My obsession with cherry pie began 3 years ago when a neighbor let us pick cherries from his Montmorency cherry tree. He said that he didn’t like these cherries, but he sure seemed to like them when they were transformed into a pie. I also discovered after 36 years of marriage that cherry pie is Kitty’s favorite. Why is the husband always the last to know? It was that same year that I also discovered a “foolproof” pie dough recipe. Until then, I shied away from making pies because of my frustration with rolling out pie dough, even though a well made pie is one of my favorite desserts and breakfasts.
So life is looking pretty good now. I have a neighbor with a flourishing cherry tree, I have overcome my fear of pie dough and I have a way to score extra points with my wife (and I need all that I can get---one “ah shit” wipes out a hundred “atta boys.”)
Cherry Season 2010
Fast forward to the 2010 cherry season. It was only the year before that life seemed like a bowl of cherries but this year I found myself in the pits. My neighbor’s tree failed to produce as did many of the fruit trees that year. I could not find anyone else in the area with a pie cherry tree and there were no cherries available from the local markets. I am suddenly acting like a junkie looking for his next fix as I set out on a quest to find pie cherries. Internet searches for nearby orchards proved futile. Finally out of desperation I enlisted the help of my faithful friends on Facebook. It suddenly seemed like a race to see who would be first to find these elusive cherries. “Ask and you shall receive” is what the Bible says and within a week I found myself awash in pie cherries. Friends, Pat Herrington and Sherry Booth called me from a farmer’s market in Portland saying that found two flats of pie cherries....”do you want them?” “Is the pope Catholic? Of course---just tell me where to meet you,” I replied. “Don’t bother---we’ll drive them out to you,” Pat says. That’s an offer I can’t refuse. So I jump on Facebook, announce the “winner” of the race and thank everyone for their efforts. Ten minutes later, the phone rings and Jane Robinson says that she just picked up some pie cherries for us in Hood River. Apparently Jane isn’t obsessively checking Facebook every few minutes for updates. Kitty met her halfway and returned with 25 lbs. of cherries so you know what our work was for the rest of that day. But it was all worth it to have a little more than a pie a month in the freezer.
Cherry Season 2011
The extended rainy season, the absence of summer, and taking up the slack while Kitty recovers from surgery put cherries far from my mind. However, the phone rings, and Pat and Sherry are there making a preemptive strike. “Hey Don,” Pat says, “we are at the cherry festival in Hood River, how much do you want?” After calculating my work load, I figured that 20 lbs. sounds good. The next day, 20 lbs of cherries delivered to my front door. Those cherries are now stemmed, pitted and frozen for this years' pies. I hesitate to even say this but I just might need another 10 lbs for good measure.
Where’s the recipe already? Hang on—I’m getting to that. I have taunted my Facebook friends over the last year with pictures of pie and ice cream but you can thank recent guest, new found friend and inveterate food blogger, Penny Klett for inspiring me to finally post the recipe. Penny recently honored us with a blog posting called Up On Crippen Creek. Her blog is a real candy store for foodies. Penny recently posted a recipe for Sweet Cherry Pie and made mention of the fact that when she was here, she failed to get my recipe for Sour Cherry Pie and Buttermilk Ice Cream and that my friends is how this post came to be. So without further ado, here is the recipe for Cherry Pie and Buttermilk Ice Cream.
This recipe is adapted from THE AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN FAMILY COOKBOOK. The recipe call for cornstarch as the thickener but I use a product called Instant Clear Gel. That was a tip given to me by a former professional pie baker, Dana Gerstlauer who used to own and operate PIE IN THE SKY in Portland, Oregon. Dana, who is a frequent guest at Crippen Creek swears by Instant Clear Gel and so far I have to agree with her.
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup cornstarch*
6 cups of fresh sour cherries
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon of almond extract
1 recipe of Foolproof pie dough
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 500°. Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the cherries and almond extract. Spread the filling in the unbaked pie crust bottom.
2. Top with a second pie crust or weave lattice strips over the top for a classic look. Seal and crimp the edges. Lightly brush the top with water and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the top.
3. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425°. Bake until the top is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet, reduce the oven temperature again to 375°, and continue to bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is a deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes, longer. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before serving.
FOOLPROOF PIE CRUST
The secret to this "foolproof" pie dough is vodka. One of the problems that I have always had with pie crust is that the minimal amount of water called for made it difficult to roll out the dough without it splitting. Apparently, adding more water develops the gluten and makes for a tough pie crust. According to COOK'S ILLUSTRATED, adding an equal amount of vodka to the water allows you to double your liquid without the gluten building qualities of just using water. Hence, you end up with a more pliable dough that is easy to roll and as flaky as you would hope for.
I use a combination of butter and lard unless I am making it for a vegetarian and then I use shortening. I recommend Spectrum Shortening as it contains no trans fats. It's difficult to find lard today that has not been hydrogenated but we render our own so that's not a problem here.
• 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon table salt
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
• 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces*
• 1/4 cup cold vodka
• 1/4 cup cold water
1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM
I found this recipe on one of my other favorite food blogs called SMITTEN KITTEN.
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 to 12 large egg yolks (I used 6)
2 cups buttermilk
pinch of salt
1/2 a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
Bring the cream and 1 cup of the sugar to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat (if you’re using the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the cream while it heats as well.)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.
After the cream comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and dribble a small amount into the egg yolks, whisking them constantly, to temper. Continue slowly adding the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Once everything is incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan where you heated the cream.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain into a bowl and mix in the 2 cups of buttermilk (and the vanilla extract if you are using that instead of the vanilla bean.) Cool this mixture completely, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Makes about 2 quarts.
A Pie for Breakfast Fan
OK pie lovers, we'd like to hear from you. Do you have a tip you would like to share with our readers for pie crusts? What is your fat of choice? How about your thickener of choice....cornstarch, flour, tapioca? Are you a fan of pie for breakfast? We are thinking about hosting a pie for breakfast event here at Crippen Creek. If we bake it, will you come? If you post your comments on the blog and/or share this post on Facebook, we will put your name on the Pie for Breakfast invitation list.