Our cherry season never seems to end this year, but we are certainly not complaining. Not only did we get cherries here at the farm, but we enjoyed more on the east coast. And just when we thought it was over, a local farm had one last batch of tasty Bing cherries. We made plenty of cherry cocktails (a Cherry Fling, a Caipirinha and a Manhattan) and desserts like clafoutis, so now it’s time for cherry pie. Many recipes use sour cherries in pies, but they are very hard to find and we like the Bing cherries. It was just a matter of time before the Bing cherries ended up in a pie.
For this pie, Carolyn combines elements from a number of recipes, so it is very much her creation. And it is a very, very good pie. The key, at least to our tastes, is the use of a crumbly, crunchy streusel topping instead of a full dough or lattice top. Not only is it easy, but the streusel adds extra crunch and flavor that, combined with smooth vanilla ice cream and bright, sweet Bing cherries, makes for an excellent dish. This pie was a hit with the kids and adults, and there was nothing left over.
Making the pie is, admittedly, a multi-step process. You must make the pie dough and the streusel and prepare the cherry filling. All of these steps are easy enough (particularly with a food processor), but they do require time. Most of the techniques are also familiar, but we will note the use of vodka along with water in the pie crust. While adding no flavor, the vodka moistens like water but does not activate the gluten in the flour. You get a more tender crust in the final pie- and the booze cooks out. While you do not have to use vodka, we use this recipe for almost all of our sweet pie dough and the texture is noticeably better. Certainly worth a try, and you can make this dough ahead of time.
Otherwise, making the pie is a straightforward process. Use the food processor to create the dough. Then chill it to make it easier to roll-out. Meanwhile assemble the streusel in a medium bowl, it requires no cooking and it’s quick. It does, however, take some time to make the filling. Pit the cherries and then combine a cup of the fruit with the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the cherries and sugar to form a light syrup and thicken with a cornstarch mixture. Then add in the uncooked cherries along with nutmeg and melted butter. This may seem like extra effort, but it is worth the work. The filling ends up with deep flavor and a mix of textures. And since the cornstarch is cooked twice, there are no raw or starchy flavors in the filling. Good stuff.
To assemble the pie, you first roll out the dough and then place it in a 9 inch pie pan. (Make sure to use flour on your work surface). Then add the cherry filling and top with the streusel. Cook in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown and/or well colored. Cool (if you can wait, it will set better if you can) and serve with vanilla ice cream and garnish with mint, if you like. And then enjoy the fruits of your labor…everyone else will!
Cherry Crumble Pie:
Notes Before You Start:
- You can use any sweet cherry for this recipe, and sour cherries will also work, you may just want to add some sugar to the filling.
- It is easy to double the streusel / crumble recipe and then freeze the rest in a container or ziplock bag for later use. It should keep for a month or so.
What You Get: A tasty pie cherry pie with a crumble / streusel topping that adds texture and flavor.
What You Need: No special equipment required other than a pie pan, but a food processor is very helpful when making the pie dough. A cherry-pitter is a very good tool, but otherwise pit cherries on top of an empty wine bottle using a chopstick.
How Long? At least two and a half hours. Much of the time is inactive while you chill the dough, bake the pie and let it cool. About 30-40 minutes of active time. Weekend dish.
(makes 2 disks of dough)
- 2 and 1/2 cups (12.5 oz.) unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into at least 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/4 cup cold vodka
Streusel / Crumble Topping:
- 1/2 cup (2 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (1.75 oz.) thick oat flakes (rolled oats)
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons, 4 oz.) unsalted butter
- 2 and 1/4 pounds (5-6 cups) sweet cherries (like Bing or Van), cleaned, stemmed and pitted
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
- In a food processor, process 1 and 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and sugar until combined. Just a few quick pulses. Add the butter and shortening and process until the dough just forms small clumps, about 15 seconds. All the flour should be coated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and evenly distribute the mixture. Add the rest of the flour and mix with 4-6 pulses. Empty mixture into a medium bowl.
- Sprinkle the water and vodka over the mixture. Fold the mixture using a rubber spatula until it sticks together and is tacky to the touch. Split the dough into 2, 4-inch wide disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
Streusel / Crumble Topping:
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, oats, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and baking powder. Add the butter and combine with the dry ingredients using your fingers or a pastry cutter. (Do not overwork the mixture, or the butter will melt and clump.) Combine until crumbly. Set aside in a cool place.
- Set a medium saucepan over low heat. Add one cup of the cherries and the sugar and stir often to extract juice from the cherries. Cook until mixture boils.
- While the cherry mixture comes to a boil, whisk the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the cherry juices, then pour the cornstarch into the cherry mixture and stir vigorously until the juices thicken, return to a boil and become clear.
- Place the remaining cherries in a large bowl. Add the nutmeg. Using a large rubber spatula, add the thickened cherry juice mixture. Fold in the butter and combine with the fruit and juice. Set aside.
Making the Pie:
- Set a rack low in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Roll out one disk of your chilled dough into a circle that will fit in a 9 inch pie pan. Place your dough in the pie pan and lightly press into the pan.
- Add the cherry filling to the pie crust. Then, using your fingertips, break the streusel / crumble over the cherry filling. Try to evenly cover the filling.
- Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet and then place the pie in the oven until the crust and the streusel / crumble are well colored and the filling is gently bubbling, about 40 minutes.
- Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream. Garnish with a spring of mint, if you like.