Sweet Cherry Pie

It’s such a shame that cherry season is so short because they are beyond delicious!  By far, my favorite thing to do with them is to eat them simply as they are; bags of cherries do not last long in the fridge at my house.  Occasionally, though, I’ll see a recipe that looks and sounds so good that I make an exception to the “no baking with fresh cherries” rule.  Like this sweet cherry pie, which popped up over on Annie’s Eats a few weeks ago, when fresh cherries were readily available and fairly cheap.  Annie raved about the recipe, which comes from Cook’s Illustrated (one of my favorite recipe sources), so the next time I was at the store I bought a ton of cherries.  I measured out the 6 cups I needed for this recipe and, of course, ate the rest straight off the stem.

Sweet Cherry Pie

Though I’m not really big on gadgets, I recently picked up a cherry pitter, and now I wonder how I lived without it.  I’d tried pitting some cherries using other techniques a few weeks ago and not only did it make a huge mess in the kitchen and leave stains on my nails for days, it was a really slow process.  It still took me a fair amount of time to pit the 6 cups of cherries for this recipe with my new toy, but it was a lot less messy and dare I say, even fun?  This recipe is a bit labor intensive – one you pit all of the cherries you also need to cut them in half (which apparently helps keep the filling from being too dry).  Trust me, though, the effort is well worth it.  This is one spectacular pie!  The filling set up beautifully (no soupy pie) and the tartness of the plums balanced the sweetness of the cherries wonderfully.  Also, placing the pie on a preheated baking sheet in the oven prevented the crust from being soggy, despite not blind-baking it.  I had a few slices and shared the rest of the pie with Shane’s dad and his coworkers, where it also received rave reviews.

A quick note – you can make this pie year round if you stash fresh cherries in your freezer this summer.  If you use frozen fruit, measure the cherries while they’re still frozen, but let them defrost completely before you make the filling.  Otherwise, you may wind up with partially cooked fruit in your pie.

Sweet Cherry Pie

Sweet Cherry Pie
from Cook’s Illustrated (as also seen on Annie’s Eats)

your favorite double crust pie dough (I have several, including this one Annie used)
2 red plums, halved and pitted
6 cups (about 2 pounds) pitted sweet cherries (or 6 cups pitted frozen cherries), halved
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons instant tapioca, ground
(in your food processor or a spice grinder)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
(optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

To making the filling, process the plums and 1 cup of the cherries in your food processor (or blender) until smooth, about 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the solids.  To the bowl with the puree, add the remaining cherries, sugar, salt, lemon juice, tapioca and cinnamon (if using) and toss to combine.  Let stand for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F, and place a baking sheet on a rack in the bottom third of the oven.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with a round of pie dough.  Transfer the cherry mixture, including all juices, to the pie plate.  Distribute the pieces of butter evenly over the fruit.  Top the filling with the second round of pie dough.  Flute the edges using your thumb and forefinger or press with the tines of a fork to seal. Brush the top and edges with the egg wash. With a sharp knife, make 8 evenly spaced slits in the top crust to allow steam to vent.  Put the pie in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 350 F and continue baking about 30-40 minutes more, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack.  Let cool to room temperature before serving so the juices have time to thicken, about 2 to 3 hours.