Cherry season is in full swing, so naturally you’ll want a recipe for the best cherry pie ever, right? Right.
Some fruit pies are easier to make than others, depending upon the difficulty level in making the chosen fruit ready for baking, and a cherry pie falls into the more difficult category because of the tediousness of pitting cherries. I have tried a few pitters and this year went for pitting by hand because it was faster and gave me less mess in the kitchen as well as more even results achieving whole cherries, even though I had cherry-stained fingernails for a couple of weeks.
Also I was able to save the pits to make an infused nutty-flavored cream for a later cherry custard pie. I’ll have that recipe for you real soon too.
Although I could wax poetic about my mother’s amazing and best cherry pie recipe, I’m departing this year with fresh fruit instead of her standard canned sour cherries and even though it’s not the same as hers, I can confirm it is one version of the best cherry pie recipe because I fed my pizza man who is a pie baker and seasoned eater this whole pie you see pictured here and he said so . . . that is, that it was the best cherry pie he’d ever eaten. I have to admit, after all of that pitting and considering all of the wonderful pies in Portland I’m assuming he’s tasted, I felt pretty happy.
Another highlight of this year’s cherry pie recipe was I used our front yard tree cherries. This is our first full summer in our house which came with a giant and very old cherry tree that produced enough fruit for 2 clafoutis, 3 cherry pies, a batch of cherry muffins and a small order of cherry cookies. Plus many handfuls of cherries eaten plain. Yikes.
Although I’ve not published my recipe for pie crust in this recipe, one tip I have is to pop your bottom crust into the freezer after you’ve assembled your pie and formed your border decoration. The reason for this is that it not only makes for a flakier crust, but it also holds your design in place better than if you were to pop it into the oven cold or at room temperature. A really well chilled crust looks and tastes awesome. This year I played around with the standard lattice design, and then tried a holed variation wherein I added the cutouts to the perimeter, and this weighed down my border so that I should have frozen the pie longer, for you can see what happened below. Oops.
Once you’ve pitted your cherries, the rest of the pie is fairly straightforward – you cook down the fruit slightly with sugar, lemon juice, salt and tapioca starch, scrape into your pie shell, cover with top crust, brush with egg wash, pop your pie in the freezer for 20 minutes, then bake. I use tapioca starch because it doesn’t glop and forms a very light and clear gel. I also use a mixture of flour and sugar and coat the bottom of my crust with this mixture to prevent the fruit from overly sogging out the crust.
A simple recipe for the best cherry pie ever
5 cups pitted cherries from 2 lbs cherries (6 heaping cups)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbps each flour and sugar for coating the bottom crust before filling with fruit
1.5 oz (1/3 cup plus 1 tsp tapioca starch – I use Bob’s Red Mill)
Double recipe of your favorite pie dough
- Combine your pitted cherries with lemon juice, sugar, salt and tapioca starch in a large bowl, folding until well combined. Spread your flour and sugar mixture onto your bottom pie crust, chill in freezer for 5 minutes, then scrape fruit mixture into pie shell (using a 9 inch pie plate, preferably glass) and top with remaining dough using your preferred design. Trim your excess dough and freeze pie to ensure crust is properly chilled and your crimps or design won’t disintegrate in the baking (about 15 minutes).
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- For egg wash, combine egg, cream and salt and brush over top crust.
- Place chilled pie on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 425 for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 355 and bake for 40 more minutes, checking periodically to see if crust is over browning and if it seems to be getting too dark, place a protector such as a tented piece of foil, on top.
- If you are a stickler about numbers, you’re shooting for an internal temperature of about 215 degrees. Once pie is done, cool on a rack for about 3 hours or until internal temperature reaches 85 degrees, then serve with ice cream, whipped cream or just plain.