I’m not sure I’ve ever had a chiffon pie till now. I’ve heard of them, especially lemon and pumpkin, but didn’t know what they were aside from a light, airy filling. But, as we’ve had too much rain here in Virginia, strawberry season dropped to just a couple weeks. Sweet cherries were even shorter. So with almost nothing to work with, and summer heat setting in, I thought “What about something like a dreamsicle push-up pop?” That thought went to chiffon pies and “Why not a dreamsicle chiffon?”
And unlike most pies, chiffon pie has a definite history. Monroe Boston Strause, the Pie King—yes, the Pie King—invented the chiffon pie in 1926. In the face of a nation increasingly turning to decorated cakes, he built a pie empire in L.A. and became a household name. He even wrote a book, Pie Marches On, with thirty-five chapters—each dedicated to the in-and-outs of a unique pie style. I want to get my hands on this book, and I'm curious about how much he influenced modern pie-craft.
So, the chiffon pie. The one he invented started off as a flavored, cornstarch-thickened base folded into a French meringue. Subsequent variations have added gelatin for stability or switched to yolk-thickened weak curds. Some misguided people sub in whipped cream for the meringue. I'm no pie expert, but a meringue and whipped cream have fantastically different taste, flavor, and texture profiles. Meringue is light and airy and while sweet, it's not rich. That's the argument for using it as contrast to dense, rich fillings in meringue pies.
For this pie, I pulled from quite a few different sources. It’s honestly 80% an experiment and what's presented here is a highly revised (and untested) recipe. The base is a weak citrus curd made with orange juice concentrate to boost the flavor. I used a 1:1 ration Swiss meringue for food safety and stability. I poured a base layer of this into a Nilla wafer crust and let it set. I took what was left of filling and folded it into cream chantilly (sweetened vanilla whipped cream) to create a second layer piled on top.
- 1½c coursely crushed Nilla wafers
- ⅓c melted butter
- ¼c sugar
- 1 envelope gelatin
- ¼c cold water
- ½c sugar
- 1c orange concentrate
- zest of 1 orange
- 3 yolks
- 2Tbls Cointreau
- ½tsp vanilla
- 3 whites
- Sugar for 1:1 Swiss meringue
- NO SALT.
- 2c whipping cream
- ¼c sugar
- 1Tbls vanilla
- Make a crumb crust. Bake in a 9" pie plate. Bake 15-20min at 350˚.
- Bloom gelatin in cold water.
- Bring sugar, concentrate, and zest to a boil. Temper into eggs, and return to heat to thicken. It will coat the back of a spoon, but not be as thick as a traditional curd. Remove from heat.
- Whisk gelatin, vanilla, Cointreau to concentrate.
- While cooling, prepare Swiss meringue to stiff peaks.
- In several batches, fold meringue into concentrate mixture. (Chiffon filling.)
- Pour enough chiffon into the baked pie shell to almost fill. Chill in the freezer till set. Cover and set the remainder of the chiffon filling aside.
- Once the filling is set, about an hour, combine sugar, vanilla, and whipping cream. Whip till almost medium peaks.
- Fold into remaining chiffon filling, and top the pie.
- Chill in the fridge for another 1-2 hours before serving.