2poundsfresh strawberries,divided and hulled (do not slice prior)
Severaldropsred food coloring(about 5-7, depending on your berries)
For the Whipped Cream Cheese Filling:
1 1/4cupsheavy whipping cream
4ouncescream cheeseat room temperature (I used reduced fat Neufchatel. Just don’t use fat free.)
1/2cuppowdered confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a deep 10-inch pie dish and set aside.
Make the crust: In a medium bowl, stir together flour, powdered sugar, and pecans. Pour in melted butter.
Mix by hand until combined
Press into the prepared dish. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool completely to room temperature, so as not to melt the cream filling.
Fresh Strawberry Topping: Mash enough strawberries to make 1 cup (I found it helps to slice them into fairly small pieces first. The mash will be a little chunky, but the berries should be fairly well broken down. Do not puree.) Place mashed berries in a small saucepan with the water. In a small, separate bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch, then add all at once to berries.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the food coloring a few drops at a time, until you reach a nice strawberry hue (mashing the berries dulls their color, and the food coloring makes for a more appealing finished product). Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely. (Again, you will melt the cream layer if you rush it).
Cut tops off of remaining strawberries. The top of each berry will be flat and the rest of the berry should be left whole, allowing the berry to “stand” on its top with the tip up. Set aside.
Make the Whipped Cream Cheese Filling: Whip the heavy cream in a large mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a smaller bowl and set aside.
Place the cream cheese in the now empty larger bowl (no need to wash it), and beat gently until smooth. Add the powdered sugared a few tablespoons at a time and incorporating after each, then add vanilla. Continue to beat until completely smooth.
Carefully fold in whipped cream.
Spread the whipped cream cheese filling into the cooled pecan shortbread crust and refrigerate for a half-hour.
When crushed berry topping is cool and the crust and cream filling have chilled, arrange the reserved berries with the cut-sides down and tips pointing upward on top of the cream layer. The berries will look like they are “standing” on the cream filling. Start at the outside and place berries side by side in a circle, moving inward, until the cream surface is covered (some cream will show through.)
Carefully spoon the cooled fresh strawberry topping over the pie, using a small spoon to dribble it between each berry. The cream layer should be completely covered, but do not overfill, as extra topping will simply slop over the side. Save any leftover topping for toast, waffles, ice cream, or go at it with a spoon.
Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
TO STORE: Cover and refrigerate the pie for up to 5 days.
TO FREEZE: Wrap the pie tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze it for up to 2 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving. The strawberries may be a little liquidy once thawed, but the pie will still taste delicious.