A few days ago, my neighbor dropped off a wonderful gift - a bag of freshly picked cherries! I was thrilled, and I knew immediately what I wanted to make. Cherry Pie!! Cherry pie is my husband's favorite, and it isn't very often that we get a chance to make it with fresh cherries.
Making cherry pie from scratch requires a bit more work than just opening a can of filling! In addition to making the pastry, there are all those cherries to pit! I had forgotten to heed the advice of my cousin Ainsley (of Pattycake Manners) to purchase a cherry pitter, and I found myself staring into a bowl of cherries with a paring knife as my tool. Well, the paring knife got the job done, but it took a while and my hands are now very stained. However, I had the 5 1/2 cups of fruit required for my recipe, and I was ready to begin.
I decided to use a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks. I have made their pie crust several times, and I really like it. It's a funny thing about me and pie crust. I come from a long line of excellent bakers, and I consider myself to be a really good baker. However, pie crust stumped me. No matter how many times I tried, my crusts tore, were tough, and just plain unappetizing. I continued to try on occasion, but I had access to lots of great pies at home, so it wasn't a big deal. However, once we moved to Kitimat, I decided that once and for all, I was going to master pastry, starting with pie crust. I'm not sure what changed, but now I make crusts with no problem at all, and I'm looking forward to branching out into other types of pastry.
But back to the pie! I've had good luck using recipes from this cookbook, so I was confident starting my pie. The recipe called for me to combine sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl, stir in the fruit, and allow it all to sit for at least 15 minutes to make a syrup. I followed this process, assembled the pie, and popped it into the oven. I like to follow the technique of covering the edge of the crust with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking so that it doesn't get too brown. When I took the pie out after 30 minutes, it looked lovely and wonderful smells were wafting from it. I popped it back into the oven and set the timer for an additional 30 minutes, as the recipe said to bake it for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the crust was golden and the filling was bubbling. After about 15 minutes, I heard a most unwelcome sound; the hiss and sizzle of pie filling hitting an oven floor. My pie was boiling over!! I quickly grabbed a cookie sheet to slide under the pie (to reduce the amount of mess in my oven) and as I was doing so, I saw that the crust was golden and the filling was indeed bubbling. So, I took the pie out of the oven and gave it a good inspection. I was using a glass pie plate, so I could get a good look at the entire crust. It was completely baked, well ahead of schedule. So, I turned off the oven and let the pie cool for a few hours.
We were very excited to cut into the pie. I had an image of the cherries being surrounded by a sweet-tart sauce of perfect consistency; thick enough to stay inside the crust when cut, but not gelatinous. Well, my filling was definitely not gelatinous! When I cut into the pie and lifted away the first slice, the recess left quickly filled with juice. Definitely not what I was aiming for!
It wasn't awful. In fact, some people who tried it said it was delicious, and just like any other "from scratch" homemade cherry pie they'd had. But, that wasn't good enough for me, and now I'm on a mission to figure out what went wrong, and to perfect my recipe!
One of my first thoughts was that perhaps I should prepare a cooked pie filling first, thus ensuring that it thickens, and then add it to the crust the same way I would if I was using a store bought filling. I have found several recipes online and they all sound great. I also checked out a few that use the method I did; mixing raw fruit with sugar and a thickening agent. The one thing I noticed about the second kind of recipe is that they called for much more cornstarch or tapioca than I used.
And so, dear readers, I'm throwing it to you! Can YOU bake a cherry pie, and, if so, what are your tips? Which method do you use? In the meantime, I'll be continuing my research; I'll let you know how it all turns out!
Have a great weekend!