28 May 2012

Nostalgic Cherry Pie

Ah, patriotism.  For me, the term conjures images of American folk and poster art as well as memories of Midwestern flea markets and lemon shake-ups.  When gifted with a national holiday/vacation day, I relish the extended time available to bake!  Following a Friday errand, Mr. Trek brought home a lovely bag of sweet cherries as a treat for moi, Ms. Trek.  Ordinarily, I will devour the entire bag in nothing short of 48 hours.  However, noting the approach of said holiday, I inquired as to what cherry creation he might enjoy. “Cherry pie,” was the honest response.  Always fearing the straight and narrow path, I began searching for cherry/various fruit pies, tarts, cobblers, galettes and other miscellany.  Ultimately, the heart of this baker just couldn’t shake the idea of a wholesome, mouth-watering cherry pie.  There’s something nostalgic about it all, just like the aforementioned poster art.  Maybe I’ll feel as tough as Rosie the Riveter after enjoying a piece of this treasured part of our American culinary heritage!

Notes: I used Julia Child’s recipe for Flaky Pie Dough and found that I had enough dough for a double crusted pie as well as one more, open-faced or lattice-topped pie.  Keeping with the traditional theme, I decided to use the lattice-top for this pie and freeze the other dough (in plastic – freeze for up to one month) for later use.  Julia offers three options for crafting the dough: by hand, mixer (with paddle attachment), and a food processor.  Usually, I go with the old-fashioned, hand-crafted method, but decided to fit the ol’ KitchenAid with her paddle attachment and make quick work of said dough.  I wasn’t entirely pleased with the way it came together, so I’ll most likely go back to my favorite method for the next pie/galette.  Some of Julia’s tips for ‘Perfect Pie Dough’ are as follows:

- Always use unsalted butter and make sure it is extremely cold.  Cut it into 1/2 inch cubes before adding it to the flour.

-Use a pastry blender (or your fingertips) to cut the butter into the flour.  Work as quickly as you comfortably can and stop when the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

-Keep the liquid icy-cold.  Add it a spoonful at a time, using a fork to toss the mixture and incorporate the liquid into the dough.  When the dough has curds & clumps that stick together when pressed lightly between your fingers, it’s just right.  If you have any doubts, keep in mind that it’s better to add too much liquid than too little; too little, and the crust will be dry and difficult to roll.

-Gently gather the dough into a round and flatten it into a rough approximation of the shape you’ll be rolling it into.

-Chill it – at least 30 minutes – in the refrigerator.  This rest gives the gluten (the protein that forms webs in flour) a chance to calm down so that when you start to roll the dough, it won’t spring back.

-Chill the crust after you’ve gently worked/centered the dough into the pan.  The gluten needs another chance to relax.

In regard to the filling, I used fresh, sweet cherries.  The pitting process is simple with a bowl for pits and a paring knife, but can even be easier with a cherry pitter.  Mr. Trek and I watched a little HGTV while pitting with paring knives and, twenty minutes later, we were finished!  Some people have an aversion to tapioca in their pie filling, and I would recommend replacing it with cornstarch as a thickener. 

Nostalgic Cherry Pie

Crust – Recipe Courtesy of Baking with Julia12cherry_pie2012

5¼c pastry flour or all-purpose flour

1T kosher salt

1½ sticks (6oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1¾c (11oz) solid vegetable shortening, chilled

1c ice water

FillingAdapted from allrecipes.com

4T quick-cooking tapioca14cherry_pie2012

1/8t salt

1c sugar

¼t almond extract

½t vanilla extract

4c pitted, sweet cherries

1½T unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Milk and sugar for coating the top of the pie


1. Prepare crust in advance (at least two hours but, preferably, overnight). Combine flour and salt in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add the cold bits of butter and continue on low speed until the mixture is crumbly/coarse. Add the shortening, a wee bit at a time, until the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers. Add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over onto itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and gather it together. Divide the dough in quarters, wrap in plastic and refrigerate (it will keep for five days in the fridge, or one month in the freezer) for at least two hours.4cherry_pie2012

2. Preheat oven to 425°. Roll out the crust to fit a 9” pie plate and assemble in the style you prefer. Here is a link to a video providing instruction for creating a lattice-top pie. Refrigerate the bottom crust in the pie plate to allow the gluten to rest. Meanwhile, begin the filling!

3. Combine the tapioca, salt, sugar and extracts in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the pitted cherries and toss to coat with the sweet-smelling sugar concoction! Turn the cherry mixture into the chilled pie plate o’ dough. If creating a lattice or top to the pie, do so now. Otherwise, try an open-faced pie. Be sure to make a mound of filling toward the center of the pie.1cherry_pie2012

4. Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake the pie at 425° for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°. Bake for an additional 50 minutes or until the filling in the middle begins to bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Keep an eye on the crust and wrap the edges with foil if they begin to brown too quickly.

6. Take your masterpiece out of the oven, thank it for making your kitchen smell so dreamy, and enjoy!