Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sweet Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

If there is another vehicle in the world as perfect for showcasing cherries as is a flaky, delicious pie crust, I dare you to find it and show it to me. Oh, sure, there are clafoutis and jams and cobblers and coffee cakes, but after making my first cherry pie (indeed, my first pie) this weekend, I am firmly convinced that all these other things are just filler in case there's no time to make pie.

Cherry Pie

I didn't grow up here and I didn't grow up with pie, but when I took the golden, flaky, bubbling, fragrant pie out of the oven, with the red droplets of cherry juice and sugar swirling on the hot baking sheet, I knew that I had missed out on something very important. If food can be poetry, this is it - a deceptively simple, charming, loving and brilliant ode to the American culture.

Cherry Pie

Since this was my first time making a pie crust, I had no idea what to expect. And, not having had home-made pies very often, I still have no idea whether I got it right. I think that I could have made my dough flakier by handling it less, and I'm sure my technique was totally off. I didn't think the lattice did a very good job of holding in all the filling, so next time, I'll just go with a simple double crust. I'm sure there were other shortfalls that would prevent this pie from winning a pie contest. And yet, I can tell you for sure that this pie was the bomb. For real. Go and make it, people. This is the BEST way to enjoy the cherry season other than just eating them straight.

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

Sweet Cherry Pie

Pie Crust - makes a double crust
(compiled from different recipes)
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 sticks (10 oz) very cold or frozen unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3-5 tablespoons of iced water

Cherry Filling
(Joy of Cooking)
5 cups pitted cherries (about 2 1/2 lbs unpitted)
3/4 cup sugar for sweet cherries or 1 1/4 cup for sour cherries
3 to 3 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch or quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Make the crust: Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Quickly cut the cold butter into small pieces (I cut each stick into 16 pieces). Make sure to keep all ingredients cold, even if that means stopping and sticking things in the refrigerator for 5 minutes or so to cool off.

With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the largest piece of butter is no bigger than a pea. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of water on top and mix gently with a fork. If pieces of the dough stick when you pinch it between your fingers, it's good - if not, add more iced water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead briefly to incorporate the dry ingredients, if any. Divide in half and form each half into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator and leave on the counter for at least 10 minutes to allow the dough to come to room temperature. Butter or spray a pie pan. On a well-floured surface or between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll out two rounds, about 12 inches each. Fit one of the rounds into the pie pan and cut away excess dough, leaving a little on the edges for crimping. Refrigerate both the pie pan with the bottom crust and the rolled out top crust.

Make the filling: While the crusts are refrigerating, pit all the cherries and place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and cornstarch over the cherries and then pour the water and lemon juice on top. If you wish, add the almond extract. Gently mix until no trace of sugar or cornstarch remains. Leave for 15 minutes and then drain the cherries of most of the liquid.

Assemble the pie: Pour the cherries and the remaining liquid into the prepared crust. Fit the second crust on top of the cherries and either prick it all over with a fork or cut several vents in it. Or, you can make a lattice by cutting the crust into thin strips and fitting the strips over the top crust in a lattice pattern (like so).*

Turn the oven to 425F and fit a rack to the lower third of the oven. Put the pie dish onto a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper (to catch the juices) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Then, turn down the heat to 350F and bake for a further 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Cool on a rack for several hours and serve with ice cream.

*At this point, the pie can be frozen for up to several months (flash freeze and then wrap it very very well). To bake a frozen pie, turn the oven to 450F and bake the pie on the lower rack for 15-20 minutes, then turn down to 375F and bake it for a further 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the juices ar bubbling.


Manggy said...

Er, sorry, I can't really complain about anything in this pie. It looks absolutely perfect to me, and I would gobble up all of it-- yes all-- in an instant. Cherry pie (and I can't help but sing the song by Warrant when I hear those words) is one of the most perfect desserts ever created, and I'm jealous. Good job.

Y said...

Stunning. That first photo especially, makes me want to lunge at the screen. Did I also mention that I love lattice pies of all sorts? :)

♥peachkins♥ said...

Amazing photos!and delicious recipe..

grace said...

those cherries are stunningly gorgeous, and they make that slab of pie utterly irresistible. pile on a hearty helping of vanilla ice cream, and perfection is obtained. :)

Dewi said...

