There’s nothing that says Fourth of July to me like a homemade cherry pie. Back in the day, when Gourmet was still around, or July 2007 to be exact, we saw the most beautiful cherry pie featured on the magazine’s cover and knew we had to give it a try. We made it with M’s mother and father who came to visit us for the holiday weekend.
The wonderfully flaky crust and the sour cherry, cinnamon-enhanced filling combine to create a delicious, fairly easy to make pie, as far as pies go. Throw in the fact that M is a true “dough whisperer” and that is how a tradition was born.
We made it again in the summer of 2009 and then again this year. I’m not sure what happened in the summer of 2008 or why we didn’t make the pie that year, but that is history and I have vowed not to repeat it.
Part of the fun, or frustration, depending on how things shake out, is finding the sour cherries. Like Meyer lemons, they too have a season. Lucky for us, we work steps away from the Union Square Green Market, one of the best in the country and certainly the best in New York. This year I learned, thanks to the friendly woman working the Samascott Orchards booth (I miss you Kinderhook) that the lighter colored sour cherries are not as sour as the deep red colored ones, the ones that I always mistook for sweet cherries.
The filling is really easy to make after the laborious pitting task is completed. The cherries are tossed with cinnamon, vanilla, cornstarch, tapioca and sugar and then allowed to rest for a while. The pie crust is somewhat more complicated but not overwhelmingly so.
That’s it. This pie is outrageously good and, once cool, keeps nicely on the counter until it slowly disappears slice by slice over a nice three-day weekend.
Gourmet July 2007
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted sour cherries (2 pound)
Whole milk for brushing
Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder; a pastry or bench scraper
Accompaniment: vanilla ice cream
1. Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.
2. Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork, or pastry will be tough.
3. Turn dough out onto a work surface and divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together with pastry scraper. Divide dough with one half slightly larger, then form each piece into a ball and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
Make filling and bake pie:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle and put a large baking sheet on rack.
2. Finely grind tapioca in an electric coffee/spice grinder.
3. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into a large bowl with a small knife. (If using extract, add with fruit.)
4. Whisk in ground tapioca, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and sugar, then add cherries and toss well. Let stand 30 minutes.
5. Roll out larger piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim any excess dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top crust.
6. Roll out remaining dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round.
7. Toss cherries well again, then add to shell and cover with top crust. Press edges of crust together, then trim, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang underneath, then crimp decoratively and brush top crust with milk. Cut out 5 (1- by 1/2-inch) teardrop-shaped steam vents 1 inch from center and sprinkle with sugar (1 tablespoon).
8. Bake pie on preheated baking sheet 30 minutes, then cover edge with a pie shield or foil and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until crust is deep golden and filling is bubbling in center, 50 minutes to 1 hour more.
9. Transfer pie to a rack to cool completely, 3 to 4 hours.
Makes 1 9-inch pie