My basic pie consists of fruit, flour, sugar, lemon juice, maybe some spices, and whatever booze strikes my fancy that day. However, I've never made a cherry pie with fresh cherries, and let me tell you - cherry juice stains! Those little suckers are so incredibly fragrant that it's easy to forget that my hands look like I've murdered a hundred cherries. This pie was experimental for me for several reasons - I was trying my hand at making the crust with a few tips from a coworker, I had never pitted cherries in my life, and I wanted to try a fancy top crust pattern, instead of my usual lattice. So without further ado, here is my recipe (and a few tips I picked up) for my Fourth of July Cherry Pie.
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cooooold water
2 sticks frozen butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 dashes rye whiskey (I love Old Overholt)
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut up the butter into sugar-cube-sized cubes and stick back in the freezer for a few minutes.
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt, then retrieve the butter, toss it in to the dry mix, and cut it up with a pastry cutter. Once it's sufficiently pieced apart, add the rye, and continue cutting. Then add water, 1/4 cup at a time until flimsily together. If the dough starts to look like book pages (thinly pieced apart but still somewhat together) don't add any more water, just stick it back in the fridge, where it can chill until it's high time for pie time.
A little note on the crust: don't over-water!!!! I committed this venial sin of pie-crusting, and while the crust turned out more like a puff pastry, and still delicious, I had hoped for more tender/flakiness. Also, a wet crust is not as easy to work with when trying to make patterns on top. (And if anyone wants to send a pastry blender my way, I'd be forever indebted to you! It'd save my pie crusts and my forks!)
When somewhat together, roll out the crust. I like using Alton Brown's technique, placing half of the dough in between two pieces of parchment paper and rolling out in between the paper. (Oh yeah - this is a two crust pie, so split the dough in half, and roll out half for the bottom and half for the top.) This saved me, as my dough was stickier than it should have been (consequences of using almost of the double recommended water...this is why recipes are good, kids!) When the piece is sufficiently flat, remove the parchment paper and place on the bottom of the pie pan, making sure there are no gaps or bubbles, and poking a couple of holes in the bottom with a fork to allow steam to be released.
For the top of the crust, I rolled out the other half of the dough, same as above, then cut out stars with a cookie cutter. More on this in a bit...
For the filling:
2 1/2 lbs of fresh cherries, pitted
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 shot of rye
2-3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pit the cherries. Having never done this before, I washed the cherries and then split each fruit down the side and popped the pit out with my thumb. Messy, yes, but very satisfying, and not too difficult. Then in a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, rye, sugar, and cherries. Mix well and let sit (this is a good time to cut out the stars for the top). Then add the flour, mix well, and add the entire mix to the bottom crust.
A little note on my choice of booze - rye whiskey is a mash of rye, corn, and malted barley, similar to bourbon, but drier and with less notes of sweetness. I love rye, and it has a wonderfully subtle combination of caramelly, smoky goodness and fruity spiciness that I found to compliment the cherries nicely. The rye in the crust actually evaporated during the baking, leaving me with a more flavorful and flaky crust than I would have had using only water. I was similarly successful with the pairing of rye with cherries, as it provided the filling with a little bit of depth to the flavor without detracting from the cherries.
Once the cherries n' stuff are well-situated in the bottom crust, place the stars across the top so that the points touch and slightly overlap each other and the edges to form a lattice of sorts. I used about 12 stars and a fairly large cutter.
Bake the pie in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes, or until the filling begins bubbling and the crust starts to brown. Let cool for at least 2 hours (preferrably overnight) and enjoy with some vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or alone.