Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?
A very young Burl Ives in Disney movie So Dear To My Heart sings “Billie Boy.”
Can she bake a cherry pie? Finally, I can answer yes. After all, I started baking and cooking when I was a young girl, so after 70 years in the kitchen, you’d think I’d learn something. It took a combination of lessons to make this winning pie.
For many years, a cherry pie–the kind my mother always made to celebrate Washington’s birthday– meant opening a can of cherry pie filling and dumping it into a pie pan lined with pastry, then covering it with another layer of pastry. I’m sure my grandmother and her mother and grandmother made use of the red sour cherries that grew in profusion in Holmes County, Ohio, but mother was a working woman and although she always made her pie crust from scratch, she took the modern canned short cut for the filling.
I hasten to say that I don’t usually brag on myself, as “it ain’t fittin’.” But my latest version of fresh cherry pie from scratch definitely qualifies as the perfect pie.
Cherry pie with streusel
Although I was the only one in the kitchen, I definitely did not do it all by myself–as you will see.
The Pie Crust
Of course, I use the “Perfect Pie Crust” Recipe. This post explains how many people helped me (some posthumously) to make a pie crust for the cherry pie. My Grandmother and Grandfather Anderson, my mother, and my brother’s mother-in-law all played a part.
Then, from somewhere, probably the King Arthur Flour website, I learned that putting a single crust in the refrigerator before filling and baking will help prevent shrinkage. I hesitate to tell you how many single crusts I have tossed because they wound up only covering part of the pan.
From the Mennonite cookbook from Kidron Ohio–where my husband’s ancestors settled– I developed a love of streusel-topped desserts, so a twist on the normal streusel replaces the top crust of this pie. My thanks to Chef John at All Recipes for the suggestion of putting almonds in the topping. I used flaked instead of slivered, and I liked the texture. I also changed a few other things in his recipe, so compare the two before you decide which suits you.
Pie and served piece
Although brown sugar is suggested in Chef John’s recipe, and is standard in the Mennonite cookbook for streusel, I thought it might not be the best flavor fit in a sweet cherry pie, so I used white sugar. I believe that is the better choice.
The big black Bing cherries that we in the West get from Washington State and Oregon State in mid summer, need very little sugar in comparison to the more standard sour pie cherries. So taste your cherries and decide. There is so much flavor in this recipe, that I suggest using less sugar than you think you need, so that nothing distracts from the cherry flavor.
The extra flavor kick? In comparing various recipes on line, I discovered this genius idea on The Spruce Eats site–add candied or crystallized ginger to your cherry pie filling. Just as almonds are supremely compatible with cherries, so is ginger.
The Spruce Eats site differs from other recipes in that they use instant tapioca instead of cornstarch as a thickener. I already am sold on instant tapioca as a thickener, thanks to that Mennonite cookbook, and my late mother-in-law. To me, cornstarch has a bit of taste that interferes with the main ingredients, and I just don’t like the texture.
And when that luscious cherry pie is baked–be sure to serve it with vanilla ice cream.
I hope that when Billie comes to call, you will be able to tell him “Yes, I can bake a cherry pie, quicker than a cat can wink its eye.” (Or in the version I learned, “in the twinkling of an eye.”)
The Perfect Cherry Pie
Fresh Sweet Cherry Pie With Streusel Topping
||1 hours, 15 minutes|
Child Friendly, Serve Cold
- Single pie crust (Unbaked)
- 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/3 cup almonds (Flaked or slivered)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter (One stick/8 Tablespoons)
- 2lb sweet cherries, pitted (About 4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter (Cut in small pieces)
- 2 tablespoons candied/crystallized ginger (Finely chopped)
||Make pie crust, or take from refrigerator. Roll out a single crust and fit it in 9" pan. Put pan with unbaked dough back in refrigerator until ready to fill. |
||Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil to put pie pan on when you bake the pie, and set aside. |
||Mix the Topping dry ingredients with a spoon. Stir in the vanilla. Add the pieces of butter and work in with your fingers until the topping resembles soft dough. Refrigerate. |
||Mix the tapioca, sugar and ginger and pour over cherries in large bowl. Pour over that the juice of 1/2 lemon, and stir in gently. Let this sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. |
||Remove unbaked pie shell from refrigerator. Pour in cherries, scraping an accumulated juices from the bowl, spread evenly across crust. |
||Dot with small pieces of butter. |
||Crumble the topping with your fingers and scatter evenly across the top of the cherries, leaving holes in the topping for juices to rise. |
||Put pie on the aluminum lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until nicely browned. |