Summer in the South, the heat, the humidity, is best dealt with by a cool slice of fresh watermelon. The thwack of a big knife slicing into the thick rind and the slurp as it cuts through the flesh is up there on the list of summer sounds with crickets humming and the sprinkler whirring. When I think of watermelon, I think of fireflies, because I remember summer evenings rounded out by a cold slice, watching the fireflies twinkle over the lawn, juice dripping down my chin, fingers sticky enough to like when there’s nothing left but rind.
For some time now, I have wanted to make watermelon into a pie. Not a kitchy watermelon sherbet pie, or some really old school watermelon rind preserve pie, but a cool creamy slice of summer. It has been a hit and miss exercise, lots of failures before I got on the right trail. But I finally got to the pie promised land. A sweet cookie crust and a creamy topping surrounding a cool, soft, jeweled pink, quivering burst of watermelon. Yes, I am quite pleased with myself over this one. This is a great summer dessert, and can be made over the course of a few days – crust one day, filling the next, topped with cream and served the next. Lazy party planning at its best.
For the Crust:
1 (10 ounce) box shortbread cookies, like Lorna Doons
¼ c sugar
½ cup butter, melted
For the Filling:
6 cups seedless watermelon cubes (from about a 4 pound slice), to make about 4 cups puree
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 Tablespoon lime juice
For the Topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees,
Process the cookies in a food processor with the sugar until crumbly. Add the melted butter and process until the crumbs are wet. Scrape the crumbs into a glass or ceramic pie plate and press them in the bottom and up the sides of the pan to make a nice, cohesive crust. You may have a little bit more of the crumbs than you need.
Bake the crust for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool completely and chill in the fridge.
For the filling
Puree the watermelon chunks in a blender, then pour it through a wire sieve into a large saucepan. Push on the solids to extract the juice, then discard the solids and thoroughly rinse the sieve. You should have around 4 cups of puree. Measure out ¼ cup of the watermelon juice with a small measuring jug and set aside. Add the sugar and lime juice to the watermelon juice in medium pot, stir, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. While the juice is coming to the boil, add the cornstarch to the reserved juice and whisk until the mixture is completely smooth.
When the juice is boiling, whisk the cornstarch mixture again, then whisk it into the boiling juice. Boil for 4 minutes, whisking constantly and scraping the sides and bottom of the pot. The mixture will begin to thicken. Pour the mixture through the cleaned sieve into a bowl to remove and lumps that might form. Leave the filling to cool for about 20 minutes.
Scrape the slightly cooled mixture into the prepared crust, smoothing it out to fill the crust and have a nice, flat surface. Chill the pie in the fridge for an hour until it’s a little firm, then cover it with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight until completely firm. It is okay if the plastic wrap sticks to the filling, it will come right up.
For the Topping:
Whip the cream until soft peaks form, then drizzle in the sugar and whip until very stiff peaks form. Scoop the cream onto the chilled pie filling and spread it to the edges of the crust, covering all the filling. Chill in the fridge for an hour before serving. The pie will keep in the fridge for a day.
This pie is great right out of the fridge, but I have discovered that serving after it’s been out of the fridge for half an hour or more intensifies the watermelon flavor. But don’t leave it outdoors!
If you have some leftover watermelon, why not make some Watermelon Sweet Tea?