TRULY MADLY DEEPLY CHERRY PIE
I adore sour cherries - Morello Cherries to be exact - and amongst the very many things I love about the United States, is the respect and love that is shown to the sour cherry. This is the first choice for pie and danish, rather than the general fruity ones for eating. The first thing I want to do when I get off that plane is go find a cherry danish - because they are always made with the sour cherry. I do love cherries but the general fruity eating varieties are not my favourites. Finding a morello cherry is a hard thing in Australia, but last year when in Tasmania (oh, wonderful bountiful land), knowing Tasmania is the cherry growing eden for Australia and discussing preserving with Michelle Crawford (you can read about Michelles life in a gorgeous little wooden farmhouse in the Huon Valley here), I asked her if she ever came across sour cherries. " Oh no, Sally Wise gets all of those". Now as it happened I was going to visit Sally in a couple of days.
Sally Wise is loved and respected by all who read her numerous cookbooks (she who wrote the Australian classic " A Year in a Bottle" and "The Slow Cooker", to name just a few) and is widely regarded as being a legend with regard to preserving. When visiting last year with Jeanie (Artisan Wholefoods), I of course asked about those sour cherries that Michelle had alluded to. Sally, in her generous manner gave both Jean and I a large bottle of them !!!!!!!!!!! I coddled that bottle in my handbag on the plane trip home, nothing was going to break that jar of special, special cherries. I kept them in the pantry just waiting for a special occasion to make - in my mind - a proper cherry pie. And can I tell you OH MY GOD. Oh my god, as soon as I took the lid of the bottle, that deep marzipanish fragrance of the morello cherry wafted into my nose and it was unreal. The pie itself - I can't think of a better piece of tart or cake that I've had, even if I say so myself - even my niece who is not a sweets or dessert person, loved it.
But, alas you don't have Sally Wise up your sleeve (and even I have finished that bottle), or you might not have a tree close by. You can buy them in the supermarket, but go carefully and choose ones with no additives. This is a beautiful pie for the cooling Autumn Weather and I would suggest Easter. The technique described is also perfect for any pie made with a cooked fruit. A good alternative if you can't find cherries would be an organic, sulphur free dried apricot (reconstituted up before putting into the pie).
|Centring the pastry when lining the tart tin|
|Thickened cherries in a partly blinded shell|
I have written this recipe for Sour Cherries that are commonly available in Australian Supermarkets - they aren't perfect and whilst imported, don't have too many additives. I've specifically chosen to use the semi refined golden castor sugar as it has the least flavour and allows the full beauty of the Morello Cherry to shine forth.
This recipe is a variation on my classic sweet shortcrust pastry, the egg giving it a slightly sexier and biscuity crumb. It's incredibly easy to make and rolls well. I like to use spelt flour, and prefer an unbleached white, but you can add wholemeal in ratio as desired. If you are using wheat, ensure you are using a cake wheat flour - you can use this in the same weight as the spelt. I have a preference in Australia for the Demeter Mills Cake Wheat Flour - white or wholemeal.If you are using wheat, you may need a little more water than for spelt. For those of you that have Wholefood Baking, you will find detailed instructions for rolling there.
200 gm cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
300gm unbleached spelt flour or cake wheat flour
2 tablespoons semi refined golden castor sugar (Billingtons brand)
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (I love the Heilala)
20ml ice cold water + extra as needed
Add the dry ingredients to a bowl.By Hand:
Use your fingertips and thumb to rub the butter with the flour. The aim is to press the butter into flat chips, coated with flour. I tend to lift the butter and flour that I am working on, and let it fall back into the bowl. This helps to aerate and keep the flour cool. You must work quickly and lightly, so the heat from your hands doesn’t start to melt the butter. When ready, chunks and chips of butter should range from small breadcrumbs, to small lentils, to a small navy bean.
Using a Food Processor
If using a food processor, pulse one or two times, or until ready and turn out into a bowl. You are better to pulse – this throws the pastry up, and then drops it, aerating and cooling it. Don’t be tempted to add the water to the food processor it is too easy to overwork the pastry.
