Sweet Cherry Pie, homemade with fresh cherries, can be a bit tedious but is well worth the steps involved. This still sounds strange to me, coming out of my mouth, as I’m embarrassed to admit that up until only months ago I thought I did not like cherries. Even more embarrassing is the reason why. My pea-brain always thought that maraschino cherries were the only ones out there. What was I thinking? That these candied cherries somehow grew on trees covered with bright red syrup? Ummm, please get your laughs out now and then quickly erase that from your memory.
Actually, I really did know there were fresh cherries and that they were not maraschino cherries, but because I didn’t like the taste of the preserved ones, I figured I wouldn’t like the taste of the fresh ones either. I finally caved and tasted them this season and immediately started scolding myself for not trying them years ago! Now I can proudly say, I love fresh cherries. LOVE them. Can’t stop eating them. Dream about them.
Then, I saw how expensive they are and reversed my excitement into panic about having an addiction to such an expensive fruit. How was this going to fit into my budget? Lucky for me, our local grocery store had an amazing sale recently on their cherries, and although now the peak season is over, I’m still sharing two wonderful cherry recipes with you this week.
You should be able to get your hands on some fresh cherries until about mid-August. If you do, you must try this sweet cherry pie. Don’t be tempted to use frozen cherries or the jarred pie filling. Instead, go through the effort of pitting your fresh cherries and be sure to use the instant tapioca as the thickening agent. It might sound like a strange ingredient to use, but if you try to substitute with corn starch or anything else, you’ll be disappointed with the resulting texture. You can see from the first picture above, that I couldn’t wait the three total hours before cutting into my pie to let the filling set. It was already 7:00 PM after waiting two hours, so we were ready.
Sweet Cherry Pie
Yield: One 9-inch pie, 8 servings
For the Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cubed
6 tablespoons very cold water
For the Cherry Filling:
2 red plums, halved and pitted
2 pounds pitted sweet cherries, cut into halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons instant tapioca, ground (measure first, then ground)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
For the Pie Crust:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coast with the flour mixture. Blend on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal. The butter pieces should be no larger than small peas. While mixing on low speed, add the water and continue to combine just until the dough pulls together.
(Alternatively, you can use the food processor for the steps above.)
Remove the dough from the work bowl, divide in half and shape into two balls. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Generously flour a work surface, remove one dough ball from the fridge and roll into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. (Rotate the disk as you roll to avoid sticking.)
Loosely roll the dough up around the rolling pin and unroll into the 9-inch pie plate. While lifting the outer edges with one hand, use your fingers from other hand to press the bottom of the dough into the plate. Refrigerate for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
For the Cherry Filling:
Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position. Place a baking sheet on the rack and preheat the oven to 400˚F. In a food processor, process the plums and 1 cup of the cherries until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing on the cherries to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the solids and reserve the liquid. Stir the remaining cherries into the puree, then add the sugar, salt, lemon juice, tapioca and cinnamon. Stir, then let stand for 15 minutes.
Transfer the cherry mixture to the dough-lined plate, using a rubber spatula to scrape out all juices. Scatter the butter cubes over top of the fruit. Remove the second ball of dough from the refrigerator and roll onto the floured work surface into an 11-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Loosely roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll over the pie, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Flute the edges using your thumb and forefinger. Brush the top and edges with egg wash, then slice 8 evenly spaced 1-inch-long vents in the top of the crust with a sharp knife. Freeze the pie for 20 minutes.
Place pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F and continue to bake until juices bubble around the edges and the crust is deep golden brown, about 30 to 40 more minutes.
Remove pie from oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature, about 3 hours, to allow the filling to thicken and set before serving. Serve á la mode, optional.