Anything But the Pits: This Cherry Pie is One For the Ages
Okay, so cherry season isn’t underway in earnest quite yet. But when you can practically count the hours to fresh, juicy cherries on the fingers of your own and one good friend’s hands, it’s time to make a practice pie or two.
So here it is: your practice cherry pie for the summer 2012. Only this one is so good, it’s liable to skip, hop, and quickly jump its way to the front of your cherry pie recipe file. Forget practice.
If you’ve never made a fresh cherry pie – or you’re just a little rusty – why not take a minute to watch the video below. Not only do I reveal the secret ingredient that makes this pie so special. I also review some cherry pie fundamentals that you can put into practice right away, not to mention some cherry arcana you’ll find fascinating. (Did you know, for instance, that cherries actually have a sense of humor?) The recipe follows, below.
Have a fabulous day.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon (scant) salt
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon well-chilled vegetable shortening, in tablespoon-size pieces
- ⅓ cup ice cold water
- 5 cups fresh, pitted cherries
- ½ cup sugar
- 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or a 3″ section of vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup finely chopped almonds
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix briefly, to combine. Add the shortening and – using a pastry blender – cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until all of the flour has been “touched” by the fat and the mixture is clumpy. You should have some pea-size pieces of fat remaining.
- Sprinkle half of the water over the mixture and mix briefly with a large fork, 5 or 6 times, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle on the remaining water and continue to mix, briefly, just until the dough pulls together into a ball.
- Place the ball on a large, lightly-floured piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk about ¾” thick. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Combine the cherries and ¼ cup of the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes. Mix remaining ¼ cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and nutmeg in a small bowl; stir into the cherries. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla extract, if using. (If using the vanilla bean, don’t add it yet.) Set filling aside.
- Lightly flour a 16″-long sheet of wax paper. Place the chilled pastry on the paper, dust lightly with flour, and roll into a 13″ – 13½” circle. Invert the pastry over a 9″ – 9½” deep-dish pie pan, center it, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it. Trim and sculpt the overhang into an upstanding rim. Freeze for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- After 15 minutes, scrape the filling into the pie and smooth with a spoon. If you’re using the vanilla bean, lay it in the dead center of the filling (so it’s easy to find and remove when you make the first cuts; don’t serve the pie until you find it!) Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 25 minutes while you prepare the topping.
- Combine the flour, sugar, almonds and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix with your hands or a large fork. Add the melted butter and stir briskly with your fork. It will clump together at first, but then become more gravelly. Without pressing hard, now gently rub the mixture between your fingers until it has a sandy texture with small clumps. Set aside.
- When the pie has baked for 25 minutes, slide it out, cover the pie with the topping, and “rake” it evenly over the pie. Reduce the heat to 375°F and bake the pie another 30 minutes or so, until the filling bubbles thickly around the edges. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before serving – preferably longer, so the filling has more time to “set.” Slice and serve, and remember to fetch that vanilla bean if you’ve used it.