I think summer wouldn’t be summer without the promise of sour cherries. When I first wrote about them a few years ago, I forgot to tell you the story of where I get these rubies of the fruit world, so tart and full of sunshine. Sour cherries have a fleeting life span of only two or three weeks. And just when they’ll be ripe enough to pick varies from year to year depending on the weather.
Western Montana, especially around the shores of Flathead Lake, is a historically successful cherry-growing area. Sweet cherries are the major crop, but sour cherries are not. Fortunately for me, a generous neighbor in Missoula has a thriving sour cherry tree, and she lets me pick what I need.
I begin checking the tree daily once I see the cherries have a decidedly red blush, usually in the first two weeks of July. When I see that the tree is sparkling with red, I pick enough fruit to bake a pie or two and off I dash to my kitchen.
Cherries and almonds belong together, so I flavor my pies with crushed Italian amaretti cookies and a little almond extract.
Cherry filling ready to put into the pie shell.
Cherry filling in pie shell dotted with butter.
And here’s the baked sour cherry pie!
A serving of Amaretti Sour Cherry Pie. There’s just enough quick cooking tapioca to thicken the juices so that the pie doesn’t ooze. The pastry is flaky and crisp.
Amaretti Sour Cherry Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie, 8 servings
Sour pie cherries, picked fresh off the tree and pitted as soon as
possible make the best pies. Cherry pies go way back in our baking
history, certainly to Colonial times. If there’s one dessert that
should be called Washington Pie, this is it. Our national mythology
demands it! Make the pie early in the day so that the filling will have
hours to cool and compose itself and not ooze when cut. Vanilla ice cream or
frozen vanilla yogurt is mandatory with this pie.
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (scoop dry
measuring cups into the flour container and level with metal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening or lard
About 7 tablespoons ice water
3 double amaretti cookies, finely crushed (to make a scant 1/3 cup
2 pounds pitted fresh sour pie cherries (5 cups pitted)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1.To make the pie crust combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry
blender until the butter is in fairly large pieces, about 1/2-inch.
Add the vegetable shortening and, using a chopping motion with the
pastry blender, cut the fats into the flour until the mixture
resembles coarse crumbs. Stop occasionally to scrape off any bits
of fat stuck between the blades of the pastry blender.
2.Sprinkle in the ice water gradually, about 1 tablespoon at a time,
while tossing the flour and fats with a table fork. Add only enough water
to bind the pastry together. Do not add so much that it becomes
wet or pasty.
3.To make the pastry in a food processor, put the flour, salt, and
butter into the work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 4 or 5
times for 1 second each to begin chopping the butter into the flour.
Cut the shortening into tablespoon-size pieces and add them to the
work bowl. Pulse 2 times for 1 second each. Then, while pulsing
very rapidly, add the 7 tablespoons ice water through the feed tube
in a slow, steady stream, taking about 10 seconds to do so. In 20 to 30 quick-
as-a-blink pulses, the dough will almost gather into a ball. Stop pulsing. The
pastry is ready.
4.Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (a floured
canvas pastry cloth works best). Divide the dough into two pieces,
one slightly larger than the other. Gently flatten each half to a 5-
inch circle on plastic wrap, wrap securely and refrigerate for about
5. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and set a heavy baking sheet on the
rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees . Roll the larger piece of dough on a
lightly floured surface to a 13-inch circle. Place the dough into an ovenproof
glass 9-inch pie plate without stretching the dough. Lift and nudge the dough
from its edge going all the way around the pie plate to be sure the dough fits
snugly on the bottom and side of the pan. Trim the excess dough with scissors
to leave a 1/2-inch pastry overhang. Refrigerate.
6.To make the filling, crush the amaretti cookies and pit the
cherries and have them ready. In a large bowl, combine the 3/4 cup
sugar, tapioca, amaretti and salt. Add the cherries (with any accumulated
juices) and almond extract and fold everything together gently; set aside 15
7.Roll the second piece of dough out on a lightly floured surface to
an 11-inch circle. Don’t worry about rough edges at this point.
Spoon the cherry mixture into the bottom crust, and distribute the
pieces of butter evenly over it. Brush the edges of the overhanging
pastry lightly with water. Carefully place the second circle of pastry
on top of the cherries, centering it as best you can. Cut away excess top crust to
match the 1/2-inch of overhanging bottom crust. Press the edges of dough
together firmly to seal. Fold this double thickness of pastry under itself to form
a standing rim, and flute. Cut 4 slits in the top of the pastry with the tip of a
small, sharp knife. Brush the top of the pie and edge of the crust with water and
sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
8.Place the pie in the oven on the preheated baking sheet and bake
for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. Then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees.
Continue baking another 50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, and the
thickened juices bubble up through the slits. Cool the pie several hours on a
wire rack before serving. You may refrigerate the pie for an hour or two to make
sure the filling has set.
Makes one 9-inch pie, about 8 servings.