Summer celebrations call for special food, but heating up the kitchen isn’t nearly as attractive an option as the various other forms of summer fun.

This time of year, when a recipe’s instructions say to “Bake at 350 degrees for an hour,” they might as well instruct the cook to turn on the furnace.

Fortunately, there are plenty of summer desserts that 

don’t involve baking, and, even better, won’t leave cooks feeling like they’ve been in the sauna.

Among the coolest of summer desserts are pies that substitute the refrigerator for the oven.

Known for decades as icebox pies, these pies are lighter than ice cream, prettier than cookies and a perfect way to show off some of the summer’s freshest produce.

Most icebox pies forego the traditional pastry crust in favor of a cookie crust.

Many recipes for icebox pies call for graham cracker crusts, but other cookies, including Oreos, peanut butter or mint cookies, also make tasty and crunchy crusts.

There is even a ready-made Oreo crust available on the shelves next to the ready-to-fill graham cracker crusts.

While making a graham cracker crust is far easier than making and rolling out a pastry crust, the ready-mades have one big advantage for the heat-averse, which is that they don’t require any baking.

Actually, baking for five or 10 minutes isn’t an absolute requirement even for homemade cookie crusts, but it will make them a little crisper and help them hold together when pie slices are removed from the pan.

Not all icebox pies start with a sweet cookie crust. Margarita pie lands on a base of crushed pretzels, which adds the salty note that sets off a good margarita.

Like any margarita worth its salt, margarita pie balances tart citrus and sweetness and tops these flavors with a hint of tequila.

Citrus also flavors a unique three-ingredient icebox pie. Avocados don’t show up on the dessert table very often, but the creamy texture of a ripe avocado mimics the texture of a good cream pie, and does so without butter or cream.

Whirring avocados, sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice together is all it takes to make the filling, which can be spooned into a graham cracker crust, chilled and topped with whipped cream and fruit or nuts as desired.

The lemon provides the most pronounced taste, but the color is unmistakably avocado.

For a pie that celebrates a broader range of summer fruit, Greek yogurt makes a simple filling that would pair well with any cookie crust.

The already-thick yogurt is drained overnight to remove as much moisture as possible, leaving a filling that stands up to almost any combination of berries, peaches or other fruit.

Icebox pies are quick to make, but they do take time to set.

The avocado pie takes several hours to reach a firmness that cuts easily, and the margarita pie will spend even longer in the freezer before being ready.

But those hours of setting up are time the cook can spend cooling off somewhere besides a hot kitchen.


Avocado Icebox Pie

SERVES: 8-10

Graham cracker crust

  • 1 1⁄4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 3 large ripe avocados, seeded, peeled and mashed
  • 1⁄2 cup lemon juice
  • Lemon zest, to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • Toppings

Whipped cream

Sliced almonds

Graham cracker crust

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl until well combined.

Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate to form the pie crust.

Freeze the crust for at least 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Filling

In a blender or food processor, blend the avocados, lemon juice, lemon zest and sweetened condensed milk until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust. Top with whipped cream and sliced almonds, if desired.

Place the pie in refrigerator for 3-4 hours and allow to set.

(Recipe courtesy California Avocado Commission)


Margarita Pie

SERVES: 8

  • 1 1⁄2 cups finely crushed pretzels
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Zest of 1 medium lime
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons gold tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec
  • 11⁄2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 drops green food coloring

Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Combine the crushed pretzels, sugar and butter in a medium bowl.

Mix together well and press into the prepared pie plate. Chill the crust for at least one hour.

Whip the cream until billowy. Combine the lime zest, lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, tequila and triple sec in a medium bowl. Fold in 2⁄3 of the whipped cream and the food coloring.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared crust. Cover and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Decorate the pie with the remaining whipped cream. Serve cold and keep leftovers in the freezer.

(Recipe from “Peace Meals,”

by the Junior League of Houston)


Yogurt Pie

SERVES: 8

  • Graham cracker crust
  • 11⁄4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 32 ounces plain 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh fruit — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or peaches

Graham cracker crust

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl until well combined.

Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate to form the pie crust.

Freeze the crust for at least 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Filling

Line a mesh sieve with three paper towels over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the sieve. Refrigerate and drain 8 hours or overnight.

The yogurt should be as dry as possible. Discard the liquid in the bowl.

Arrange 1⁄3 of the fruit on the bottom of the pie shell.

Mix the drained yogurt and sugar until combined. Pour the mixture into pie shell, covering fruit.

Chill for 2 hours or more. Top with remaining fruit before serving.

(Recipe courtesy Chobani Greek Yogurt)

 

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