Sour cherry pie – add salt to taste
In my mind, I bake for other people. Cookies and brownies and cakes and ice cream and teabreads: I tell myself that they are my way of treating my husband and children with something decadent, but healthy and full of love. But it’s all a farce, because I’m the one with the sweet tooth. My children, happily, though, prefer apples and blueberries to brownies, and my husband has nothing resembling a sweet tooth and almost never eats dessert.
Unless it’s a tart cherry pie.
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Apparently, for my spouse raised in the Mid-Atlantic and South, cherry piecing is grandma’s thing and rural fairs and happy summers. Me? I had never eaten it; in my opinion, it’s more associated with Agent Dale Cooper and the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, and with a rather vulgar Warrant song from my high school days.
And those cherries, they have such a short season, and they have holes, and they need to be pulled out
But this must have been a good cherry season, because for three solid weeks, the markets had these bright red and perfectly formed tart cherries. And I bought them, over and over again. And I faced them (which ends up being quite relaxing nonsense) and mixed them with a minimum of thickeners and seasonings, and stacked them on spicy cream cheesecake rinds, and I understood that.
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Fresh, real tart cherries are magical, and the cakes, scented with almond and cinnamon, truly evoke the sense of American summer at its purest, carefree best.
If tart cherries are still in season where you are, jump on them and try this. Alternatively, if you find frozen tart cherries, that would be a great way to bring the feeling of summer to a cold winter kitchen. And, last and least but still a good bet, look for Oregon-branded canned tart cherries, packaged in water.
By the way, this is my new favorite cake crust. While it is not the crunchiest flake, the dough is very easy to work with, has a pleasant taste and is tender.
Cream Cheese Pie Crust (Makes 1 single crust; Make 2 separate batches for cherry pie) (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts
) 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, and more for surface 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 ounces
(1 bar) unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces 4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces 2 teaspoons water + 1 teaspoon cider vinegar, refrigerated Combine flour and salt in
a food processor bowl and pulse to mix. Add butter and cream cheese to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles thick crumbs with a few larger pieces remaining. Add the water mixture to the dough in a slow and steady flow, pulsing until the mixture begins to hold together. Place a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it. Press the dough on a disc with a rolling pin. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or overnight. (Dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw before use.)
For the bottom crust, roll to a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick and fit on a 9-inch cake tray. Refrigerate. For the top bark, spread up to a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick, and cut it into strips to form a lattice, or simply use it as a solid top. I like the latticework, as it shows the magnificent filling. Place on plastic wrap and refrigerate, flat, until firm and ready to use.
Sour Cherry Filling (adapted from various sources, but Cooks Illustrated gets credit for
tapioca Minute) 6 cups
pitted tart cherries 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup tapioca Minute (quick cooking) 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon almond extract 1 teaspoon vanilla
extract Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and let stand for about 15 minutes while the crusts cool and the oven is preheated.
For assembly Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the bottom crust and fit into the cake pan. Spread and make the lattice top on a firm surface. Cool both for about 15 minutes.
Once the crusts are cold, pour the filling into the bottom crust and dot the top with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces. Cover with lattice, crimp, and bake about 1 hour, longer if your cherries were partially frozen.
Once cold, you can brush the top rind with melted apricot jam and sprinkle with sugar, but leave the lily unbrowned.