The Quest for the Best Chiffon Pies
Dennis Weaver & Debbie Frantzen
Chiffon pies are ethereal–light and dreamy, refreshing, melt-in-your-mouth affairs. They are perfect for summertime as well as anytime a light, less-filling dessert is desired.
We set off to find the best chiffon pies. Mostly, it was Debbie’s project but she and I (Dennis) collaborated and, as usual, she did the photography and I did most of the writing.
A requirement of chiffon pies is gelatin whether it be unflavored or commercial brands with flavor and sugar such as Jell-O®. We concentrated on recipes using unflavored gelatin so that we could experiment with flavors and fruit and adjust sweetness to taste. We gathered stacks of chiffon pie recipes from books and online and segregated them into categories:
- Those that required cooking and those that did not.
- Those that used eggs and those that did not.
- Those that called for a baked pastry crust and those that used a crumb crust.
We made pies for four days and tweaked the recipes until they were scrumptious. When we found a winner, we ran slices down to the store to see how well customers liked them. We’ll share our findings with you including the best recipes.
We wanted great recipes as well as methods for adapting other fruits and creating new chiffon pies. We continued to experiment with variations and answer the following questions:
- Can we substitute other fresh and frozen fruits?
- Can we add cream cheese for a richer flavor and more body when desired?
- Can we use frozen fruit juice concentrate in place of fruit or fruit juice? If so, that would open an array of other pie possibilities?
We made pies with cooked fillings and without. We made pies with and without eggs. There weren’t any types that we didn’t like, however, we liked some better than others. Some were certainly quicker and easier to make than others. This is what we found:
- Crumb crusts are better than pastry crusts. Chiffon fillings are so light and airy. We much preferred the contrast of crumb crusts to the chewier texture of baked pie crusts.
- Cooking is not required. You can make great chiffon pies without cooking and are simpler and quicker to make.
- Substance is nice. Chiffon pies can be so light and airy that they seem to disappear in your mouth. The inclusion of enough fat in the form of dairy products creates a pleasant “mouth feel” and so we preferred recipes that contained whipped cream or other dairy over whipped egg whites.
- Raw eggs are not necessary. Yes, raw eggs can be safe with enough sugar but where we can, we do without. We concentrated on recipes that did not require eggs or in which the eggs were cooked. In the end, we preferred those recipes without eggs.
- Break out the springform pan. It’s best to make your chiffon pies in a nine-inch springform pan. Chiffon pies are fragile creatures, especially in a crumb crust, so it’s difficult to dig picture-perfect slices from a pie pan. A springform pan, particularly a glass-based springform pan, is the perfect solution.
The Answers to Questions
We found that by using a base recipe we could substitute different fruits. Depending on the type of fruit and its ripeness, the sweetness and flavor differ. We simply tasted the filling along the way and increased the amount of fruit or sugar to achieve the taste we wanted.
Softened cream cheese can be whipped and added to many recipes. It adds a nice flavor, richness, and mouth feel. Our favorite recipes included sweetened condensed milk. Our testers preferred recipes that included either sweetened condensed milk or cream cheese or both.
You can also make chiffon pies with frozen fruit juice concentrates. The fruit juice concentrate didn’t pack the flavor punch we expected–however a quarter cup of lemon juice sharpened the flavor and made very nice pies. You will find included a recipe for a raspberry guava pie made with fruit juice concentrate.
The Right Equipment
Use a 9-inch springform pan—with a glass base. Sure, you can make most of these pies in a deep dish pie pan but you won’t get show stopping neat slices from a pie pan like you will with a springform pan with a glass base. Peel the ring off and cut slices right on the glass base.
Most of these pies were made in a Candy Apple Red Silicone Springform Pan. Some were made in a nonstick springform pan. We much prefer the silicone pan. The silicone ring peels off like a candy wrapper. While it’s not necessary for these pies, we love the leak-proof double seal on the silicone pan.
We use Wonder Cups all the time and this no exception. The adjustable measure is accurate and the slide of the inner cup cleanly and quickly deposits the ingredients into the bowl without digging and scraping.
Here are our resulting favorite chiffon pie recipes. Consider these as types and experiment with different fruits, fruit juice concentrates, and the addition of cream cheese.
- Raspberry Chiffon Pie. People in the store immediately asked for this recipe. We preferred this pie with the seeds strained from the puree.
- Blackberry Chiffon Pie. This recipe makes a beautiful pie. You need to stop and strain the seeds from the fresh or frozen berries but this pie is well worth the extra step.
- Key Lime Chiffon Pie. This may have been the favorite in the store. With the inclusion of dairy, key limes are not necessary and regular limes can be sued.
- Lemon Chiffon Pie. Great pie. It’s better with fresh lemon juice instead of the bottled juice found on your grocer’s shelves.
- Blueberry Chiffon Pie. You can use fresh or frozen blueberries to make this strikingly colored pie.
- Peach Chiffon Pie. We’ve made this pie for years. It’s luscious and we had to include it in this work.
- Strawberry Chiffon Pie. This is a great pie. A drop of Red Red Americolor Gel makes this pie more vibrant.
- Chiffon Pie made with Frozen Juice Concentrates. We made this with raspberry guava frozen fruit juice concentrate but you can choose your favorite.
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