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A sunny orange pie from a backyard windfall

Recipe: This light dessert requires minimal stove time

Got oranges? Some of them can be juiced to flavor a bright, light pie for early spring.

Got oranges? Some of them can be juiced to flavor a bright, light pie for early spring.

One meaning of the word "windfall" refers to the orchard fruit that is knocked off the tree during a windy day or storm. That's exactly what I have received from my navel orange tree, thanks to the intense winds we've experienced recently: Oranges everywhere.

I don't need any more marmalade, and we are drinking up some of the windfall as orange juice, but I couldn't let the oranges just sit there without exploring more recipes.

Chiffon pie is a retro dessert, and there are many versions of it out there. I passed up the ones with Cool Whip and/or orange juice concentrate to land on this one, an adaptation of the lemon chiffon pie from Williams-Sonoma. It does use gelatin, which is not vegetarian, and egg yolks that are cooked into a custard. (If you're concerned about the eggs being cooked enough, see this W-S method of making eggs safe for cooking.)

Saucepan with orange filling
The filling is gently cooked over medium heat.

Note: I made a simple graham cracker crust* for this, but use your favorite baked or no-bake single pie crust.

Sunny orange chiffon pie

Serves 8

Filling adapted from Williams-Sonoma.


1/4 cup cold water

1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, about 5 medium oranges

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon or more finely grated orange zest (Note: Remember to zest the oranges before juicing)

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1-1/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

One 9-inch prepared pie crust, such as graham cracker crumb or shortbread cookie


Saucepan containing filling sitting in a bowl of ice water
If needed, a towel can anchor the pan in the ice bath.

In a large bowl place at least a dozen ice cubes and then add cold water to fill the bowl half-way. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, pour the 1/4 cup cold water, then sprinkle the gelatin over it. Allow the mixture to soften for 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in the granulated sugar, salt, orange juice, lemon juice, orange zest and the egg yolks. Set the pan over medium heat and stir continuously, 6 to 8 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the gelatin dissolves. Important: Don't allow the mixture to boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and place it in the ice bath to chill. (If the pan floats and is in danger of tipping, anchor it in the bowl with a dish towel or two -- see photo.) Chill until the mixture is cold to the touch. It will thicken as it cools.

Whip the heavy cream with the confectioner's sugar in a large bowl until it forms soft mounds. Fold in the orange/gelatin mixture until thoroughly combined, then spread the filling into the prepared pie crust.

(Note: If the orange mixture has jelled too solidly to mix in easily with a spatula, loosen it first by whisking briskly. The combined mixture also can be blended together using the low speed of an electric mixer.)

Chill at least 3 hours, then remove from refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with orange slice twists and more whipped cream, if desired, and serve.

A partial view of the filled crust with orange slice twists nearby
Chill the pie, then add garnishes as desired.

* Graham cracker crust: Pulverize or crush 1 sleeve (8 full-size) graham crackers into fine crumbs, or use 1-1/4 cups prepared crumbs. Stir in 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of orange zest (optional) and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Press evenly into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake at 375 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, until crust is firm. Allow to cool before filling.