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Cherry Pie

August 4, 2014

Sour cherries are a truly seasonal fruit: unlike raspberries or blueberries, they can’t be grown year-round in a hothouse. Last year I let the short season pass me by, and this year I was determined not to miss it again. When my parents mentioned that they were going cherry picking a few weeks ago, I jumped on the chance to stock up. My mom asked me how much I wanted, and I told her “as much as you feel like carrying!” :) She’s the best mom ever: she picked me eight pounds of sour cherries, and felt so bad about how long it would take me to pit them, that she came over one afternoon and pitted all of them while watching a movie! So of course I shared samples of all my baking adventures with her… not enough of a thank-you for all her work. I’ll find a way to make it up to her somehow!

I think this is actually the first time I’ve made a sour cherry pie, and this recipe from the Gourmet Today cookbook was highly praised by the author of the Gourmet Project blog, so it’s the one I picked. Bon Appetit featured a cherry pie on one of their recent magazine covers with small holes cut out of the top crust rather than the traditional star-shaped slit. I don’t have any tiny biscuit cutters, but I found that the bottom of a cake decorating tip was the perfect size to achieve this effect! I like the way the larger holes reveal more of what the filling of the pie is (which is better for photographs), although those who feel squicked by the appearance of lotus seed pods would probably prefer a less hole-y crust. :)

The pie was fantastic; not too tart and not too sweet. To thicken the filling, this recipe uses a combination of both ground tapioca and cornstarch. At first I was wondering if this would  make it turn out too thick or gelatinous, but it turned out perfect for the amount of juices generated by the cherries. The touch of cinnamon added a really nice nuance to the flavor without being overwhelming. I would definitely make this pie again during next year’s sour cherry season! Or I may have to break out the gallon-size bag of cherries stashed away in the freezer… maybe mid-February when everyone could use a little touch of summer. :)

Cherry pie

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2½  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup sugar
  • 1½  sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1/4  cup cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 5 – 7  tablespoons ice water

Filling

  • 3  tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1  vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, or 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2  tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1¼  cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6  cups (2 pounds) fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted sour cherries
  • 1  tablespoon whole milk

Accompaniment

  • Vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Make the crust: Blend together flour, sugar, butter, shortening, and salt in a food processor (you can also use your fingers or a pastry blender) just until mixture resembles course meal with some small (roughly pea-sized) butter lumps. Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture. Pulse (or gently stir with a fork) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing (or stirring) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.
  2. Turn dough out onto a work surface. Divide dough into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together and divide into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other. Form each portion into a ball and flatten into a 5-inch disk. If dough is sticky, dust lightly with additional flour. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling: Finely grind tapioca in an electric coffee/spice grinder or mini food processor. If using a vanilla bean, scrape seeds into a large bowl with a small knife. Add tapioca, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and 1¼ cups sugar and whisk together. Add cherries and toss well (if using vanilla extract, add with cherries). Let stand for 30 minutes to allow cherries to release some juices.
  4. Place a rack in the middle of oven and place a large baking sheet on rack. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  5. Assemble and bake: Roll out larger piece of dough (keep remaining piece refrigerated) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit into 9-inch pie plate. Trim edges, leaving a ½-inch overhang. Refrigerate while you roll out dough for top crust.
  6. Roll out remaining dough in same manner into an 11-inch round. Using a 1-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut out circles in a random pattern for steam vents.
  7. Toss cherries well again and spoon into shell. Cover with dough round and trim edges, leaving a ½-inch overhang. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively. Brush top of pie with milk, being careful not to get too much into holes. Sprinkle crust with remaining tablespoon sugar.
  8. Place pie on hot baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Cover edges of pie with foil or a pie shield, reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake until crust is deep golden and filling is bubbling in center, 50 minutes to 1 hour more.
  9. Cool pie completely on a rack, about 4 hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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