Berries, Cream and Chocolate
Berries are plentiful this time of year, so I decided to celebrate their abundance with a berry extravaganza. I craved fresh berries with chantilly cream, the fluffy, French-style vanilla whipped cream. I also longed for the taste of a homemade berry pie.
So I thought it would be fun to put them together and make a pie filled with berries and cream. Better yet, why not add chocolate? I find that berries and chocolate make a winning combination, as long as there is the right balance so the chocolate does not overpower the delicate taste of the berries.
I used a German trick of brushing the pastry base with a thin layer of melted bittersweet chocolate. Besides adding a delectable accent, the chocolate helps keep the pastry crisp by preventing the filling from softening it.
Then I filled the crust with chantilly cream, into which I had folded blueberries and raspberries. The pie was sensational. Another time I tried it with halved strawberries, and this version of the pie was also luscious and beautiful. A week later I prepared the dessert again and added mini chocolate chips to the berry filling to enhance the subtle chocolate taste. This was the best one of all.
Fortunately, this scrumptious pie is easy to make. When I have time, I prepare a tart shell from pastry. For a quick version, I bake a frozen pie shell or I make a crust from refrigerated folded pie dough from the supermarket. The result is a terrific berry dessert that can be ready in short order for my family or for unexpected guests.
BERRY AND CREAM PIE WITH CHOCOLATE
1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked
2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries (sliced about 1/2-inch thick)
1 cup whipping cream, well-chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Additional strawberry slices and mini chocolate chips for garnish
As a variation, you may use 3/4 cup fresh blueberries and 3/4 cup fresh raspberries. Garnish pie with a few blueberries and raspberries.
Let pie shell cool. Melt chopped chocolate in small bowl above pan of hot water set over low heat. Stir until smooth. Remove pan from water. Let cool. Brush chocolate on base and sides of pie shell but not on top edge of crust. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
Halve any large strawberry slices.
Combine whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in large chilled bowl and whip until stiff. Fold chocolate chips and sliced strawberries into cream mixture. Spoon filling into pie. Spread evenly, mounding in center. Refrigerate pie, uncovered, about 30 minutes before serving. (You can keep pie up to 1 day in refrigerator.)
Before serving, garnish with ring of strawberry slices and sprinkling of mini chocolate chips in center. When serving, press firmly with knife to cut pastry base with its firm chocolate coating.
Makes 6 servings.