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.