Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pie Spectacular #1 - Mary's Ranier Cherry Pie

The day is finally here!  It's pie-signment #1, and Allison and I can't wait to see your cherry pies.  As it turns out, my pie duties could not have come at a more opportune time.
Friends, I gotta be honest.  In the last few days, I haven't been feeling like myself.  First I single handedly killed the wireless internet in my house.  Next I bought a new facial cleanser that does not take its cleansing duties very seriously, hello breakout city.  Then, after agreeing to look after my neighbors' cats while they were in Joshua Tree, one of the cats went rogue and disappeared for about 10 hours (I'm so a dog person).  Oh and that job that I love and am lucky to have?  It's kicking my ass, stressing me out, and making me want to hide in a bunker with a 64 ounce milkshake and a stack of Martha Stewart Weddings magazines.
In a brief moment of overwhelmedness, I thought about bailing on this week's piesignment.  I figured you all would be in good hands with Allison, and that you didn't need to hear Eeyore talk to you about pie.  But as it turns out, this baking project was just what I needed.


This piesignment put me in a state of flow.  The almighty Wikipedia says, "Flow is completely focused motivation.  It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand."
I know I'm getting a little hippie dippie here, but hang with me for a second.  After an underslept work day and a meeting that made me want to turn into a human roly poly, spending half an hour pitting cherries was what my soul needed.  Frankly, this pie practially assembled itself.  I was three-fourths of the way through the crust when I realized I had only barely glanced at the recipe, and that things were turning out just fine.  I consulted a Bon Appetit classic cherry pie recipe, but I felt confident making changes, namely using Ranier cherries and vanilla bean, and cutting the amount of sugar.  Vanilla bean goes down in the books as easily one of my top favorite ingredients of all time, and Ranier cherries are so cute, so delicious, and so rarely available that I knew I had to use them.
For the crust, I consulted Tartine one last time before I take it back to the library.  My pie crust issues come from the fact that I'm always afraid of over-handling the dough.  Unfortunately I have a tendency to under-do it, and have ended up with crusts that are too crumbly to roll out.  Maybe it's the flow, maybe it's just a great recipe, but tonight this crust felt effortless.

I always forget how simple fruit pie can be.  Crust, filling...
Strips of dough...
And a beautiful lattice top!
Doesn't that look like a pie a sane, relaxed person would make?  I think so too...  Perhaps I'm on to something.
Before I share my recipe, I'd love you to visit a few friends who have already sent us their pie adventures!  Say hello to:
Marina at The World's Youngest Senior Citizen.  Marina took to her hilariously named blog to share a pie recipe that's older than she is!

Christina at Appetite Deluxe, who also rocked the lattice top, and channeled Martha Stewart for her crust.  Very cool.

It's not too late to participate!  Bake up a cherry pie and send us your link!

Ranier Cherry Pie with Vanilla Bean
Inspired by Ad Hoc at Home, adapted greatly from Bon Appetit, with crust from Tartine

For the crust:
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup very cold water
3 cups + 2 Tb all-purpose flour
1 cup + 5 Tb very cold unsalted butter

In a small bowl, add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve.  Keep very cold until ready to use.

Put the flour in the work bowl of a food processor.  Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and scatter the pieces over the flour.  Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still in pieces the size of peas.  Add the water/salt mixture and pulse for several seconds until the dough begins to come together in a ball but is not completely smooth.  You should still be able to see some butter chunks.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 2 equal balls and shape each ball into a disk 1 inch thick.  Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

For the filling:




  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar










  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch










  • 1/4 teaspoon salt










  • 5 cups whole pitted sour cherries or dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries)










  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (if using sour cherries) or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (if using dark sweet cherries)










  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract










  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes







  • 3/4 cup sugar
    3 Tb corn starch
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 pounds Ranier cherries, pitted with stems removed (hey, here's a tip!  An apple corer makes a very efficient cherry pitter.)
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 vanilla bean, sliced in half with the seeds scraped out
    2 Tb unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

    Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425F.  Whisk 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla bean seeds.  Set aside.

    Place a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/8 inch thick, rolling from the center to the edge in all directions.  Lift and rotate the dough a quarter turn every few strokes to discourage sticking, and work quickly to prevent the dough from becoming warm.  Carefully transfer the round to the pie dish or tart pan.  Trim the dough from the rim of the pan with a sharp knife.

    Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in the center.  Dot with butter.  Roll out the second disk of dough, and use a fluted pastry wheel to cut ten 3/4 inch strips.  Arrange the strips on top of the pie to form a lattice.  

    Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 375F.  Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil if they're browning too quickly.  Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.  Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.




  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar










  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch










  • 1/4 teaspoon salt










  • 5 cups whole pitted sour cherries or dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries)










  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (if using sour cherries) or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (if using dark sweet cherries)










  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract










  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes







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