Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cherry Pie

Rainier cherries are one of my favorite summer fruits. I really wanted to turn them into a pie, but most recipes require sour cherries. That’s fine for some, but I wanted to use these bad boys, so I scoured my cookbooks and not surprisingly, I found a lot of cherry pie recipes. Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home (seen previously here and here) was the winner in using sweet cherries. He recommends Bings. I say Rainiers if you can get them. They rock just that much more.

As a side note, I’d like to mention that this is the best my pie crust, excluding the very different galette dough which I have used as pie dough here and here, has ever tasted. My friend Corey mentioned the crust to me specifically after I gave her a big piece for her and her husband to share. I am a big, big fan of this pie and you should be too.

Cherry Pie from Ad Hoc at Home:

Makes 1 double crusted pie

2½ c. all-purpose flour plus more for rolling
1¼ tsp. salt
2½ sticks (10 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces and chilled
About 5 Tb. ice water

2 Tb. cornstarch
2 Tb. water
7 c. sweet cherries, pitted
¾-1 c. granulated sugar
1 Tb. vanilla extract

1 large egg, beaten
Granulated sugar for sprinkling

Keller may prefer to make his pie doughs by hand, but I’m still a big fan of the food processor method. The instructions reflect my bias. It’s great to get your dough done ahead of time so you only have to worry about the filling/rolling out the dough, depending on if you have help/how fast you can pit cherries.

Combine the flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor. Add in the butter and pulse a few times until the butter pieces are well incorporated and no larger than a pea. Drizzle ¼ cup of water over the top and pulse a few times until the dough just holds together when pinched.  Add the remaining tablespoon of water if the dough is very dry. Turn out of the food processor and don’t worry if it looks like a big pile of flour. Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated. This last part has always been what I have struggled with, but this time I just kneaded it more and didn’t try to add any additional water, which can make the dough tough instead of flaky and delicious.

Divide the dough in about half, with one piece slightly larger than the other. The larger piece will be for the bottom crust. Shape each half into a 1” thick disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. As my mom always says, you have to give the gluten time to rest.

Combine the cornstarch and the water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch into a slurry.

Put 5 cups of cherries in a large bowl and set aside. Put the remaining 2 cups of cherries I a food processor and blend into a puree. Don’t worry if there are some small pieces remaining. Taste the puree to check how sweet it is.

Combine the puree and sugar (¾ cup if the cherries are very sweet, up to 1 cup if they are more tart) in a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent the bottom from burning, until the mixture has reduced to 1¼ to 1½ cups. Reduce the heat to medium-low and, stirring constantly, add the cornstarch slurry.

Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook until the mixture becomes translucent again. Remove from the heat, spoon a little of the puree mixture onto a plate, and let cool slightly, then rub it between your fingertips to feel for any remaining grains of cornstarch. If necessary, cook slightly longer to dissolve the cornstarch. Transfer the filling to a medium bowl and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool completely.      

If the dough is too hard to roll, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes or pound it a few times with a rolling pin. Or, in my case, do both. Lightly flour the work surface and the rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of the larger disk of dough with flour and roll it out to a 13-14” round, about 1/8” thick. Roll outward from center, rotating the dough frequently and adding a little flour to the work surface or dough as needed to prevent sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a 9-10” pie plate, gently easing the dough into the corners and up the sides. Roll out the second piece of dough in the same manner, to a 12” round, about 1/8” thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate both doughs for 15 minutes. Again, resting is important.

Position one oven rack in the bottom of the oven and the other in the center and preheat to 400 degrees.

Stir the puree into the whole cherries and pour into the pie shell. At this point, if the top crust is too hard to shape, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Moisten the rim of the pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges together to seal and create a raised edge to the crust. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Using  paring knife, cut a few slits in the top of the pie for steam vents. Put on the bottom rack and bake for 20 minutes.

Lower the heat to 375 degree, move the pie to the center rack, and bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack to cool.
According to Keller, the pie is best served 2 to 3 hours after it is baked, but it can be kept at room temperature the day it is baked or wrapped and refrigerated for up to 3 days. To heat, warm in a 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
I started eating this about 20 minutes after it came out of the oven. It is a fantastic summer dessert, great with or without vanilla ice cream.

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