Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mysteries of Pittsburgh: How to Make Fresh Strawberry Pie, an Eat’n Park copycat by Cleo Coyle

I first posted my copycat recipe for Fresh Glazed Strawberry Pie back in 2009. For a short time, the link lived on my website, and then I bumped it for newer posts. With strawberry season upon us, I thought it was about time I shared this baby again. But first, a few words about its Pittsburgh origins...

I have plenty of favorite diners here in Queens, New York, but my heart belongs to Eat'n Park, a beloved regional diner chain located where I grew up, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The place began during the days of the 1950’s car hops when everyone thought it was real keen to park and eat right in their hot rods.

Eat'n Park doesn’t serve you in your "ride" anymore. They're now a family restaurant and coffee shop chain serving a great American menu and the most amazing fresh glazed strawberry pie that I ever had.

I actually dropped a note to Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, suggesting he check it out. 

BTW - If you're a fan of Guy's show, and you’re wondering if he's ever visited any of your favorite diners or dives, click here and scroll down. The site lists all of the diners and dives (by state) that Guy has featured on his TV show thus far.

Back to that pie... 

My husband, Marc, and I grew up on Eat'n Park's food, and for years we pined for their strawberry pie because nobody even tries to do it the same way here in New York. Consequently, three summers ago, I decided to step up and attempt a copycat recipe. My multiple experiments were, well . . . interesting. Witness the beauty below.

Pretty to look at but about as tasty as waxed fruit. I’d used too much unflavored gelatin, which gave it great firmness but after a few hours rendered it as rubbery as an inner tube.

Next I reduced the gelatin way down—and got soup. Then I added cornstarch for thickening and the raw, chalky taste made my husband want to gag. Back to the drawing board . . . and finally, eureka! A combo of flavored gelatin, unflavored gelatin, flour, sugar, water, and strawberry jam created one of the best glazed strawberry pies we ever tasted.

Is it a worthy copycat Eat'n Park pie recipe? We think so. Now when warm weather begs for a delicious 
chilled fruit pie with sweet whipped cream, I whip up this recipe, take a bite, and suddenly I'm back in Someplace Special.

(And if you're from
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, grew up on Chipped Ham Sandwiches, and can actually pronounce the names of the Three Rivers, then the phrase "Someplace Special" won't be a mystery to you. :))

Cleo Coyle’s 

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband. 
Learn about their books 
by clicking here or here.

Servings: Makes one 9-inch pie      


2 pounds (about 2 quarts) fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (for thickening)
2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin (for flavor & jelling)
2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (to speed & fortify jelling)
3 tablespoons strawberry jam or jelly (for glazing flavor - do not use diet 
   or fruit juice sweetened)
1-1/4 cup water
1 pre-baked pie shell*

*Note on pie shell: Use my favorite Sweet Pie Crust recipe. (You'll find it attached to the PDF of my Strawberry Pie recipe here.) Or use your own favorite pie or tart crust recipe. In a pinch, frozen or store-bought pie crusts will work. Just be sure to bake them first.

Step 1—Prepare strawberries: Because berries retain water, do not
wash until ready to use. Dry completely, gently squeezing each berry with
a paper towel. Remove stems and cut in half. If berries are large,
cut into quarters. Place cut berries in a bowl and set aside.

Step 2—Combine dry ingredients: In a separate, dry bowl combine
sugar, flour, strawberry and unflavored gelatins. With a dry fork whisk
these ingredients together. Use fork prongs to press out lumps in flour.
(Make sure bowl and fork are truly dry. Stray drops will clump up your

Step 3—Make glaze: In a nonstick saucepan, stir together water and
strawberry jam (or jelly) and bring to boil over medium heat. Stir in dry
ingredients a little at a time until completely dissolved. Bring to a second
boil and simmer and stir for 8 full minutes (do not remove early). Use your
spoon or spatula to press out any visible clumps from your dry ingredients.
As glaze cooks, it will thicken and darken. Bubbles will become large and
make quiet popping sounds. After 8 minutes, remove from heat.

Step 4—Glaze strawberries: Pour hot glaze over fresh, cut strawberries.
Fold gently to coat evenly and mound into baked and cooled pie shell (or
store bought crust). With clean fingers, arrange the strawberries to make
a pretty presentation by turning the sliced sides down. Chill in refrigerator
for 2–3 hours to set. Because newly glazed berries will stick to plastic wrap,
do not cover until after the pie is well chilled. 

F o o d i e 

P h o t o s

The photos above 
illustrate my favorite 
sweet pie crust recipe.

To get that recipe,
click here.

s now attached to the end
of my 
Strawberry Pie recipe.)

Serve with sweetened
whipped cream and…

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

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