Luscious No-fat, No-work Berry Pies

Posted: May 17, 1995

Strawberry pie made with truly ripe strawberries is one of the best treats of spring, especially when it has a creamy vanilla filling.

Unfortunately, many lovers of strawberry pie do not indulge in their favorite dessert, assuming that such a tasty sweet must be rich. Others feel they are too busy to bake their own strawberry pie because of the work involved in making the crust and filling.

The good news is, you can now make a speedy, effortless strawberry pie with a nonfat vanilla filling that is absolutely delicious. The trick is to use ready-to-eat packaged pie crust and new dairy products - fat-free cream cheese and sour cream.

Make a quick filling by mixing cream cheese with sour cream, sugar and pure vanilla extract. You don't even need to cook it. Just spoon it into the crust and top with fresh strawberries.

For a festive touch, coat the strawberries with a glaze made from red currant jelly, as they do in elegant French patisseries. Simply heat the jelly and, if you like, add a bit of fruit brandy or liqueur.

You can use this technique for making pies with other soft fruit, too. Fresh raspberry pie is great prepared this way, and so are peach and nectarine pies. You can vary the flavor and color of the topping by melting different types of jelly or fruit preserves. Clear jellies are quickest; preserves with pieces of fruit need to be strained after they are heated.

Try these easy no-bake pies. You'll be amazed at what delectable, low-fat desserts you can prepare in practically no time and with no trouble.

PERFECT STRAWBERRY PIE

1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese (bar type, not spreading type),

cut up

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 packaged (9-inch) graham cracker crust

3 cups small or medium strawberries (about 1-pint basket)

1/3 cup red currant jelly

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon kirsch or other fruit brandy, optional

Place cream cheese in mixing bowl and let soften slightly. Beat until smooth. Beat in sugar, followed by sour cream and vanilla. Pour into crust. Refrigerate, uncovered, while preparing strawberries.

Rinse and hull strawberries. Pat dry. Halve them lengthwise. Arrange them on top of cream cheese filling, beginning at outer edge of pie and placing them cut-side down.

Melt jelly with 2 teaspoons water in small saucepan over low heat, stirring often. Remove from heat. Stir in kirsch. Cool slightly. Brush or spoon jelly over berries. Spoon remaining jelly in spaces between. Refrigerate, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Refrigerate any leftover pie uncovered. Makes six servings.

For Strawberry Pie With Strawberry Glaze: Substitute 1/3 cup strawberry jelly for the red currant jelly. Do not add water or kirsch.

For Perfect Raspberry Pie: Substitute 2 cups raspberries for the strawberries. Do not cut them.

Faye Levy is the author of "30 Low-Fat Meals in 30 Minutes" (Warner Books).

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