Lemon, almond boost sweet cherries’ pie potential

The thermometer’s spike should ripen the cherries remaining on our tree overnight.

Cooler temperatures last week babied a small crop of more delicate Royal Ann cherries, those tender, creamy-toned fruit with the fetching blush. From a front-yard tree, we managed to pick more than we had in years. But of course, I can’t remember when the run-up to Father’s Day was so cold and rainy.

Perfect fruit it’s not. About half of the haul was bruised, split or starting to mold. I spent about 30 minutes picking it over, trimming away blemishes and pitting the irregularly shaped “seconds.” That effort yielded a quart of fruit. Frozen and, combined with another gleaning, it’ll be just right for pie.

Of course, my mother-in-law prizes pie cherries, prompting her to plant a new tree two years ago that’s just bearing its first, dime-sized fruit. I see no reason why sweet cherries, particularly piqued with a bit of lemon juice and zest, wouldn’t be just as delicious nestled into pastry. With almond extract, my preferred accent for baking and stone fruits, in general, this recipe from the Chicago Tribune could be a new favorite.

Tribune News Service photo

Sweet Cherry Pie

Pie pastry (recipe follows)

2 pounds (about 5 cups) fresh sweet cherries, pitted

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen

Roll out the larger round of pastry 1/8 inch thin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim and crimp edges. Prick bottom a few times with a fork. Freeze until firm, for 1 hour.

In a large saucepan, stir together the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Line prepared pastry with foil or parchment. Fill with raw rice or dried beans. Bake at 400 F for 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Pull out parchment and rice or beans.

Set saucepan of cherries over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce is glossy and thick, for 1 minute. Stir in the almond extract.

Roll out smaller round of pastry 1/8 inch thin. Slice into strips. Scrape cherries into pie shell. Grate frozen butter over cherries. Weave pastry strips into a lattice on top.

Set pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover rim with a pie halo or foil. Bake at 400 F until juices bubble at center and lattice turns crisp and brown, for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely. Slice and serve.

Makes 1 (9-inch pie), about 8 servings.

PIE PASTRY: In bowl of a food processor, buzz together 2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Drop in 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up. Pulse until largest lumps are size of peas. Turn out into a big mixing bowl. Drizzle on ice-cold water, 2 tablespoons at a time, folding pastry with a flexible spatula. When pastry begins to clump, knead once or twice and pat into 2 disks, 1 slightly larger than the other. Dust with flour. Wrap in waxed paper. Chill, for at least 1 hour.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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