Sunday, March 20, 2011
Real Cherry Pie
I’m the pie maker in the family. Christmas eve when we all gather, I bring the pies. I’m especially noted for my cherry pie. It’s not made with canned cherry pie filling, but with red tart pitted cherries that you add to a mixture of flour and sugar. Most folks agree it’s one of the best cherry pies they’ve sunk their teeth into. I’m sure there are other cherry pies out there that are better, but I’m not ashamed at presenting my cherry pie wherever I may roam.
This recipe came from the Betty Crocker cookbook, the orange binder like type one.
Mine is over 28 years old, is falling apart, but the recipes are pretty tried and true.
For a 9inch pie:
2 cans red tart pitted cherries
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 tsp almond extract
The pie crust comes from the same book:
For 2 crust pie:
1 ¾ cup flour
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
4 TBS water
Making cherry pie is kind of a ritual for me. I get out certain mixing bowls. I drain the cherries first. The more they are drained, the less runny the filling. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. I mix the sugar and flour (for the cherries) and have it ready for the cherries that I add right before I put it into the pie crust.
I get out all my tools—rolling pin, wax paper, almond extract, measuring cups/spoons, etc. I fill up the pyrex measuring cup with ice and add water. (The colder the water for your pie crust, the better.) I measure out everything at the same time.
The first time I saw this pie crust recipe, I was skeptical. I always had trouble with the traditional recipe (shortening and cutting into the flour—flouring the crust and making a complete mess). Over 25 years ago, I asked my best friend’s grandma “Granny” who was also an excellent pie maker if she had ever made pie crust with oil instead of shortening.
“Well, I’ve never used oil, but you could try it. I don’t see why not if it’s in the cookbook.”
Granny gave the okay, so I decided to give it a shot. I have never used any other pie crust since (for my pies anyway—I did however try a crust from Mastering the Art of French Cooking for an apple tart and we’ll talk about that in a later blog). Blending the oil and flour is much easier than shortening (I think) and when you roll the dough out on wax paper, it’s easier to turn into the pie crust.
Here are my step by step directions for pie crust using the oil that you won’t get in the cookbook.
After you’ve measured your flour and salt for the pie crust, drizzle in the oil by “fluffing” with a fork until all the flour is moistened and the mixture becomes pea size balls or there abouts. Add 1 Tablespoon of cold water and continue to fluff. I use 4 TBs, although the original recipe calls for 3-4.
What is “fluffing”? It’s my term and probably along the lines of folding, but with a little more action. Once all the dough becomes bound together in a ball and the sides of the bowl are “clean”, gather the ball in your hand and scrap any remaining flour/oil from the bowl and shape into a ball. If you are making a two-pie crust, divide in half. Below are the pictures: mixing the oil, after mixing the oil, then after each tablespoon of water and the final outcome.
Have a clean surface ready and right before rolling out the dough, with a cold dish cloth wipe down the area where you’ll be rolling your dough. Tear off a sheet of wax paper, slightly larger than the pie plate. Flatten down with the box so that the paper is smooth. (The water helps keep the paper in place, but too much water and it will cause your paper to become soggy and stick to your dough. Too little water and your paper won’t stick and when you start rolling, the paper will crinkle and move around.)
After paper is down, take one ball of dough and flatten with your hand, shaping into a circle. Tear off another sheet of wax paper (same size as the one you first tore off) and place it on top of dough. Roll dough in even rolls—start in the middle, roll out in short rolls, working your way around the circle and continue until your dough is spread evenly across the wax paper.
Slowly lift the edge of paper. If the dough is sticking, take your fingers and gently pull the dough away from paper. By doing this at the edge first, you’ll see the paper come away from the dough. Once the paper is off the dough, set it back on the dough and flip it over. Remove the paper from this side of the dough, then throw that paper away. Now you have exposed dough with paper underneath (that has already been prepped). Lift the entire thing (paper and dough) and flip it over your pie plate. This requires a gentle move (and practice). You may have to do a little “peeling away” again with the edge of your pie dough (like you did earlier), then pull off the wax paper. Now work your dough into the plate. You’ll find the dough is more pliable and can be easily patched if you have a tear.
If this is a two pie crust, roll out your 2nd ball, but leave the dough covered with the paper until you’ve filled your pie plate with the filling and you’re ready to top it with the second crust. (Peel it away on both sides, but leave it as is until ready).
If you are only using a one pie crust create an edge by pinching the dough together. You may have to tear some off where there’s more dough and add it to the spots where there’s less. You’ll know by feeling it as you go around the edge of the pie plate.
Then create a decorative edge with your fingers by resting your thumb and pointer finger over the edge of the crust (there's a picture below demonstrating this for the two pie crust), and taking your pointer finger on your other hand and pulling the dough toward you. It’ll make a nice swirly looking edge. Or take a fork and press the fork tin onto the edge of the pie crust. Or find a mini cookie cutter (I use a tiny leaf or heart) and cut out pieces from any scraps of dough and lay them along the edge using a little bit of milk to make the dough stick to each other.
With a two pie crust, flip it onto the top, after you’ve added your filling.
(Filling: Add the drained cherries to the flour/sugar mixture by stirring until complete mixed, then dump into bottom of crust. Dot with 2 TBs of butter. I make the butter small little pieces and put them all around the top of the cherries. I then sprinkle the almond extract evenly around the pie before I add the top crust.)
I add the top crust and crimp the edges together and seal and decorate the edge. Top the crust with milk using a pastry brush. Take a knife and make slits on the top. And if you want, use a cookie cutter and cut out shapes with any remaining extra dough and add to the top of your crust to make it look prettier.
I have pie crust covers, but they don’t seem to work for me. And fruit pie edges always get darker, so you want to cover them. I use aluminum foil strips. I cut 3 strips about 2-3 inches wide, then I cut those strips in half, so I’ll end up with six pieces. Working with the smaller pieces seems to be easier—they stay on better (for me anyway). I bake my pie at 425 degrees for at least 50 minutes, but usually closer to an hour. I make sure the juice of the pie is bubbling through the crust. The original recipe says to bake 35-45 minutes until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. My oven always seems to take longer.
You can bake the scraps by sprinkling them with sugar and cinnamon for about 10 minutes.
Once there’s about 15 minutes left to the cooking time, check under the foil and see if the edges are brown enough. If they are, leave on the foil. If the edges aren’t brown, then remove the foil and continue to bake, checking the pie before it's finished to make sure the edges don’t get too brown (and if I have to, I’ll put the foil back on).
After the pie is finished and I’ve taken it out of the oven, I’ll sprinkle the top with cinnamon/sugar mixture. It makes the pie look nicer and adds a nice touch taste wise. And voila, yummy cherry pie.
For a one pie crust:
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
1/3 cup oil
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons cold water