Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cherry Pie

Tonight I took over the kitchen of Robin, one of my friends from Rice. She took time off of her busy schedule of learning how to save lives to work on helping create super diabetes with me.  Back in college, we used to go to House of Pies every Sunday night and try a new delicious baked good. I always swore by the strawberry-rhubarb pie, but she insisted the cherry pie was the best. Since it was her kitchen, we decided we would go with cherry. Despite our initial reservations over making our own crust, this turned into one of the best pies I've ever had.

Pie Crust
From The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard
Servings: 2 crusts
Time: 90 minutes

2 sticks cold unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water
1/2 tsp vinegar

Yeah, all those little things are butter.
  1. Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. Sift the flour and sugar together in a bowl. Add in the butter and salt.
  3. Using a pastry cutter, split the butter until it is pea sized.
  4. Mix in a mixture of the ice water and vinegar  while stirring at low speeds until the dough forms. It should be tacky but not sticky (whatever that means, book).
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (but don't squeeze it together) and chill for at least an hour.
  6. Split the dough into two and shape one piece into a flat disc lightly knead it.
  7. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough over it. Be sure to occasionally change directions to keep it round. The final product should be 1/4 inch thick and slightly larger than the pie pan. If you're having trouble keeping the crust together when rolling, you can cheat and just press it in the pie pan itself with your hand until it's the desired thickness (not that that's what we had to do...).
  8. Roll out the other piece of dough and cut 8 pieces of varying length to form a lattice top.
This is a fairly easy but very tasty crust. The extra effort of making it over using frozen store crust is worth it, as this is crazy flaky (as you may have guessed it would be by the two sticks of butter).

Cherry Filling
Servings: 1 9 inch pie
Time: 20 minutes

2 cups tart cherries
2 1/2 cups dark sweet cherries
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tbsp almond extract

  1. Put the cherries in a covered medium saucepan over medium-low heat until a fair amount of juice has formed (about 5 minutes).
  2. Mix the cornstarch and sugar together then stir into the cherries until fully incorporated.
  3. Add in the almond extract and continue cooking over low heat until thickened. Be sure to stir frequently.
  4. Let cool to room temperature.
Gooey deliciousness
Since you already have an hour of waiting for the crust to chill, you have the perfect opportunity for making the filling. Don't leave out the almond extract. It helps make this better and more interesting than your traditional cherry pie. Also, using a mixture of sweet and tart cherries keeps the pie from reaching any extremes. Just be careful not to eat it all after you taste it, or you'll have one sad little pie.

Cherry Pie

Crust and lattice 
Cherry pie filling
Coarse sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Pour the filling into the crust and spread out well. 
  3. Top with the strips to form a lattice. Push the ends into the side crust to help connect.
  4. Sprinkle coarse sugar (think sugar in the raw) over the lattice.
  5. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure to rotate once halfway through for even heating.
Use of a knife is recommended, but taking a giant bite also works.
Personally, I always found cherry pie to be a little boring, but this one really stands out. As I first noticed with my peach crepes, almond extract is a powerful background ingredient to help kick fruit mixtures up a notch. This pie was definitely worthy of a spot on House of Pie's menu. The only problem we ran into was that our crust was a little too flaky. Due to this, we weren't able to get very pretty slices, but your mouth certainly won't care. 

Top with homemade whipped cream (whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla mixed at high speed) or vanilla ice cream and serve.
Like I said, the slices weren't pretty. Fortunately, your mouth is not as shallow as your eyes are.
Now I'm ready to be a 1950s housewife. 

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