Sorry about this late posting. No excuse other than general disorganization.
This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was Double-Crust Blueberry Pie, chosen by Amy of South in Your Mouth. Another great choice!
Really good fresh blueberries are hard to find around here. They don't like our alkaline soil. I was thinking of going with frozen instead. Then I realized that our very own sour cherry tree was about to give us our first good crop of cherries. Just enough for a mini-pie. Oh boy, our very first cherry pie with our own cherries!
Now, you have to understand that cherry pie holds a really special place in my heart. When I was five years old, we moved into an old house with a great big sour cherry tree in the back yard. That tree was almost as tall as the two-story house! We picked the lower branches from the ground and with stepladders, and left the upper branches to the birds. Everyone was happy.
I vividly recall sitting out in the back yard pitting cherries, with our dog Princie watching. He was convinced that anything we spent that much time on must be a grand treat. Now, if you've ever tasted sour cherries, you know that they are mouth-puckeringly tart. Even us kids didn't like snacking on them as we pitted--we preferred to wait until they were cooked with a good dose of sugar. What's more, we were pretty sure cherries weren't good for a dog's digestion. After all, dogs are not normally fruit-eaters. All the same, every now and then those big, brown, beseeching doggie eyes would get to us and we'd toss him a pitted cherry. He'd snatch it out of the air and gulp it down. We were convinced the only reason he could stand them was because he ate them too fast to taste how sour they were.
We would freeze up the cherries with sugar and a pinch of a crushed Vitamin C tablet. Then came the pies...made by my Mom (with our "help") by my Grandma's recipe. No, not a recipe from my mother's mother, she didn't like to cook--it was from my father's mother, who was a superb baker and very generous about sharing her knowledge and recipes with her two daughters-in-law. And of course, the pie crust scraps were always rolled out, cut up, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar to make "pie crust cookies."
Well, OK, enough reminiscing, let's go on to how I made this pie. We didn't have enough cherries for a full-size pie, which gave me a chance to use the cute half-size pie pan I picked up at a rummage sale for 25 cents. I made the recipe for a single-crust pie and had enough for a double-crust mini-pie. I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, and 1/4 cup unbleached pastry flour. For the shortening I used Spectrum Organic. Other than that I stayed with the recipe. I didn't have any white bread crumbs on hand to sprinkle on the bottom crust, and I was worried that the multi-grain ones I did have would have too strong a flavor. So I used graham cracker crumbs instead.
Now a confession--I strayed far from the Dorie path when making the filling. I wasn't sure what amount of sugar would go with the sour cherries, and I also dislike using flour to thicken pie fillings (I don't like the taste or consistency). So I pulled out various cookbooks and magazines and started comparing recipes. My final recipe was a combination of them all.
My small pie dish holds 2 1/2 cups, but it's always best to start with more fruit since it cooks down. (And I love pies that are full of fruit!) So here's what I used: about 3 3/4 cups / 610 grams pitted sour cherries, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 14 tablespoons / 175 grams sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch, 1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Well, that was what I meant to use...it wasn't until I cut into the pie and saw how runny it was that I realized I had used teaspoons instead of tablespoons to measure the thickener. I was happy with the amounts and balance of the other ingredients, though!
I made a lattice top, woven in place on top of the filled pie. Then I brushed with cream (which I prefer to egg), and sprinkled with Demerara sugar. Next time I think I'll use white sugar, it lets the color of the cherries show through better.
Here's a great trick I learned from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible" -- to prevent a soggy, undercooked bottom crust, put the oven rack at the lowest position and put a baking stone or heavy metal pan on the rack before you preheat the oven. (You may wish to top the stone or pan with parchment or a silicone mat, since fruit pies bubble over a lot.) Since this was a smaller pie, I baked it at 425 for only 20 minutes, (next time, do 25 minutes) then at 375 for 40 minutes.
Despite the thickener mistake, it was great! Dorie's crust is very flaky and the taste of the sour cherry filling took me straight back to my childhood. Ah, pie! What a wonderful dessert!