Recently, a friend threw a casual summer potluck barbecue. The theme was “summer foods you loved as a kid.” I immediately thought of fluff pie, a Jell-O-based dessert that always made an appearance at picnics when I was a kid. In fact, I think of it as a summer pie—even though there’s really nothing seasonal about it.
If you aren’t familiar with this pie, it’s one of those classic back-of-the-box recipes. You whip soft-set lemon Jell-O with whipped topping and spoon it into a crumb crust. That’s it. The filling is basically an impossible-to-mess-up Bavarian cream.
As I went to make the pie, I remembered that my friend’s son can’t eat yellow food color. It makes him break out in hives. For a moment, I thought about making crispy treats for the barbecue but there was just something about that pie. So I decided to make it without the lemon Jell-O.
The first thing I did was check to make sure that freshly squeezed lemon juice wouldn’t inhibit the gelatin from setting. The usual offenders, like pineapple and papaya, were on the list but, thankfully, lemon juice seemed ok. I bloomed powdered gelatin in freshly squeezed lemon juice, whisked in a water-sugar mixture and let it set up for about two hours. Then I whisked the soft gelatin into some sweetened whipped cream, spooned it into a pie shell and hoped it would set. I was a little unsure how much gelatin I’d need to set a filling that was firm enough to slice. The process took a little extra time but, honestly, most of it was inactive.
Fluffy Lemonade Pie
For the Crust
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground gluten-free vanilla cookies about 22 cookies or 1 (10.5-ounce) package, such as Schar brand
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (2 ounces; 56 grams)
For the Filling
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons (2 ounces; 56 grams)
- 2 tablespoons cold water (1 ounce; 28 grams)
- 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
- 3/4 cup cold water (6 ounces; 170 grams)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces; 100 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream (12 ounces; 340 grams)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar (2 ounces; 56 grams)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- For the Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. In small bowl, combine vanilla cookie crumbs and melted butter. Stir with a fork to combine. Mixture should be damp and hold together when pressed. Press crumb mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until set and aromatic, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove crust from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
- For the Filling: Combine lemon juice and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin on top and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
- In a separate small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup water and granulated sugar. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Set aside.
- Cook gelatin mixture over low heat, without allowing liquid to boil, until gelatin is dissolved, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together gelatin mixture and sugar mixture. Chill until soft set, about 2 1/2 hours (the gelatin should wiggle but you don’t want it totally set).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine heavy cream and powdered sugar and whip to medium-firm stiffness. Add gelatin and whip until the gelatin is combined. Spoon into prepared pie crust. Sprinkle lemon zest over the top of the pie. Chill for 6 hours or until fully set. Serve. Leftover pie can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.