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Lazy, Rustic, Haphazard, and Amazing Sour Cherry Pies

I’ve gotten seriously lazy with my sour cherry pies.

I make at least half a dozen every year, or my father sulks. It’s just one of those things. The tree is ready in mid-June, so everyone gathers together to pick, pit, barbecue, and eat. I’ve learned to make the crust dough in advance at home and just bring it over and stick it into Dad’s freezer before we attack the tree. These things get easier over time.

But since the tree keeps growing and I make more and more pies each year, I’ve had to learn a few shortcuts along the way. A few improvements. How do you make so many pies without anyone getting bored, without driving yourself nuts with irritation, while maintaining high quality and tastiness? Well, I think I’ve finally figured it out. This is how.

Forget pie tins. Forget measurements and mixing up the filling carefully. Forget lattices or double crusts. Forget everything you’ve ever learned about how to make a beautiful pie. No one cares if these are beautiful. If they’re delicious, dayenu, it’s more than enough for us. Don’t lead us through the desert. Just make us a few more pies!

Lazy. Haphazard. I make an almond-meal based tart dough, roll out chunks of it, and just splat them onto foil-covered baking sheets. I squeeze much of the juice out of cherries, handfuls at a time, and spread them across the middle of the sheet of dough. Sprinkle on some sort of starch to absorb the liquid, brown sugar, flavorful booze, a bit of cinnamon, some vanilla and almond extracts.

Want variety? Sure, make a few wishniak pies, a few with whisky, some with amaretto. Whatever makes you happy. Just splash it right on top. Then cover all your sins with crumblies, and stick it in the oven. One or two pies per baking sheet. My oven fits four baking sheets. We get the job done. Someone else runs out for ice cream in the end.

Sour Cherry Archives
2008: Sour Cherry Coffee Cake
2007: Almond Buttermilk Biscuits with Sour Cherry Compote, Butterscotch, and Candied Pickled Ginger
2007: Sour Cherry Braised Lamb Shanks
2006: Dave’s Sour Cherry Barbecue Sauce and Baby Back Ribs
2006: Sour Cherry Almond Milk Sorbet
2006: Sour Cherry Sage Flower Jam
2006: Sour Cherry Pie (Old Version)

Lazy, Rustic, Haphazard, and Amazing Sour Cherry Pies
For the crust:
2 C flour
1/2 C almond meal
1/2 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 C butter (slightly softened, but still cold)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
For the filling (and no, this section doesn’t have precise measurements):
Sour cherries, rinsed and pitted
Flour or corn starch
Dark brown sugar
Almond extract
Vanilla extract
Booze (I prefer wishniak (a sort of cherry liquor), but kirsch or amaretto or whiskey or rum or whatever you like will work just fine)
For the crumblies:
1/2 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C butter

Mix together the dry ingredients for the crust. Add the butter and mix or squish together by hand until the dough reaches a texture like bread crumbs. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until the dough just starts to come together. Slam it against a hard surface to remove the air bubbles, as you would if working with clay. Form it into a squat, chubby cylinder, and cut the cylinder in half so that you have two disks. (Or into smaller chunks, if you prefer smaller pies.) Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate them for at least half an hour, and up to twenty-four hours. Alternatively, you can stick them in the freezer and they’ll keep for a few months. This makes enough dough for two reasonably large tarts (or more smaller ones).

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Prepare an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. (Or several!)

Take one chunk of dough out of the fridge at a time. I like to roll out my dough between floured layers of waxed paper, to keep my rolling pin clean and make it easier to flip it as I go. Every few moments, just gently remove the wax paper and sprinkle on a bit more dough to keep it from sticking. When it’s about 1/8″ thick, flip it out onto a prepared baking sheet.

You’re going to build a really haphazard filling right on top of the dough, keeping about 1.5″-2″ clear around the edge.

First, the sour cherries. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the cherries before piling them on top of the dough – no matter how much liquid you remove, you’ll still end up with too much remaining. I promise. (Save the liquid you squeeze out – you can use it to make syrup for soda!)

Next, sprinkle on some flour or corn starch to help absorb the liquid. A nice dusting over all the cherries should do just fine. You really can’t go wrong here. Then sprinkle on a light dusting of cinnamon as well.

Drizzle a few little dashes of vanilla and almond extracts over the cherries.

Heavily sprinkle brown sugar over the cherries next. My brown sugar tends to solidify, so more often than not I use a knife to just slice the brown sugar over the cherries. I use rather a lot, but it’s just a matter of taste. Sour cherries are more flavorful than sweet ones, and you add a lot of sweetness with ice cream at the end anyway.

Last, splash some booze over the whole mess. Rather a lot more than you did with the extracts. Definitely more of a splash than a drizzle, this time. Don’t panic. The alcohol will cook off, and it’ll be lovely.

To finish things up, make the crumbles by mixing together the non-butter crumbly ingredients and then cutting in the butter until the texture is, well, crumbly. Sprinkle over the cherries.

At this point, if you’re making pies in bulk for a parent who sulks if he doesn’t get enough pie each summer, you can just freeze your pie in his freezer and instruct him on how to bake it himself whenever he wants. That’s a bit silly, though. He always bakes and eats them all within the first week anyway.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375° F and bake for another 30 minutes, or until it looks done.

Serve with vanilla ice cream for best effect.

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6 Responses to “Lazy, Rustic, Haphazard, and Amazing Sour Cherry Pies”

  1. mr.ed says:

    While this would not win the Michigan state fair chery pie contest because it just doesn’t look like a “proper” sample, it’s a winner. We had a sour cherry tree in our E. Lansing backyard. We tested the tree daily for ripeness. When the perfect day arrived, hundreds of gourmet birds stripped it bare, pooping the dark red seeds over everybody’s cars. My old white had pink spots that wouldn’t ever wash off.
    And, I’d bet this recipe would work with most any fruit, especially Granny Smith sour apples!

  2. You got a nice post here as always. Thanks also for sharing the recipe and the photos makes it look more healthy and delicious.

  3. emiglia says:

    This sounds exactly the way that pie should be. Love it.

  4. Sour cherry pie sounds so delicious. Would love to try this recipe out. Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. I’m like you. Who cares what it looks like, how does it taste? That is what really matters, well, as long as it has some appeal.

  6. Yum! That cherry pie looks so good. My wife is gathering recipes and making some of my favorite dishes…and I’m thinking that this one has got to be tried.

    Thanks for sharing this one!

    - Charles

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