Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sour Cherry Pie

Last week I went to Concord to visit a little farm. The farm is owned by the father of a good family friend and his hobby is growing fruit and vegetables. Roy, the farmer, had some extra heirloom tomato plants for anyone who wanted them so my mother and I made the trek to the East Bay to take some plants off his hands. (I hope to feature these as ingredients later in the summer. He gave me several plants; Black Prince, Ping Pong Pink, Super Fantastics and Green Zebra.)

However the big find of the day was the sour cherry tree bearing lots of bright, red translucent fruit. The fruit was tart but had a wonderful sharp cherry flavor. My mother and I picked four boxes of them. I only took one box for myself but when I pitted and cleaned them I had 13 full cups of berries. I decided to use mine for cherry pies and since each pie needs 4-5 cups of fruit I set up two bags with four cups of pitted cherries each and save 5 cups for a pie to make that night.

I used the recipe for pie and crust from my favorite cookbook; "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. (By the way he has also published "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" which would have crust alternatives if you are vegan.) I make the recipe for the double crust (page 686):

  • 2 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 16 tablespoons of butter (cut into pieces)
  • 6 tablespoons of ice water
Combine flour, salt and sugar in the container of a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal - about 10 seconds.

Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle the water over it then use a spoon or spatula to gradually gather the dough into a ball. If it seems dry add more water a 1/2 tablespoon at a time. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, remove it from the bowl and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30 minutes); this will ease rolling. (Dough can be refrigerated for a day or two and frozen indefinitely if you want to make it ahead.)

I preheat the oven to 450 degrees. I have the 5 cups of pitted, sour cherries in a bowl and I add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch (an alternate ingredient is 2 tablespoons of tapioca). When the crust is chilled I carefully divide it into two and roll out the bottom crust. Then I add the cherries and dot with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small bits. Next I roll out the top crust and decide to get fancy by doing a lattice top crust. To do a lattice top, I find a dish that is larger than my pie plate, place it on top of the dough and cut a clean circle of dough. From that circle, I cut it into strips - a bit less than half and inch wide.

I put the longest strip in the middle of the pie and the next largest strip across the middle of the pie perpendicular to the first. I keep alternating the strips and "weaving" the dough so that it alternates under and over. When I am satisfied that the top is nicely done I roll the edges and flute the crust to decorate it. I use the technique of pinching the dough between the side of my forefinger and thumb. I think it give the crush a nice almost shell-like edge. Before placing it in the oven, I gently brush the whole top of the crust with mild and dust with a bit of sugar.

I place the pie on a cookie sheet (because fruit pies tend to bubble over and it is a whole lot easier to clean a cookie sheet versus and oven). If you don't do the lattice top you will want to cut 2-3 two inch vents in the top crust. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40-50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.

Interestingly, the cherries were more tart after they were baked - with sugar - than they were fresh. But it was a delicious pie and satisfying to make it from tree to table.

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