Having professed my love of tart cherries last week, I’m sure you can understand my remorse now that cherry season has come to an end. Rather than mourn their passing, however, I’ve decided to celebrate their sour little lives by baking one last cherry pie. (Put another way, I’ve got a freezer full of cherry muffins and there’s still another quart of pitted cherries in the fridge.)
I’ve used both of these recipes for several years now. The first, for pastry dough, uses a food processor to mix the dough. That alone makes it a winner in my book. The recipe, however, makes only enough pastry dough for one 9 inch pie crust. I’ve found that I get better results if I make 2 batches of dough, rather than doubling the recipe for a double-crusted pie. Don’t ask me why but that’s just the way it works. The recipe for the pie filling is about as simple as can be. Flour, not cornstarch or tapioca, is the thickening agent and there’s no need to pre-cook the fruit filling mixture before placing it into the pie shell. So, if you’re good working with pastry dough, you can have a pie in the oven pretty quickly. Me? It’s an afternoon project, often including wailing, the gnashing of teeth, and the rending of garments.
There is one last thing to consider, especially if you, like me, tend to throw common sense out the window when you see all the pretty quarts of tart cherries lined up in the market or at some farmer’s stand. I mean, how can you not buy a few quarts? It all makes perfect sense until you arrive home and realize that you have to pit them all before you can do anything else with them. Well, there is hope for us. I’ve found a website that should be called “How to deal with the fruit and stuff that result from ChgoJohn going to a farmers’ market.com?” It has been called, instead, Kraft Foods something or other and it explains how to freeze a variety of baked goods. You can reach it by clicking here and I recommend that you bookmark the site. It’s one of those web pages that you probably won’t need today, you may not need tomorrow, but you are going to need it some day.
* * *
Food Processor Pie Crust Recipe
Yield: One 9 inch pie crust
For best results:
- Do not over-process the dough.
- Use only enough water to create a crumbly texture.
- Do not run the processor long enough to form a dough ball. Use your hands to do that.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled/frozen, cubed
- 5 tbsp shortening, chilled/frozen, cubed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp ice water
- Add flour and salt to the processor. Pulse it a few times to mix the 2 ingredients.
- Add the very cold butter and shortening cubes.
- Pulse the machine 3 times, with each pulse lasting a 3-count. Your ingredients will now be lightly mixed.
- With the machine running, slowly add the ice water. Do not add so much that a ball of dough forms. Remove the lid and, with your hands, test the dough to see if a ball of dough can be formed.
- If so, turn the dough until a very lightly floured service, form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- If a dough ball will not form, add a little more water, pulse the machine a couple of times, and test it again. When you can form a ball of dough, follow step A above.
- After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it until large enough to completely cover the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan. Place the dough into the pan, trim any access, and return the crust and pan to the fridge until needed further.
- I usually postpone handling the 2nd pie crust, the “top,” until just before it is needed. The colder the dough going into the oven, the flakier the crust coming out.
* * *
* * *
Cherry Pie Recipe
- Pastry for 1 double-crust 9 inch pie.
- 4 cups fresh, tart cherries, pitted
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup ap flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 2 tbsp butter, cut into small cubes
- 3 tbsp milk
- Pre-heat oven to 425*.
- Use half of the pastry dough to line the pie plate. Place it in the refrigerator to chill until needed.
- Gently combine the cherries, sugar, flour, salt, and almond extract.
- Roll out the other half of the pastry and prepare for use. If covering the entire pie, leave as is. If creating a lattice, cut the strips. If, as I did, you’re creating leaves, use a stamp to form them all, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until needed.
- Pour the cherry mixture into the chilled pie shell and dot the pie with the cubes of butter.
- If covering the entire pie, spread the top portion of the pastry dough, seal its edge with the bottom’s dough, crimp the edge, and create slits in the top to allow steam to vent.
- For a lattice cover, retrieve the strips and, starting at one end of the pie, weave a lattice across the pie’s top. (See Notes below.)
- For a leaf top, place the dough leaves across the top, being careful to leave enough openings for steam to vent.
- Use a pastry brush to coat the upper crust with milk. Sprinkle the top with a light dusting of sugar.
- Bake on a baking sheet — in case of overflow — in a pre-heated 425* oven for 35 to 40 minutes until golden.
- Allow to cool before serving so that the filling sets properly.
* * *
* * *
The reason one sees so many lattice-topped cherry pies is because a woven top allows the pie’s juices to evaporate somewhat during the baking process, making for a better pie. Cook’s Illustrated Magazine’s book, Baking Illustrated (p. 148), suggests creating the lattice on parchment paper and not atop the pie. Once woven, place both the lattice and parchment paper in the freezer. When the lattice is firm, gently transfer it from the paper to the pie’s top and carefully connect it to the bottom crust. Brush it with milk, sprinkle with sugar, and bake as directed above.
And so ends this year’s journey down Cherry Lane, where pitting is such tart sorrow.
* * *