Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cherry pie

My friend Amy and I have known each other since we were babies. We grew up with mothers who were excellent cooks, and sandwiches in our lunchboxes made with wholemeal - and often homemade - bread, so naturally our form of rebellion was not so much cigarettes or binge drinking as Sara Lee frozen desserts. Which is why it's so hilarious that I found myself making pie at her place last weekend. And not once but twice - as the first time I mistook the sugar for salt and vice versa, resulting in a dough that would - if my error had not been spotted - have derailed forever our homemade efforts. To be honest, I've always been a little afraid of pie dough. Somehow it always seemed like science, and that's never been a strong suit of mine. To minimise risk, I'd always made it in the food processor and the first batch I made - more play doh than pie dough - I did that way. But when it became clear that a second batch was needed, the food processor was under suds in the sink and the clock was ticking (Amy's four year old, who'd enthusiastically assisted in the mixing of the fruit filling, was expecting THE WORLD'S BEST PIE - no pressure there - before bed) so I hastily threw flour and chilled butter into a bowl, along with some sugar and salt (in the correct proportions) and ice-cold water and did what all the books and blogs tell you to do. Don't handle it too much. Leave big streaks of butter. Don't worry if it seems dry. And you know what? It worked. Pastry that was flaky, beautifully browned and buttery. Though I love cherries, it's not a flavour of pie I'm usually drawn to as they've a tendency to be gloopy. Not this one. We demolished it as soon as it was out of the oven, and not just because there was a four year old up way past her bedtime.

Cherry pie
Adapted from a recipe by Smitten Kitchen

The dough recipe below makes enough for one double crust pie (which you'll need for this recipe) or two single crust ones. Remember - you can freeze pie dough.


2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
8 ounces (225 grams) unsalted butter, very cold

Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Dice butter into small pieces.

Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the tips of your fingers or a pastry blender. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop. 

Drizzle 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You may need an additional 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water to bring it together, but add it a little at a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and use your hands to gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.

Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap - use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.


4 cups pitted fresh cherries
4 tablespoons cornflour
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits

1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
Coarse sugar, for decoration

Preheat oven to 400°F. 

Stir together the cherries, cornflour, sugar, salt and lemon gently together in a large bowl. 

Roll out half of chilled dough on a floured work surface to a circle a little larger than the size of the pie pan. Gently place it over the pan and trim overhang by 1.5cm (1/2 inch).

Spoon filling into pie crust, discarding the majority of the liquid that has pooled in the bowl. Dot the filling with the bits of cold butter.

Roll out the remaining dough into a similarly sized circle on a lightly floured surface, drape it over the filling and trim overhang by 2cm (1 inch). Fold the overhang under the bottom crust, pressing the edge to seal it, and crimp the edge decoratively (I use the two hand pinch and poke techique but it's super easy to just use the tines of a fork to flatten the edges). Brush the egg wash over over pie crust, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. 

Cut slits in the crust with a sharp knife, forming steam vents, and bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F. and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until the crust is golden.

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