Add the egg, vanilla and water to a small bowl and mix together. Add to the flour mix.Using a bread and butter knife, begin to mix (using the knife to cut the liquid into the dry) the egg mix into the flour and butter. Add extra cold water as needed, but be very very careful not to use too much - wholemeal pastry will require more as it absorbs the liquid, as may the wheat flour. Once all the mix looks moist, bring it together into a ball, DO NOT KNEAD OR PLAY WITH IT.Break the ball into 2 - 2/3 forms one and the remaining 1/3 forms another. Form the larger into a ball and flatten,the remaining smaller dough into a rectangle and flatten. Wrap both well and chill for at least 1 hour.
Rolling the Pastry:Before you begin, the pastry should feel well chilled to the top of the hand. Butter the tart tin and place in the freezer to chill.
Using as little flour as possible, but enough to make sure the surface is lightly dusted, roll the larger ball of dough to fit the tin and it should be approx 3mm thick. If your dough is well chilled it should not stick to the rolling surface or pin. Fold into a triangle (see the photo) centring the point on the centre of the tin (removed from the freezer) then gently ease into the tin and trim with scissors. Place in freezer to chill.
To Bake Blind:
Pre heat your oven to 200c or 180 fan forced and place a black bottom tray if you have one in there to heat also (this will give you a crispier base). Remove the tin from the freezer, line with baking paper and fill with pastry weights, ensuring the weights come up the sides. Place on the hot tray and bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the edges are very lightly golden, but it is obvious it is beginning to cook. Remove from the oven, remove the weights and paper and return to the oven. Reduce the temperature to 180c or 165 fan forced and cook for approx 15 - 20 minutes or until it is obvious that the pastry is about cooked, lightly golden but still needs another 20 or so minutes to be fully cooked.If you find the pastry lifting on the bottom too much, reduce the temperature. When ready remove from the oven and set aside (you can put the tray back into the oven).
THE CHERRY FILLING
1360gm (2 x Always Fresh Morello Sour Cherries)
2 - 3 tablespoons cornstarch or kudzu (kudzu will give the better shine)
Golden castor sugar to taste - 2 - 3 tablespoons
1 vanilla pod - cut down the middle.
Set a sieve over a bowl and strain the cherries. Ensure that all pips are removed and discarded. Set the cherries aside.
Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch or kudzu to a medium size saucepan and add a little of the cherry juice and mix to a smooth slurry. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and the remaining cherry juice, then the cherries. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the pot, along with the vanilla pod.
Place over a medium to high heat, stirring constantly until it comes to the boil. Taste and add extra sweetness as needed. Assess the consistency - you may need it thicker - if so, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or kudzu to a small bowl, and mix to a smooth slurry with the tiniest bit of water. Add slowly to the pot, stirring as you go - this will cook as it hits the pot, so stirring is essential. Bring to the boil. Remove the vanilla bean and discard (I give it a clean and add it to the sugar jar).
PUTTING IT TOGETHER.
Have ready 1 egg beaten to brush the lattice before it goes into the oven, and 1 tablespoon golden castor sugar.
Ensure your oven is hot and ready 200c or 180c if fan forced (hopefully with the tray in the oven).
Take the remaining pastry and roll into a rectangle approx 3mm thick. Pick this up and place it on a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper,cut into 1 - 1/2 cm strips and place in the freezer. Very cold pastry will allow you to get through the latticing without it melting and loosing shape. There is a lot of touching and lifting of pastry when doing lattice.
Place the cherry filling in the blind baked tart shell. Remove the cold pastry strips from the freezer and lattice the top, brush with the egg and sprinkle with the sugar. Immediately place on the tray in the hot oven and cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until the lattice is looking lightly golden. Reduce the temperature to 180c or 165c if fan forced and cook for a further 30 - 45 minutes or until the lattice is golden, and the juices are running. Remove from oven and cool slightly before eating.