Hurrah! The DuPage County Fair opens today.
If you've missed all the great summer fun at this annual event, this is the year to start or renew a family tradition and reconnect with farm life.
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I'll be at the Wheaton fair grounds this morning judging entries in the food competitions and back again Saturday, July 24, for a couple of new cooking contest including the Fair Association's mayoral pie challenge
After judging I often walk around the foods building to see people's responses to blue ribbon winners. Occasionally someone will admire a glistening cake or golden loaf and say they couldn't do the same. Hog wash, I say.
As much as I try to inspire people to give baking a try, I understand the desire to give our ovens a summer holiday. Who wants to bake when the heat's on outside?
With that in mind I set out to create a breezy pie without all those pesky crust and cooked filling issues; a recipe so tempting you want to eat the slice in the photo.
I turned to my collection of California State Fair recipes, targeting any no-bake dessert for inspiration. A fresh raspberry recipe caught my eye in the ice cream section, but oddly enough ice cream wasn't listed as an ingredient.
Looking closer I noticed this raspberry pie listed no oven time and a surprising technique to mimic the smooth texture of ice cream - egg whites beaten with sugar into a glossy meringue, then combined with raspberry puree. Ingenious.
That recipe brought to mind a mishap when I recently made baked Alaska. I used a dried egg white product, Just Whites (to avoid using raw eggs), but I mistakenly used much less water than recommended to reconsititute the whites. I didn't even notice until taking my first bite of the baked Alaska. The smooth, creamy texture of the meringue caught me off guard and got me thinking about how dried egg whites could work magic in a frozen pie recipe.
Why not substitute fruit puree, with its high water content, for the warm liquid needed to rehydrate the egg whites? As a bonus the filling has more intense fruit flavor and a brilliant berry hue.
For the fruit puree, I mixed strawberries and raspberries drawing upon the flavor strengths of both berries. I happen to like the visual appeal of seeds, but if you choose to strain the seeds out you won't lose any flavor. Keep a few berries for garnish, but select the ripest berries for the puree.
While beating the meringue, test for sweetness after adding 3/4 cup sugar: your taste buds and ripeness of the berries vary widely. Add more sugar if necessary. Do not add sugar to the whipped cream as that would over sweeten the pie.
Oreo cookies offer great taste and easy preparation for a no bake crust recipe. You can substitute a store bought crust, but you'll lose the fresh taste.
Go to the DuPage County Fair this week, get inspired and make this pie. See you there!
• Annie Overboe, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, lives in Villa Park. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.