie. Pie is not very friendly when it comes to carbohydrates and fat so I knew there had to be a way to improve my favorite dessert and still enjoy it. Forget the phrase ‘have your cake and eat it too’, it is ‘have your pie and eat it too’ for me. The crust is made with low-sodium, gluten-free pretzels that I find available just about everywhere now. There is no butter in the crust, but fat-free cream cheese instead. Right there you cut down 132 grams of fat and about 1080 calories when you use fat-free cream cheese rather than melted butter for the standard 9-inch graham cracker crust. Wow, that is significant. The crust is crunchy, flavorful, and just right for a fresh-fruit pie. If you substitute the sugars with a workable sugar substitute, you can even cut out more carbohydrates.
This recipe will make a 9-inch pie plus four individual 4-inch pies.
4 oz. fat-free cream cheese at room temperature
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cups brown sugar
6 heaping cups of cleaned, fresh strawberries cut into small pieces
1 ½ cup water
1 3-ounce package strawberry, unsweetened gelatin (I only use plant-based gelatin.)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Wash your berries and drain on a towel to absorb extra liquid. Cut your berries in half but if the berries are huge as some are, cut into smaller pieces. The bigger the pieces your berries are, the less the pie will hold together when your serve it. Set the berries aside.
In a deep bowl combine the crushed pretzels, cinnamon, cream cheese, and brown sugar. With a fork or a pastry tool blend until you have a small, even-sized crumb. Press about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cup of crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Press up the edges just a bit. Divide the remaining crumb mixture among your individual dishes. Bake in a preheated 350˚ oven for ten minutes. Remove to cooling rack. While cooling add the water and the sugar for the filling in a saucepan and heat until it just begins to simmer, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch with a whisk and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. This takes about an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat as soon as you see your sauce thicken to about the consistency of ketchup. Stir in the two gelatins. Be sure to blend well to eliminate any lumps. Cool in the refrigerate 15 minutes. The sauce for the filling should thicken further and be somewhat cool to the touch after the 15 minutes. Evenly place 4 heaping cups of the berries in the 9-inch pie pan. Divide the remaining berries among the four individual dishes. The berries in all of your pies should be somewhat level and not high in the center or the sauce will not reach the top berries. This is another reason not to use huge halves of berries. Drizzle the sauce over all the pies. The small pies will take only a few tablespoons and the remainder will be for the large pie. Cover and chill pies at least one hour.
Serve with your favorite topping if desired. I like a bit of fat-free vanilla ice cream on mine! There are fat-free, non-dairy creamers out there but be sure you are comfortable with their ingredients before you use them!