Sour cherries are extremely hard to acquire here in Southern California. They’re coveted by many pastry chefs at the farmers market because they are great for baking and due to the limited supply. Your best options are to pre-order them or to have them shipped to you from Oregon or Utah. Personally, I haven’t had much luck with sour cherries the past few years but I scored some last week at the Hollywood Farmers Market. I bought just enough to make one pie. I explained to my son that a sour cherry pie is a seasonal treat and that it is important to use the best ingredients when making them.
For this pie, I used Grist and Toll’s pie crust recipe. Grist and Toll is a local flour mill in Pasadena that produces high quality flour worthy of such a special treat. Typically I use my own pie dough recipe, but the owner encouraged me to try her recipe and I was pleased with the results. The recipe calls for their Sonora wheat flour. One important thing to note is that the crust browns more quickly then other pie crust recipes, so it is important to keep an eye on the pie and tent it early enough in the baking process to prevent it from burning before the contents of the pie are completely cooked. The only two changes that I made to the pie crust recipe are: 1) I added one additional tablespoon of sugar, and 2) I used a food processor instead of cutting in the butter by hand.
When you buy sour cherries, you can pit them and freeze them until you are ready to use them. They freeze beautifully. This is a great pie for Father’s Day or for the Fourth of July. And if you can’t acquire sour cherries this year, there’s always next year. Enjoy!
Sour Cherry Pie
Yields one 9-inch deep dish pie (about 8 slices)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped for seeds
6 cups of sour cherries or tart mountain cherries (washed and pitted)*
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 Grist and Toll’s double-crusted pie crust recipe or your favorite pie crust recipe**
1 tablespoon of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar crystals
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 375° .
2. Place the cherries and lemon juice in a large bowl. In a small bowl, add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Pour the dry mixture over the cherries. Stir to combine. Set aside.
3. In a lightly floured workstation, roll out the first pie crust dough into a 12″ inch wide circle, 1/4″ thickness. Work quickly so the dough doesn’t soften. Gently roll the pie crust around your rolling pin and transfer it to your pie dish, draping it over the edges as you unroll it. Press the pie crust down into the dish and cut off any excess crust. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
4. Place a large piece of parchment paper on your workstation and lightly dust with flour. Roll out the second piecrust dough into large circle, a little bit larger than the last piece. Go a little thinner than 1/4″ thickness. Using a fluted pastry wheel or a pizza wheel, cut into 1″ strips. You should have about 12-14 strips. Place the strips in the freezer for about 5 minutes and remove.
5. Remove the pie dish from the refrigerator. Give the cherry mixture a quick stir and pour into the pie crust. Place 6 to 7 vertical strips on the pie, all in the same direction.
6. You will weave the remaining strips in one strip at a time, horizontally, to make it look like an Easter basket.
7. Cut excess dough on the edge. You don’t want the edges to be doughy when baked. Fold over the edge and seal the pie crust. Then crimp the edges using your forefinger from one hand and your thumb and forefinger from the other.
8. Place the pie in the freezer for five minutes. Remove.
9. Using a pastry brush, brush the heavy cream all over the lattice top. Sprinkle with the crystal sugar.
10. Place the pie on a baking sheet and place it on the center rack of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes.
11. After 30 minutes, tent the edges of the pie with foil to prevent it from browning too fast.
12. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. Remove the tent and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.
13. Remove the pie out of the oven place on cooling rack for about 1 hour before slicing. Serve with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.
* Finding sour cherries may be difficult. Try the farmers market or order them from your local cherry farmer if possible. If you have no other options, you can use frozen tart cherries, but you may need to increase the cornstarch a bit.
** If using the Grist and Toll pie crust recipe, you can make it in the food processor. See pictures below. You want to add all the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter and pulse 6-8 times. Add the water vinegar mixture and pulse a couple more times. Then transfer the entire mixture to your workstation and proceed with the recipe as written. If you choose to use another double crust pie recipe, make sure the pie crust can hold up to the juicy filling. I tend to work my piecrust dough a little bit longer to give it more structure when making cherry pies. You still want the piecrust to be flaky and not tough.