Cherry pie is my all-time favorite dessert. Chocolate is up there but doesn't surpass a good homemade cherry pie in my mind. I used to request cherry pie instead of cake for my birthdays when I was growing up and still make it whenever I get the craving for the sweet-tart fruity goodness. Mmm...
I've fiddled with various recipes over the years and have finally settled on a version that is adapted from a combination of others—primarily from the recipes in The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and The Best Recipe by the Cook's Illustrated folks.
The Best Cherry Pie Recipe
First, make your pie crust (I'll forgive you if you want to buy yours premade, but it's really not hard to make). Note: I used to use butter and Crisco and still think it makes the flakiest crust, but now use Earth Balance instead of Crisco just because it's so much better for you. I buy it in sticks, like butter, from the natural foods store and keep them in the freezer.
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- 8 tablespoons Earth Balance, or comparable vegetable shortening, chilled
- 8 tablespoons ice water
1. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Cut butter into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few times. Cut Earth Balance into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse a few more times, until butter and Earth Balance are the size of peas or smaller. Dump into a bowl. (Note: You can do all this with a pastry blender instead if you don't have a food processor.)
2. Sprinkle 3-4 tablespoons of ice water over the dough mixture at a time, mixing and pressing with a sturdy rubber spatula until the dough comes together. Divide into two and wrap each half in plastic wrap. (I usually dump the semi-formed dough onto plastic, wrap it up, then knead it with my hands a bit until it forms a ball, then flatten it somewhat into a disk.) Refrigerate until ready to use.
Next, make and assemble the pie:
- 3 cans tart cherries in water (I buy Oregon Fruit Products; update: these are often with the canned fruit rather than in the baking aisle of the grocery store)
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- scant 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Filling and Pie Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place on a lower rack (to catch any potential drips).
2. Make the pie filling by mixing the 3 cans of cherries plus the juice from 1 1/2 cans with sugar, cornstarch, salt, and almond extract. Let sit for half an hour.
3. Sprinkle the counter with flour and roll out the bottom pie crust. Arrange in pie pan.
4. Roll out the top crust. Use a sharp knife to cut the top crust into strips for a lattice crust or use a cookie cutter to make other designs.
When I cut out the stars for the crust, I thought I'd use them overlapped as I did with the autumn leaf pie crust, but then changed my mind and decided to use the punched crust as is (although I trimmed some of the stars a bit with a knife and added them back in). This would be a nice 4th of July pie.
Either drape your top crust over the pie, as I have here, or weave your traditional lattice crust (if you need instructions for weaving the lattice, here's a YouTube video).
5. Trim the edges of the top and bottom crust to 1/2 - 1 inch beyond the pie pan and then fold under. Either press around the perimeter with the tines of a fork or crimp it with your fingers.
6. If desired (and I always do), brush the crust with a beaten egg white (or cream) and sprinkle sugar on top.
7. Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F then lower the oven temperature to 375 F and add a pie crust shield (or a foil tent with the center cut out) to protect the outer edges of the crust from burning. Bake for another hour or so (but start checking on it after 45 minutes), until the crust looks nicely browned and the juices bubble up thickly.
8. Remove from the oven and let cool for 3-4 hours before eating. This is the hard part but it really helps to have the filling gel properly. Plus it looks and smells so nice sitting on the table!
9. Eat and enjoy... Cherry pie is delicious with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
By the way, here's the printable version of the recipe without the photos and extra commentary.
Update: I've fixed the "printable version" link so it should be working now. Sorry it wasn't working before!