Strawberry Icebox Pie — Lemon Icebox Pie’s Evil Twin
The Strawberry Icebox Pie is one of the best selling desserts at Cotton Blues Restaurant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It’s light, creamy and bursting with fresh strawberries. But this amazing dessert almost failed to make it out of our test kitchen.
It has to be exact, or it doesn’t work
Cotton Blues Owner, Chris Ortego, has a theory when it comes to cooking and baking.
“Cooking is an art, and it’s a flair,” says Ortego. “Baking is a science, and it has to be exact, or it just doesn’t work.”
Mississippi pastry chef, Shaun Davis who was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas has been working with Ortego for seven years, and he’s responsible for executing all the desserts at Cotton Blues.
“You need acidity, you need alkalinity, you need air,” says Davis.
In 2013, Ortego wanted to add some new desserts to the menu. At the time, the popular Mississippi restaurant was already well known for their Lemon Icebox Pie, and they were hoping to convert that success into a strawberry icebox pie.
Ortego says they found a recipe for a Strawberry Icebox Pie online, but it called for making it with gelatin, an ingredient neither Ortego nor Davis were fond of using.
So Ortego asked Davis, how does a Lemon IceBox Pie work?
Davis said “Sweetened condensed milk is the main ingredient of it, so it needs something to thicken it. In Lemon Icebox it’s the acidity of the lemon juice that cooks part of the eggs and makes the condensed milk a lot thicker.”
Unfortunately, strawberries don’t have an acidic quality, so creating a strawberry icebox with the same methodology is nearly impossible.
Never say never
Alway up for a challenge, Davis spent some time brainstorming on how to make a strawberry icebox pie a success.
“He starts looking around, and he comes back with a bottle of red wine vinegar,” says Ortego.
Davis mixed the vinegar into the condensed milk to give it an acidic agent.
And it worked!
“We try it, and it’s wonderful!” says Ortego. They were ready to put it on the menu.
A punch in the gut
The next day, Ortego and Davis come back in and the pie is swimming in two inches of strawberry juice.
The strawberries bled out and ruined the pie.
“I was so disappointed,” said Ortego, “I told Shaun that this was such a good dessert and that it stinks that this isn’t going to work.”
If at first you don’t succeed…
Shaun just said, “Give me some time.”
“It needed a little bit more thickening power,” said Davis.
So Davis tried tossing the fresh chopped strawberries in cornstarch. And Voila!
“That [the cornstarch] keeps all the strawberries from bleeding out, said Ortego. “Combine that with what Shaun did with the vinegar and it’s pure brilliance!”
“As popular as our lemon is, I think the strawberry is a little bit better, but it just shows that this stuff doesn’t happen by accident, says Ortego. “That Strawberry Icebox is a Shaun Davis original, and it’s fantastic!”