Sweet indeed Irene! Just like you are!
The almond extract is delicious addition to this cherry pie!

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Irene such a great burst of flavor on this colorful sweet cherry pie - I like a slice with a dollop of whipped cream!



Simones Kitchen said...

These look absolutely delicious! The only pie we ever made while I was growing up was simple apple pie, so in a way, I had to discover a whole pie world myself...:)

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Your first pie crust looks beautiful. You did very well. I love pies. Pictures are gorgeous.

Patsyk said...

Your pie looks perfect! Hard to believe it's your first time making one! Pie crusts are very intimidating, but if you ended up with a flakey crust you got it right!

Ingrid_3Bs said...

Looks fantastic. Your photos are always terrific and do justice to whatever dish you've made.

My Mom loves pies and in particular cherry. I really need to make her one and at the same time one up my brothers! :)

Jen H said...

Great minds think alike. Sweet cherries totally mean summer to me too!

Amy of Sing For Your Supper said...

It looks like you really put a lot of love and work into this pie - it's just beautiful! I admire you for pitting all of those cherries - I don't have a pitter and once tried to pit my cherries with a chopstick...worst mistake ever! (I guess I should invest in a pitter, huh?!) Great looking pie!


Bunny said...

With cherries as gorgeous as that it's no wonder it turned out good! Good for you for making your first pie crust! I'm sure it won't be the last!

Shari said...

This does not look like the pie of a novice pie maker. It's beautiful! And I agree with you. Pie is just one of those great inventions. When you take it out of the oven, you are finished with it. No icing. . . it's ready to serve. And yours looks absolutely delightful! I have a feeling you'll be making pie again. . .

Eileen @ Passions to Pastry said...

Does that last piece of cherry pie ever look good! I just broke down and bought a cherry pitter. Can't believe I've waited this long to purchase one.

Kate said...

Cherry pie in the summer is the best!

Nutmeg Nanny said...

This looks so good! I always grew up hating cherry pie but just realized I never had cherry pie made from fresh cherries. I bet it would be a million times better than the cherry pie filling that represented my childhood pie experience.

Anne said...

I'm in same boat as Nutmeg Nanny, never liking cherry pie but it was always made from a can. I'm sure that pie would be amazing and now I'm dying to use the cherries in my fridge. Yum!

Irene said...

Oh! It's worlds different than cherry pie from a can! The filling was actually my favorite part because the cherries retained their bright flavor while baking into yummy sugariness. And the lemon and almond extract enhanced the taste just in that right way. Next time I make cherry pie, I'm going to play with the crust recipe, but I'm going to keep the filling just as it is.

And also, cherry pitter = best $10 I've ever spent!!! I hate having useless gadgets in my kitchen, but when I tried to pit cherries without a pitter, my kitchen and I looked like Dexter's playground, so I decided it was time to invest in professional instruments. :)

Jane said...

Irene, I've been looking for a good sweet-cherry pie recipe for a while and I'm so glad I happened upon this one in your blog (of which I am a BIG fan!). If this is really your first pie, you are some kind of prodigy, girl! Looks just wonderful. And, as always, your photos are beautiful.

Maybe this was in your post but I missed it, but which did you use for your filling -- the cornstarch or the tapioca?


Irene said...

Whoops, sorry! I used cornstarch, which was what I had in my pantry. I put 3 tbsp and the filling was a little runny, so maybe next time I will go for the full 3 1/2, but since this was my first time, I was afraid to make it gelatinous (yuk).

Jacque said...

Oh my! You're a natural! I can't believe that's your first pie, it looks fantastic. Nice job.

NKP said...

Wow, this is your first pie? It's perfect! What a gorgeous cherry pie. Now I seriously want some, with vanilla ice cream, of course.

Katie said...

Looks absolutely delicious. Wish I had access to some fresh sour cherries.

oneordinaryday said...

Love that gorgeous photo of the crust just full of cherries!

♥Rosie♥ said...

Hi Irene, thank you SO much for calling by my blog and it really is lovely to have found you too :0) I will be an avid visitor from now on!

Your cherry tart looks utterly delicious! Your photos are just amazing!!

Ramya Kiran said...

This pie looks delectable!! Damn delicious. I recently made a cherry tray cake, will share that recipe soon...

Have a great day!

Irene said...

Thanks everyone! Really nice to hear from all of you!