I had never been a particularly big fan of cherries growing up. I’d eat fresh when they were offered but they weren’t ever used in baking by family members. I can count my food dislikes on one hand, I pretty much love everything. Although one of my most loathed flavours is bitter almond, something that accompanies cherry in a lot of recipes. This means Cherry Bakewell tart is pushed to the side lines meaning my childhood memories of baked goods have not a cherry in sight.
When I started working in professional kitchens, one of the first things I noticed was the quality of the produce. Unlike anything you’ve ever tasted in the supermarket. Every ingredient had so much flavour, especially the fruit. Every year when cherries come into season, we receive large punnets of dark shiny cherries. Beautifully sweet and rich with their wine coloured juice, sometimes they seem too precious to do anything with other than leave them.
I’m also not an avid pie maker. Although I’ve always thought there was something so lovely about a pie that brings people together. Its humble but charming. Faced with the task at hand, I was determined to choose an extra flaky pie crust recipe. Enter Stella Parks. After much research, I chose Stella’s recipe knowing that the large butter layers and folding technique would ensure separate crisp layers.
My perfect cherry pie is crisp, buttery and golden. The filling needs to be firm enough to hold together when cut, but soft enough to that it remains silky when eaten. This turned out to be all those things. Delicious fresh. Delicious cold from the fridge. Delicious warmed in the microwave with ice cream. Delicious however you like it.
Ingredients – makes one 23cm pie (9-inch)
I have set the method for this pie over two days. I prefer to prepare everything the day before and simply assemble and bake the next. This way, it gives the pastry a chance to get very cold overnight (guaranteeing even more flake) and it also means it will have a good amount of time to cool after baking in the morning ready to be consumed by lunch.
Pie crust – (pie crust recipe originally from Stella Parks & Food52)
- 225g plain flour (plus extra for rolling)
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
- 225g cold butter, cut into cubes (approx. 1.3cm)
- 120ml cold water (I use iced water)
- 1 egg for egg wash
- demerara sugar for sprinkling
- 1kg frozen sweet cherries
- 150g caster sugar
- 40g cornflour
- zest & juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
The day before (making the pie crust & cherry filling)
- Grab a mixing bowl, spatula and rolling pin. Make sure your worksurface is clean, clear and you have extra flour ready to dust the worktop. Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl. Add in the cold butter chunks and toss to coat in flour with your hands, separating each piece of butter. Press each piece of butter between your thumb and index finger, flattening it. You will be left with large flat pieces of butter, toss in the flour but don’t rub it in any further. Add in the ice cold water and stir together using the spatula. When the pastry has nearly come together, dust your work surface with flour and tip it out. Bring the dough together lightly with your hands, being careful not to warm the dough too much or overwork it. Less is more here! If the pastry becomes too sticky and warm at any point during this recipe, place it back in the fridge to chill.
- Roll your pastry out into a 25 x 35cm rectangle. You should have large patches of butter in the pastry so it will be quite sticky, use as much flour as you need. Keep moving the pastry around to ensure it isn’t sticking to the bench. Fold the two shorter sides into the middle to meet, then fold the top to bottom to close (see photos above.) By doing this we are creating layers of butter and pastry which will make it very flaky later. Cut the pastry in half horizontally so you have two even pieces of dough. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
- Take one piece of pastry from the fridge and roll out to a 36cm circle which is approx. 3mm thick (using as much flour as needed.) Brush off any excess flour, fold the pastry in half and transfer to the pie dish. Lift the edges of the pastry and let it drape into the dish, making sure it is right into the corners. Trim off any excess with scissors, leaving a 3cm overhang. Take the overhang and fold it under itself, pressing it under the pie edge to create a thick border. Cover the pastry case with clingfilm and put into the fridge.
- Roll out the 2nd portion of pastry exactly the same. Cut the dough into 8 equal strips for the lattice. Place this onto a floured baking tray, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge. We will assemble the pie tomorrow.
- For the cherry filling, place all the ingredients into a pan on low heat. Cook down the cherries, releasing all the juices. Once the mixture begins to boil, stir continuously. It will become thick fast. Cook until the filling coats the back of a spoon, no thicker. Take off the heat, pour into a bowl and cover it with clingfilm touching the surface. Leave at room temperature until tomorrow.
The day of baking
- Pre-heat your oven to 220°C. Put a baking tray in to pre-heat, big enough to fit the pie dish onto.
- Take the prepared pie crust from the fridge and spoon in the cherry filling. Take out your lattice pieces and lay four of the strips over the pie. Take the other four strips and weave them in between each strip alternating which goes under and over with each strip. Trim off any excess pastry from the lattice pieces and crimp the edges of the pie with your fingers. Take one egg and whisk together. Brush the pie crust with egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar.
- Place the pie onto your pre-heated baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Cover the pie with aluminium foil, turn the oven down to 190°C and bake for a further 40-50 minutes. If you notice the top if your pie needs a bit more colour, take the foil off for the last 10-15 minutes.
- Leave the pie to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.