This article was originally published by me in the June 2014 Edition of VRAI Magazine.
We claim pie in America as ours. And while the truth of the matter is that the origins aren’t really ours, pie feels classically American to us. I think it has to do with the way in which we’ve embraced it. We associate pie with good old fashioned cooking. Humble. Non pretentious. A dessert that anyone can relate to each other over.
I don’t know what it is about pie that just feels very homey and comforting. A slice of pie feels like love. I think it must be the hands on work that goes into making a pie. There is no way getting around it. In order to make a proper homemade pie crust you must get your hands in there. And the little imperfections in the crimping or the lattice work of the crust show that is was made by a real human with care. I prefer those little imperfections over a perfectly creased store bought pre-made crust. It gives each pie character. It shows that care and love was put into making it. And I would argue, these things make pie taste better.
Pie has always felt nostalgic to me. It feels like home. Like love. It brings back all kinds of memories of my grandmother. Probably because my grandmother seemed to always have a fresh baked one in the house. Usually apple or strawberry rhubarb or a lot of time apricot. Whenever we would go to their house for dinner I would anxiously ask, “What’s for dessert?” 9 times out of 10 the answer was pie of some kind.
My grandmother also loved to have us help her in the kitchen. I have vivid memories of standing on a little stool in the kitchen while she patiently showed me and my sister what to do. I wasn’t necessarily that interested in cooking or baking at the time. It was more about just being involved and helping and spending time with her and my sister.
There were definitely times when pre-made pie filling was used for my grandmother’s pie, though it was usually made fresh, but she always always always made her own crusts. I wish I would have paid more attention to all the nuances of her technique when I was younger. A recipe is just a recipe, but technique is everything in baking. I just wish I would have learned her recipe directly from her. But my sister got the opportunity to talk to her about it in detail and I have learned it from her.
It will probably take me several hundred more pies to get the technique just right and make my crust as perfect as hers, but her recipe creates a really flaky and tender crust. You can see my step-by-step tutorial here about how to make this incredibly simple crust (only 4 ingredients!). You can also learn all about how to keep your pie crust from shrinking here.
I wanted to make what felt like a classically American pie for the upcoming July 4th holiday. But I just kept going back and forth between apple and cherry. They always say “American as apple pie” but for some reason I just always thick of cherry as feeling very “Americana.” So I decided to combine the two. I definitely don’t regret that decision. I ate this pie for dessert then for breakfast and pretty much for most meals until it was gone.
Cherry pie from fresh cherries is just a whole different ball game than from canned filling. Definitely preferred. Happy cherry season!
Tip: If you don’t have a cherry pitter I suggest hammering a clean nail into your cutting board or chopping block. Just gently press the cherries over the head of the nail to push the pits out.
- 1 batch double pie crust (get the recipe here)
- 4 cups pitted sweet or tart fresh cherries
- 2 baking apples (such as granny smith), cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 21/2 TBSP quick cooking tapioca
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
- 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water for an egg wash
- granulated sugar for sprinkling
- Roll out half of the pie dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12 inch circle. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9 inch pie plate. Place in the refrigerator while you make the filling and roll out the top crust.
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Meanwhile make the filling. Place the cherries and sliced apples in a large bowl. Add the sugar, tapioca, salt, lemon juice, and almond extract and toss to combine. Set aside while rolling out the top crust.
- For the top crust, roll out the second half of the pie dough. Use a star cookie cutter (you can use varying sizes if desired) to cut out pieces of dough.
- Pour the filling mixture into the prepared pie shell and dot with the 2 tablespoons of cut up butter. Lay the pieces of star cut outs of dough all over the top of the filling. Lightly brush top crust and edge of the pie shell with the egg wash. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- Place the pie on the very bottom of the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 425F. Reduce the oven temp to 350F and move the pie to the center oven rack. Bake for 45 mins-1 hour or until the juices are bubbling and thickened. Lightly cover with a piece of foil during the last 30 minutes if the crust is beginning to get too dark.
- Place the baked pie on a cooling rack to cool completely. Pie keeps at room temp for 2-3 days or under refrigeration for up to 5 days.