And it was so worth it. I can’t exactly say where these fabulous sour cherries came from, lest I incriminate myself. I like to think they were meant to be mine though. To be fair, the tree was on the property of a certain office building in Saratoga Springs and I passed it for so many mornings, the cherries glowing red and luscious but unpicked and unloved…there may or may not have been a certain amount of dangerously leaning over an elevated walkway to reach the lovely red orbs and there may or may not have been a certain amount of; very dainty, of course; low wall climbing involved but again, I can not say due to the whole incrimination thing.
Now In the spirit of honesty (let’s not speak of hypocrisy) I should tell you that I don’t really care for fruit pies. Except blueberry. Blueberries get an exemption for their perfect sweet-tartness, by now you should know what that combination does to me. I love fruit and I prefer it as close to it’s natural state as possible. Unless we’re speaking of jam but we’re not and I digress…
For the sake of recipe testing and making sure I know of what I speak, I did taste this pie and it was pretty good. As good as a cooked fruit pie could be. Luckily, the rest of the family was more enthusiastic and the pie is now but a memory.
Since we are talking about pie (and child labor, did we speak of child labor? See my laborers diligently picking cherry pits? They’re the best workers I’ve ever had! And for the record, my 16 year old does not have tattooed hands, she did that with a pen.)
since we are talking about pie, we must talk about pie crust. I love making pie crust. People seem to get needlessly intimidated by pie crust and I can not understand why. At it’s simplest, it’s three ingredients, flour, butter or shortening (though I am firmly in the anti shortening camp) and a little salt. I have tried many pie crust recipes over the years and the one I keep coming back to is my own, which is a riff on a basic pie crust I found in Gourmet (the now sadly defunct magazine) years ago. My pie crust always uses all butter, usually has some variety of whole wheat flour mixed with white flour, always a pinch of salt, often a bit of sugar and vodka. That’s right, vodka. Vodka is great in pie crust because when you mix it in, it makes the dough more workable but it evaporates during baking, making the dough lovely and flaky.
Pie Crust for a double crust pie
2 1/2 cups flour, I used 1 cup white flour, one cup whole wheat pastry flour and one half cup spelt flour. You can use all white if you wish but I like to sneak in whole grains where I can. I promise you my crust still turns out flaky. Try it.
2 sticks COLD butter, salted is fine.
2 TBS sugar
pinch of salt
2-5 TBS vodka
*optional* 1 tsp almond extract (it compliments the cherries)
Now usually I make my crust by hand with a large bowl and a pastry cutter. It’s the best way and it makes for the absolutely flakiest crust. However, I made this pie after a long day at work and I decided to use the food processor. Works well, though to my taste, by hand is best.
Combine flours, sugar and salt and whisk together if making crust by hand or pulse in the food processor if going that route. Chop butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture. If making the crust by hand use your pastry cutter and cut the butter in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. It’s fine if some pea sized lumps remain. If using the food processor, pulse with short quick bursts until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs but be extra careful that you don’t over mix. Over processed dough makes a tough crust with little to no flakiness.
At this point, drizzle your tsp of almond extract extract over the mixture and sprinkle on 2-3 TBS. vodka. Using your pastry cutter cut into the dough until the dough starts to come together but is still pretty loose. When you squeeze the dough in your fist, it should hold together. If not, add a little more vodka.
Traditional wisdom holds that you should separate your dough into two roughly equal blobs, one slightly larger than the other to be your base layer, the smaller to be your top. The blobs should be formed into discs and wrapped in plastic wrap. Refrigerate them for at least an hour (I find one hour ideal) and then roll out. Me? Well I did mention that I just got home from a long day of work right? I didn’t have an hour so I just started rolling out my dough on a lightly floured surface. I roll my dough on a flexible cutting board because then it’s easy to lift in to the pie plate.
Fill with your favorite filling, for this pie I did sour cherries (about 5 cups?) with 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch (I prefer tapioca but I was out) and lemon zest…not that sour cherries are not sour enough but I love lemon zest and it gives lemony flavor without being too sour.
Top with your second piece of rolled dough, like so…
and be sure to brush generously with a beaten egg thinned with a little water. Carving my initial in to your pie is optional but I would be impressed 😉 Carve something though. A pie needs to vent steam. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 and bake 25 minutes more. At some point the edges of the pie might start browning too much, at that point, cut a piece of foil and fold it in half. Cut a half circle into the folded part and place it over your pie. Viola! The pie still cooks where it needs to but the edges stop browning. No need for 15 dollar pie protectors either.
Now. Cooling. You have to cool your pie. Hot pie is a lovely, romantic notion but it doesn’t make for very attractive pie slices. And hot pie has runny juices. Maybe you like this sort of thing but ideally (in my world of neatness and order) a pie needs to rest. For at least two hours. Mine rested over night because we were overfull from dinner and the next day it was damn near perfect.