Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fresh Cherry Pie ~ Quick and Easy Version

With the abundance of summer fruit, I regularly make pies.  We are particularly fond of cherry pie and as such I've developed a quick and easy method when I don't have the time for my fully homemade version.  If you don't tell your guests they will not realize you didn't spend hours on it. But when time permits, I make it all from scratch.  So today I wanted to share the recipe for the quick and easy version as I most often hear from readers that they just don't have the time to cook or bake. With this version, you really have no excuse!

Julian's "Scratch" Version or "Quick & Easy?"  You decide!
As in all things cooking, the real key is to select good quality ingredients and here I'm speaking mostly of the cherries.  You are not looking for traditional sour pie cherries, but rather the easy-to-find big, dark red, Bing cherries that most every grocer carries.  They are good for snacking raw and equally good for pie if you use this method.  I know we were all taught that sour cherries are best for pies, but really they were used for pies because they were abundant, cheap and grew on the tree in your backyard or neighborhood. When cooked with sugar they also produced a strong cherry flavor. They really weren't good for anything but cooking because they were so tart and small. So trust me when I tell you that the Bing cherry works great when added to a sour cherry base. They are naturally sweet and are very firm so hold up well in baking.  And as a bonus, Bing cherries are high in anti-oxidants that are said to help sufferers of arthritis and gout. Who would have thought cherry pie is a health food!

Use a cherry pitter to make the job easy!
Of course, with any cherry you have to remove the pit and for this there is a special tool that makes the job easy and efficient.  If you are going to make anything with cherries, make the small investment for this handy little gadget.  Unless you are going into cherry pie production, I would suggest you invest in one of the less expensive models like the Oxo version. You simply insert one cherry at a time and push the pit out. I have a device that pits four cherries at a time, which I use regularly.

With regard to quantity, I usually make a deep dish pie, and this requires about 2-3 pounds of fresh, stone in cherries. The below recipe makes one pie.

1 package 'ready' pie crust dough or your own homemade crust
          (a top and bottom crust are required)
2-3 pounds fresh, sweet Bing cherries (before pitting, see note above)
3-4 tablespoons flour for dusting the work surface
3 tablespoons corn starch
2-3 tablespoons of pectin (Sur Gel or Instant Clear Gel or potato starch)
1 20-21 ounce can cherry pie filling/topping (generic works well)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk or water
2 tablespoons (sanding) sugar

Bring the crust to room temperature if using the boxed crust, while you wash and pit the cherries.  Preheat the oven to 400F degrees with the oven rack placed in the lowest position.   Place a metal baking sheet on the lowest rack during preheating. This will help to cook the bottom crust. 

Pillsbury Ready Crust makes pie baking simple!
Unroll one pie crust on a lightly floured work surface.  Press together any broken pieces of the pie dough.  Use a little water for this if necessary.  Sprinkle with the remaining flour and spread it evenly over the crust.  Gently place the crust in a glass pie plate and fit it into the dish.  Trim the dough so it stands up just above the edge of the pie plate.

Mix generic pie filling with fresh Bing cherries.
Place the pitted cherries in a large mixing bowl and dust with the corn starch and pectin (or other starch. King Arthur Flour Instant Clear Jel works best for berries and cherries). Toss to coat evenly.  Use more/less starch depending on how juicy the berries appeared during pitting. Let them sit 15 minutes after you mix them and see if they need more starch. Add the almond extract to enhance cherry flavor along with the canned cherry pie filling and stir to combine.

Pour the cherries into the pie crust.  Press down gently to even out the pie filling.  Unroll the second crust over the filling.  Moisten the bottom outside edge of the crust and pinch together the edges of the two crusts, folding any excess top crust under the edge of the bottom crust (to seal in the filling).  Make a decorative boarder by pinching it together with your fingers or a fork.

Finish the crust with a nice edge and sanding sugar.
Click to Enlarge
Lightly beat the egg with the tablespoon of water.  Brush the entire surface of the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with the sugar.  Cut 4-6 slits into the top crust to vent.

Bake on a hot sheet to improve bottom crust and
cover the edge after it's browned.
Place on the preheated baking sheet on the lowest level of the oven and back for 40-50 minutes, until the juices are bubbling.  About 30 minutes into baking, check for browning and cover the edge of the crust with a pie crust rim protector or piece of foil if becoming too brown.

When the top crust is lightly browned and the cherries bubbling, remove from the oven to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. 

They'll rave about your pie!  Quick or from scratch?
Only the chef will ever know! 

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