Getting Competitive: Sweet Cherry Pie
Hi everyone — I’m Jessica from Feastie, and a huge fan of Endless Simmer, so I’m excited to chime in on all things food over here. In spite of my newly discovered love of pie, I’m a big fan of healthy eating and cooking. But no low-fat pie — that’s just wrong.
I’m currently in a hot and heavy love affair with pie. I wasn’t exactly deprived pie as a child, but our family tended to favor the cobbler or crumble – i.e. NOT pie. Don’t know why. In any case, I have a vague recollection of trying an apple pie or lemon meringue pie as a little kid, but until I was in my mid-20s, I had no idea what I was really missing out on. Cherry pie?! Seriously?! It’s like heaven in a crust. I feel robbed of all those pies that never came to be at our Thanksgiving table – so I’m making up for lost time in a big way.
I’m going big. In the last two summers, I’ve entered two local pie contests. If you’ve never participated in such an event, I can honestly tell you it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. This summer there were 35 entries in the contest, ranging from chocolate cream pies to traditional peach and apple, even fig. I went traditional with a twist – I entered a sweet cherry pie, as well as a pear vanilla bean pie with a pecan crumble.
There was such a wide range of entrants – preteen girls, grandmothers, home cooks, first-timers – and all of us crowded around the tables waiting with baited breath for the judges to try our pie. So much tension! The entrants were standing in front of their pies, gripping the tables, silently opening their mouths as they watched the judges take bites of their pie. There was jostling for the spot with the best view of the judges eating the pies, people shoving cameras and small children into the front of the crowd, constant commentary from the onlookers. Whispers of, “That one doesn’t even look good,” and “I know my crust tastes better than that – I can tell that’s not flaky.” I may or may not have uttered one of those phrases myself. Now obviously I’m biased, but some of those pies did not look appealing. The judges, however, have to try every single pie, even a slice of the we-told-you-no-refrigerated-cream-pies-because-they’re-sitting-in-the-sun-for-3-hours pie. It wasn’t pretty. As the tasting started, the pressure got to be too much, so my husband and I went off in search of falafel so we could ride out the tasting/judging hour. When in need of comfort, seek fried food tucked into carbohydrates.
In the end, I didn’t win. I did have the chance to taste both of my pies as well as the winning pie, and I can say with complete conviction that my pies were the two best pies I’ve ever made. And the winning pie was “meh”. Last year’s winner was “OMG this is SO freakin good I need to sit down” delicious (this was my first introduction to Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s cooking), so I’m not sure what happened this year. But it was a personal victory for me, so I went home happy (and full of falafel and pie).
I’ve never found failure to be a good motivating tool for me, even though I know it should be, but for some reason, I cannot get pie out of my mind. I’ve made another cherry pie since the contest, and I plan on doing some intense “research” in the next month so I can present the perfect pumpkin and pear pies at Thanksgiving. So if you readers have any recommendations of favorite recipes or flavors to try, please send them my way. While I can’t offer you a slice of pie in thanks, I can offer a picture of someone else eating it and enjoying it, if you’re into that kind of thing.
If you want to try my non-award-winning (but still outrageously delicious) sweet cherry pie, here are the details.
Sweet Cherry Pie
- Dough for 2 pie crusts (recipe to follow)
- 3 24-ounce jars Morello cherries, well drained (make sure you don’t buy cherry pie filling, just the cherries themselves jarred in water and some sugar) or 6 cups fresh cherries, pitted, washed, and drained
- 2/3 – 1 ¼ cup sugar (just taste your cherries and sweeten to your tastes)
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- 1-2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp raw sugar
- On the bottom rack of your oven, place a large rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. With the sheet in the oven, preheat to 500 degrees.
- Roll out your first pie dough into roughly a 12-inch circle, and gently transfer to a deep dish pie plate, gently lifting the dough into the plate and patching any holes. Leave the dough hanging over the edges of the plate. Refrigerate.
- In a large bowl, mix together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Add cherries, lemon juice, and almond extract, and gently mix the cherries to completely combine. Taste your cherries here – add more sugar or lemon juice if you need it.
- Roll your second pie dough into a 12-inch circle. With a sharp knife and a ruler or a pastry wheel, cut through dough to form 6 strips of even thickness (they’ll be different lengths, but that’s okay).
- Get your dough-lined pie plate from the fridge, and gently pour the cherry mixture into the plate. Using the strips of dough and working from left to right, lay down 3 evenly-spaced strips of dough across your pie. Use the next 3 strips to form a lattice on the top of your pie. Trim overhanging edges to about 1/2 inch, and press lattice edges into dough while tucking under any extra dough against the lip of the plate. Using a fork or your fingers, decoratively crimp the edges of your pie to seal everything in.
- Using a pastry brush or spritz bottle, gently mist your lattice pieces (NOT the outer crust, just the lattice bit) with water. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the moistened lattice.
- Put your pie in the oven on the preheated baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 425, and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375. Bake pie until filling is thick, shiny, and bubbling, and pie crusts are a light golden brown, about 1 more hour. If your crust begins to get too brown, cover the edges of your pie with foil to prevent overbrowning.
- Let your pie cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before digging in.
All-Butter Pie Dough
Adapted from Mrs. Wheelbarrow
This recipe makes enough pie dough for a single-crust pie – if you’re making a double crust pie (like the cherry pie), make this recipe twice. Don’t double it – just make it twice.
- 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch dice
- about ¼ cup ice water
- Dump your flour into a large, wide bowl (big enough for you to get your hands in there). Dump the butter on top. Using your fingertips, gently pinch the butter into the flour until the butter bits are about the size of peas. Your butter bits won’t all be the same size – as long as there aren’t any huge chunks of butter in there, you should be okay.
- Start with 3 Tbsp of ice water – dump water over the butter and flour. Using your hands, gently gather the dough together into a ball in the bowl – if your dough isn’t coming together, add a teaspoon of water at a time until you can gather the dough into a ball (there will be about ¼ cup of flour and butter bits leftover in the bottom of the bowl), and dump it out onto a clean, cool countertop along with the rest of the bits in the bowl. Very gently gather together the dough and bits, lightly kneading once or twice to get your dough into a ball. Press dough down gently into a small, fat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.