There are two secrets to this mouthwatering pie. One is roasting the strawberries to release even more of their sweetness. The other is adding soft mascarpone cheese to the usual cream cheese. All together, they make a luscious summer treat that will wins raves every time you serve it.
1 graham-cracker piecrust in a pie pan
1 1/2 pounds fresh ripe strawberries, hulls removed
3 tablespoons maple syrup
16 ounces (2 packages) cream cheese, softened (you may use low-fat, if you like)
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
Seeds from one half of a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 cup whipping cream
1. Preheat oven to 300F. Place the strawberries on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with the maple syrup. Bake for about an hour, until the strawberries are dark red and slightly reduced in size. Place berries and syrup in a mixing bowl and mash thoroughly. Cool completely.
2. Raise oven temperature to 325F. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add in the sugar and the salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla seeds and the mascarpone. Beat for about 3 minutes until creamy and smooth. (The vanilla bean pod can be stored in your sugar bowl to make fabulous vanilla-flavored sugar.)
3. Add cream cheese mixture to the bowl with the strawberries, stirring to combine. Smooth this mixture into the graham cracker crust.
4. Bake about an hour until set, then remove pie pan to a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
5. When ready to serve, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks and spread it evenly over the top of the pie.