I've stocked my freezer with summer's berries and eaten bushels of fresh, fleshy peaches - many of them brought up from my husband's family home in South Carolina where we'll spend this holiday weekend - but I completely neglected the summer's bounty of cherries until this past week. I love the glossy, rubied fruits for eating fresh, or with a dollop of sweetened cream, but I sometimes find the task of pitting them for baking discouragingly laborious. Of course, there's nothing quite like a cherry for richness and depth of flavor, and when I found a recipe for Cherry and Almond Galette in August's pie-centric issue of Spirit Magazine, I knew their time had come.
I was able to purchase a heaping bag of these richly flavorful jewels for a bargain price, leaving me with far more fruit than could be contained in a simple galette - and so my galette became a full-fledged pie. From lack of ingredients I made some modifications to the published recipe, taken from Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts, but the pie still emerged bronzed, beautiful, and tasting of late summer. I improvised a cut-away crust to ensure proper baking (I also blind-baked the bottom crust, for this reason, but you might get away with cutting this step) and show off the gorgeous crimson of the fruit inside. The chocolate was added purely on a whim - because I've always loved cherries and chocolate, and because we happened to have some chocolate chips on hand. It does add a bit of luxury and depth to an otherwise simple pie, but if you're a fan of plain fruit pies, feel free to omit it.
The process may seem a bit laborious, but as with most pies, the end result is well worth it. To save time and effort, you can make bulk batches of crust ahead of time and freeze them in single-sized portions. Dough will keep for up to 3 months if frozen.
Cherry, Almond and Dark Chocolate Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Cakes
For the Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purposed flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, broken into small pieces
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2-6 Tablespoons cold heavy cream or ice water (cream recommended!)
For the filling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup whole, raw almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 1/2 pounds (about 4 1/2 cups) cherries, pitted
1 egg white, beaten, for egg wash
2 Tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash
3 Tablespoons brown sugar, for dusting
To prepare the crust:
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (butter can be cut in with a chilled fork, for the non-food-processor enabled). Add egg yolk and two tablespoons of heavy cream. Pulse or stir until just incorporated. Continue to add cream gradually, by tablespoonful, until dough just begins to come together. Take care not to over-mix or over-work the dough.
When dough sticks together, remove from bowl and pat into two discs, one using 2/3 of the dough and the other using the remaining 1/3. Cover both with plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days) before rolling out and baking.
Preheat oven to 425°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger disc into a 12-inch circle, about 3/8 of an inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edges and fold excess under before pressing with a fork or crimping with your fingertips. To blind bake the shell, cover it with foil and pie weights and bake until light golden brown (about 25 minutes), or bake uncovered, taking care to check often so that you can deflate any bubbles with a fork. Remove when crust appears slightly golden. If you wish to skip this step, chill the pie shell for another 30 minutes, before filling and baking.
To prepare the Filling:
Using a food processor, pulse sugar, almonds, nutmeg and salt until almonds are finely ground. Add half the chocolate and pulse briefly. Gently toss mixture with pitted cherries and remaining chocolate, in a large bowl. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spoon cherry mixture into prepared shell, spreading evenly.
For the top crust:
Roll out the smaller disc on a lightly floured surface. Roll to 3/8-inch thickness and cut shapes using cookie cutters or rounds of various sizes. Arrange cut-outs on top of pie filling (be aware that shapes will pull and shrink during baking). Combine egg white, cream and 1 Tablespoon sugar, beating until well mixed. Brush egg mixture onto dough shapes and dust with sugar. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles - about 50-60 minutes. Transfer pie to wire rack for cooling and allow to cool completely before serving.
A few notes: There's a lot to say about this recipe, though I've tried to address some possible questions in the instructions. The original dough recipe calls for two egg yolks, but the crust was still my favorite part, even when baked with only one. Cream adds richness, but ice water will do the job if you're counting calories or not a fan of lactose. If you do decide to blind bake the crust, take care not to burn the edges by shielding them with small strips of foil during the second baking.
As most of you know, I can never resist the urge to tamper with my recipes - often because I don't have the proper ingredients on hand. So let me take this opportunity to caution you against too much substitution! I made a mini version with cashews instead of almonds and it was pretty awful. The nuts are important because they help to absorb some of the excess liquid that sometimes plagues fruit pies, but the cashews left a strange aftertaste that just wasn't compatible with the flavor of the cherries. Pistachios might work, but if you stick to the almonds and you should be fine.
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