Posted Under: dessert, fruit, summer, treats, vegetarian
I get absurdly excited about sour cherries. I think it’s because they’re around for such a short time before they’re gone until next year. I missed them last year. I was busy or out of town, and by the time I got around to them, all I could find was one sad-looking,overpriced container of bruised, half-decayed fruit at a local gourmet shop. I stupidly bought them, but was then so depressed by them every time I opened the fridge (by the time I weeded through the nastier specimens, there would hardly be more than a handful or two left, and what could be done with those?) that I let them sit in my refrigerator, occasionally plucking one from certain doom, until there was no doubt that they had moved past questionable to inedible.
I was not going to make the same mistake this time around, so it would be no exaggeration to say that I was stalking cherries at the market. My surveillance was rewarded with a couple of quarts of perfect, bright-red, super-tart cherries last week. Some of them went into sorbet (same recipe as the strawberry on this site, but with lemon juice instead of balsamic, and without the basil), some of them went directly into my mouth, and the rest, I made into pie.
I used to fear pie crusts. All it takes is one late-night crust disaster in a too-hot summer kitchen to send a girl running to the nearest bakery, but I’ve learned that with temperamental dough the fridge and freezer are your friends. A little internet tutorial from a more experienced baker also helped a lot to ease my fears.
Here are the secrets: 1) Keep everything as cold as possible–the flour, the bowl, and especially the butter. 2) Don’t overwork it. Visible chunks of butter = flaky deliciousness. No signs of butter = tough chewiness. 3) If the dough starts getting all melty, back in the fridge (or in the freezer for 5 minutes). That’s really all there is to it. Do not fear the crust!
Also, a lesson learned myself this time around: Who cares if it’s not perfect? This was not one of the more beautiful pies I’ve ever made. It was hot and humid, and I was up too late and frustrated. The crust has a tidal wave quality from where I got tired of trying to crimp and just sort of let the overhang, er, hang over. Guess what? It tasted delicious! So, even if your pie is not going to win any beauty contests, just call it “rustic” and serve. I guarantee you people will gobble it down just the same.
Sour Cherry Pie
adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious
2½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
5 tbsp (or more) ice water
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries (for me this was about a quart and a half unpitted cherries, or about 2 pounds)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, for brushing on crust
1 tbsp sugar, for sprinkling on crust
First, mix the flour, salt, and sugar for crust in one bowl and put the cubed butter in another bowl. Put both in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a one cup measuring cup with water and add a few ice cubes. After they’ve had their freezer time, sdd butter cubes to flour mixture, and use a pastry blender to blend together until the largest pieces are about the size of peas, and the rest looks like coarse cornmeal. Take one tablespoon at a time of ice water from the cup, drizzling it into the dough and pressing together with your fingers, until it holds together enough to form a ball. You want it to just come together, and you don’t want to over-work it. You should be able to see patches of butter throughout. Once you have it in a ball, divide that ball in half, and flatten each of those balls to form a 4-inch disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. (This part can be done ahead, and the dough will keep in the fridge for a couple of days–just be sure to double-wrap it, so that it doesn’t end up tasting like your leftover takeout.)
The filling is the easy part. Just mix the whole, pitted cherries, sugar, salt, cornstarch, lemon juice, and vanilla in a bowl a few minutes before you take the dough out of the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk (leaving the other in the refrigerator until you need it) until it’s a 12-inch round. Drape over a 9-inch pie dish and trim the overhang until it’s about half an inch. Discard scraps. Roll out the second disk to the same 12-inch round. If at any point, the dough sticks, dust the surface or the pin with more flour (excess can always brushed off) or, if it gets really bad, do not give up! (Or freak out–as I have a tendency to do.) Instead, gently gather the dough back into a ball and put it in the freezer for five minutes or so until it behaves again.
Make a mound with the filling in the pie-dough-lined pan, so that it’s slightly higher in the center. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the filling. Drape the second round over the top, again trimming any overhang to half an inch. Use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the two crusts and seal them together.
Cut a few small slits in the center of the pie. Brush the crust, but not the edges, with the melted butter and sprinkle with sanding sugar (or regular) until it sparkles. Place the pie pan on top of a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and bake 45 minutes to an hour longer, until the crust is a light, golden brown, and the filling is bubbling out the slits a bit. If during the baking, the edges start to get a little too brown, just cover them with foil for the remaining time.
Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Otherwise, your filling will not set, and the cherry deliciousness will go running everywhere. If you absolutely cannot wait, serve the runny pie over vanilla ice cream, but patience in this case is definitely rewarded.
Yields: 1 9-inch pie (# of servings varies, depending on size of slices)
Time to make: 45 mins active prep, 4 hours total start-to-finish cooking time