July 16, 2012

Pie-O-Rama: Homemade Cherry Pie

It has been well documented that I suck at baking (see failed cheesecake, failed pavlova, failed cookies).  But I was bound and determined to make a good pie for this month's Pie-o-rama.

Several Portland food bloggers publish collaborative reviews on a theme every month; this month was pie. Just pie. Simple. 

I decided to make a cherry pie from fresh cherries - something I don't think I've ever had before. 

And I did it! I'm so proud. 

I learned that baking really takes time and commitment. If you have all of the ingredients and equipment on hand and don't expect it to come together in an hour, you'll have a nice final product. 

Explains why I've never mastered it. I'm the queen of substitutions and half-assery in the kitchen. But this time, this time! I really followed the recipe, took my time, and ended up with a great pie.

Because pie is something you don't screw around with. Cake, I can take or leave. But pie—pie must be good. Bad pie is still good, but good pie is transcendent.

I am always intimidated by pie crust. Thusly, I screw it up. I figure it won't be good, so why try. And then, it isn't. Self-fulfilling. 

But read this pie crust tutorial from Smitten Kitchen. She advises you to flour the heck out of your pie dough while rolling it out.

I always figured that adding too much flour to pie dough was bad. But I think that's more applicable to bread. I added a lot of flour to this crust and it turned out great. No sticking while rolling, no cracking, easy transfer to the pie pan. 

I picked up an easy cherry pitting technique from Food52 involving an empty beer bottle and a chopstick. And it works; no extra, only-has-one-function equipment needed.

So like, the cherry pitting went easy, the pie crust went easy... I was on a roll. I even pushed my luck and made a latticed crust (using a great tutorial on Simply Recipes).

Truthfully, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

But I was patient and baked it precisely according to the directions (I mean, if you screw it up in the baking step, I can't really help you).

And that's how I learned that fresh cherry pie is better than that made of canned fruit. While I'm a little wary of baked fruit at times, this pie is great with just enough sugar to offset, but not overwhelm, the tart cherries. 

Sweet Cherry Pie
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon (aka a pinch) of salt
1 stick of butter (8 oz)
1 cup water, with several ice cubes in it

For the filling:
4 cups pitted cherries
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the crust, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Dice cold butter and add to flour. Use a pastry blender to chop butter into small bits (it's ok if the bits are of uneven size). 

Add 1/2 cup water and mix dough with a rubber spatula. Drizzle water by the teaspoon as you're combining the dough until it comes together. Knead it a few times until it forms a ball. 

Divide dough into two even pieces and wrap each piece separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a few hours. 

Combine pitted cherries with cornstarch, sugar, salt, and lemon juice.

Roll dough out into two 12" circles. Place one piece into a 9" pie pan and add filling.

Cover with second circle of dough or cut into strips and layer over top for a lattice. Brush with egg wash and coat with sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. Enjoy!

See the Portland Food Map O-Rama round up for other area blogger's pie experiences.