I love cherry pie.
I mean, what’s not to love?
Oddly enough, I’ve actually never made a cherry pie from scratch before now. And you better believe that I’ve made a lot of pies in my day. Peach, pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, lemon meringue… You get the picture.
Pies have always been a big part of my life.
Growing up my grandmother did a lot of baking, and more than a few pies have come out of her oven. To this day, Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday, partly because of the abundance of pie. I remember being a little kid and constantly sneaking away on Thanksgiving day to my grandmother’s sewing room just to stare at the pies and drool. The sewing room tended to be cooler than the rest of the house so she always kept them in there while the rest of the meal was cooking away. I guess she thought they wouldn’t be disturbed in there, but their sweet, fresh-baked siren song would have drawn me in no matter where they were hiding.
It wasn’t until my teen years that I started making my own pies. During my senior year of high school I took a culinary course at a vocational school, and it was then that I learned to make homemade pie crust. Grandma tends to use store bought crust, and for some reason I was interested only in eating pie until I learned how to make the crust from scratch. After that I was a pie baking fool and developed quite a reputation for myself amongst my friends and family. I’ve made a few tiny variations to the recipe I learned in high school, mainly substituting butter for shortening, but for the most part I still use that same recipe, which I’ll share below.
I cannot believe that this is the first pie recipe I’m sharing with you. I planned to post my favorite apple pie when I made it last Thanksgiving, but there were so many things going on that week that I just never found the time to get to it. It’s a good thing Thanksgiving comes every year!
Ever since I’ve been thinking about when I might get around to making another, but I knew that if I just waited the opportunity would present itself. As soon as I saw fresh cherries showing up at the market this year, I knew the time had come for me to get my butt in gear and bake a pie for you. My very first cherry pie.
I know that they say sour cherries make the best cherry pies, but so far I’ve only seen bing cherries at the store and I’m a man on a mission. Sweet cherries are so good on their own that there’s no possible way that covering them in an all butter crust and baking them in the oven could do anything but make them even more wonderful. So, sweet cherry pie it is.
Since I’ve never made a cherry pie, I went straight to the queen of food bloggers to look for a recipe, and bingo. Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe looked amazing. I tend to prefer a really well stuffed pie, and all of my pie plates are 10 inches, so I increased and adjusted the recipe just a bit. If you don’t have a 10″ pan though, you can still use this recipe, as is, with a 9″ or 9.5″ plate and you’ll just have a generously stuffed pie. No one is going to complain about that I promise. You just might want to put a liner or some foil down on the bottom of the oven in case the syrupy filling bubbles over.
This recipe is complete perfection. Delicious and beautiful. The total package.
The crust is buttery and flaky and tender, and the crimped outer edges are thick and wonderfully crisp. The egg wash gives the top crust a picture perfect shine and the coarse sugar adds a rustic kind of sparkle.
And the filling! The cherries soften a bit but don’t turn to mush, so they remain whole and retain some texture. The filling is sweetened just enough to bring out the cherries’ juices and highlight their flavor without overpowering them. When baked, the dark sweet bing cherries turn rich and jammy with a deeply concentrated flavor. The addition of lemon zest and juice brightens everything up and adds an almost floral quality.
As if this pie wasn’t perfect enough already, I decided to add some vanilla ice cream. Heaven. Like, really. I’ve tasted heaven.
Sweet Cherry Pie
makes enough for 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust pies
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
(up to) 1 cup ice cold water
Stir or whisk together flour, sugar, & salt in a medium bowl. If you have time, toss the bowl in the freezer for a 15 or 20 minutes. Cube the butter, add it to the chilled flour, and cut it in with a pastry blender, until it looks like coarse pea sized chunks. You can also do this by pulsing in a food processor. If you took very long to cut the butter in, you can toss the bowl back in the freezer for another 15 minutes, but if the butter is still firm and cold, don’t bother.
Start mixing in the water and stirring and tossing with a fork to distribute and combine. Try starting with about 1/2 cup, mix together, and add about a tablespoon or two at a time, until it starts to come together. The less water you use the better and flakier the crust will be, but you don’t want to use so little that it won’t hold together. If you can press it together with your hands and it mostly stays in a ball, with a few little bits crumbling out, you’re good to go.
Divide the dough into to balls, and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Try to handle it as little as possible so as not to warm or melt the butter. Press or pat the covered balls of dough into thick disks and refrigerate for at least an hour or two (or up to a few days)
Sweet cherry pie
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes one 10 inch pie
3 lbs bing or other sweet dark cherries
zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 5 or 6 pieces
coarse sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Stir together the cherries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest gently together in a large bowl.
Roll out half of chilled dough (use larger piece, if you’ve divided them unevenly) on a floured work surface to 13-inch round. Gently place it in 10-inch pie pan, either by rolling it around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan or by folding it into quarters and unfolding it in the pan. Trim edges to a half-inch overhang.
Pour filling into crust, and dot the filling with the bits of cold butter.
Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface. You can either drape it over the filling as is, or you can cut it into 1 inch wide strips and weave a lattice on top of the filling. If you like, follow this link for a great lattice tutorial. Either way, cut the excess dough from around the pie leaving a 1/2 to 1 inch overhang. Fold the overhang under the bottom crust, pressing the edge to seal it, and crimp the edge decoratively. Brush the egg wash over over pie crust, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. If you didn’t do a lattice, you’ll need to cut slits in the crust with a sharp knife to form steam vents.
Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F. and bake the pie for 30 to 35 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Let the pie cool on a rack for at least 3 hours before serving.