“Harry, I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”
I know that this has been done before. Ya know, the old cherry pie with Twin Peaks references, but I can’t help myself. Twin Peaks is one of my all-time favorite shows, and Agent Cooper is one of my all-time favorite characters. I’m left with a lot of questions after the season three finale—who isn’t—but this is not about my thoughts on what the hell Lynch means by, well, all of it—I’m gonna stick to cherry pie. Here’s also hoping to a season four.
I would be doing a disservice to Agent Cooper, myself and Lakebilly Pies if I didn’t have a killer cherry pie on the menu, and I have to say this one is good. I’m not kiddin’ ya, this pie is REALLY good—and simple. It’s so good that my mom, who hates most things, and does not like cherries, loves this pie.
What makes it so good? First off, my all-butter crust, secondly, the cherries, and finally, a splash of bourbon–which rounds out the sour from the cherries and the sweetness from the sugar. Now, if you can get fresh sour morello cherries, that is the way to go, but they are only in season for a short period of time, about a month. I’m really lucky, I live in the midwest so when they are in season I can get them.
“I plan on writing an epic poem about this gorgeous pie.”
But what does one do if fresh cherries are not a viable option? After a bunch of reading, I discovered that the best choice for out of season sour cherries are jarred vs. frozen. In fact, Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries are the mother flippin’ best. It seems that frozen sour cherries are just too delicate and don’t freeze well. I really loved these Trader Joe’s cherries in my pie, and I highly recommend them for your cherry pie as well. They come in a light syrup—I know there are folks out there that are jar/canned syrup averse, but compared to frozen, I think the light syrup actually helped with the overall taste of my pie.
You will see some pies that call for sweet cherries, and you can bake with any variety, but sour, and especially morello, are the way to go for that classic cherry pie flavor. Sour cherries (also called tart) tossed in sugar, cinnamon and bourbon are totally worthy of epic poem status.
“This must be where pies go when they die.”
- 16 tablespoons (8 ounces or two sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) white pastry flour (intermediate or advanced baker), or use all-purpose flour (10 1/2 ounces) for those who are getting more comfortable with all-butter crusts. Note: if you can’t get pastry flour, mix all-purpose flour with cake flour (1 part cake flour, 2 parts all-purpose) Here is a short video with some additional info.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4-10 tablespoons ice water
- 2 tablespoons sugar (optional, personal preference)
- 16 ounces (about 4 1/2 cups) fresh morello cherries (pitted and rinsed), or if fresh are out of season, 1 1/3 jars (16 ounces) drained Trader Joe’s dark morello cherries
- 1 cup (7.1 ounces or 200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- Sugar in the raw (demerara sugar) for sprinkling on top crust
If you want a full tutorial on how to make a killer all-butter pie crust, check out my full recipe and guide.
In a food processor add flour, salt and sugar. Pulse to incorporate. Add cold, cubed butter and pulse until mealy, lima bean sized pieces (If you do not have a food processor, you can use a pastry blender and a medium size bowl to incorporate ingredients). Once it is the right consistency, move mixture out of the food processor and into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in water, using a fork, one tablespoon at a time. Dough should hold together when you squeeze it, but not be overly moist (too much water aids in gluten development which causes a tough crust, tough crust is my nemesis). Form the dough into a ball and slice down the middle into two even parts. Form each part into a flat, even disk, cover in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least two hours and up to two days. Overnight is always best, this will help the gluten rest and the dough will not be tough and it will help keep its shape while baking.
Grind two tablespoons of instant tapioca—I use a coffee grinder for a finer finished product, but you can use a blender or food processor as well (food processor/blender won’t grind the tapioca as well). By doing this you won’t have crystals of tapioca in your pie.
In a medium-sized bowl combine sugar, tapioca and cinnamon (or if you are grinding the tapioca in a food processor you can use that to combine all ingredients). Place cherries in a medium-sized bowl and add sugar mixture. Add bourbon and toss gently. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, the juices will run from the cherries.
Preheat oven with a cookie sheet inside to 425 degrees F. Baking a pie on a cookie sheet prevents a dreaded soggy bottom, it also catches any juices that bubble over.
While cherries are sitting, sprinkle counter and dust a rolling pin and your hands with flour. Place one chilled dough disk on the flour covered counter (if your dough warms up and becomes too sticky, even with flour, you can chill it in the fridge for an additional 15-20 minutes). Starting from the center of your disk, apply even, gentle pressure, and roll away from you. Don’t roll back and forth in the same spot—instead roll outward and then turn dough clockwise. If you roll in the same spot you will most likely have uneven dough and gluten will develop. Again, gluten development causes your crust to get tough. Did I mention that tough crust is my nemesis? Continue to roll and then turn dough, using more flour when needed and flipping multiple times along the way, until you have an 11 inch diameter. Place the dough into a 9 inch pie pan. Roll out the second disk for the top crust as you did the first. The second disk should be a bit larger (10-11 inches) than the 9 inch diameter of the pie tin so that you can tuck the top crust and crimp the edges.
Using a large spoon, scoop up cherry filling and place into the dough filled pie pan (leave most of the juice in the bowl if you don’t want a lot of it spilling out when sliced—it will look like the top picture in this post. I like to scoop up the cherries and if some of the juice comes along with it, that seems to be the perfect amount).For a crimped edge, brush the rim of dough in the pie plate with water. This helps seal the top and bottom crusts together. Now, take the second disk and cover the the top of the pie. Using scissors, kitchen sheers or even a knife, remove the excess dough leaving a 1/2-inch border hanging over the pie tin. Tuck the dough overhang underneath itself fitting the edge of the pie pan all the way around the pie, forming a thicker dough border. Crimp the edges of the crust—press your thumb from the inside of the rim into the edge of the dough while pressing back with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand from outside of the rim. Work your way around the entire edge until completely crimped. Place the entire pie in the freezer for 20 minutes. This will help it keep its shape while baking.
Covering cherry and berry pies keeps the moisture in while cooking, and I highly recommend a double or tighter lattice crust for this pie. I usually do a few cutouts before putting the top crust on, but you can also do traditional knife slits to let steam escape through the top crust. You can be creative with the top crust. You don’t want to do a crimped edge? Try a braided, or use a fork, or cutouts, be creative!
Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F., then reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake for 40 minutes.
Cool on a cooling rack to room temperature before serving. You want to wait 3-4 hours before serving.
The crust should not get too dark, but if you think it is, you can can add aluminum foil as a pie shield to stop it from darkening too much.
Interesting fact: The log lady, Catherine Coulson, passed away a few years back. Her grave has a picture of two hands holding a log. This is fantastic.