dum…dum dum dum dum-te-tum dum dum…
Yes, you might recognise that as the theme tune for the classic TV series Twin Peaks. Famous for many things (secrets, lies, Laura Palmer, white horses), but specifically some damn fine cherry pie.
Cherries are now in season here, so what better time to make pie from them? There is a tree on Stoke Newington Church Street which is positively groaning with tantalisingly large, ripe fruit, but sadly it is behind a large metal fence, and so they will remain out of reach. Shame! I could do great things.
What I did manage to get were a few punnets of lovely English cherries from Kent, which are beautiful – deep rich purple in colour, sweet and juicy. A lot of people will only use sour cherries for cherry pie, and while they will give you that wonderful tart-but-sweet pie, you can still easily use sweeter fruit if you add some lemon juice to your pie to give it a little more kick. In this way, you can use sweet black cherries, which makes for a visually stunning pie.
My recipe is pretty simple – an easy pastry with lots of butter, to produce a flaky, buttery result, then a juicy filling with lots of fruit, and just a touch of cinnamon. Sometimes, fruit pies using juicy fruits can be very watery as all the juices come out, but that is easy to deal with. Just cook the cherries in a pot until they release their juice, add the sugar, and then cook briefly with a little cornflour so that you get a thick, glossy pie filling which will lightly set when you bake the pie. The result is something that might even please Agent Cooper.
This looks like quite a lot of work, but it isn’t – I’ve just tried to set out all the steps clearly!
For the pie shell:
• 400g plain flour
• 200g unsalted butter, from the fridge
• 50g caster sugar
• ice cold water
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and butter with your hands until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add enough water until the pastry is just mixed. Cover in cling film, and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
For the filling:
• 800g fresh cherries (I used ripe sweet black cherries)
• 200g granulated sugar
• juice of 1 lemon
• 4-5 teaspoons cornflour
• 2-3 drops of almond extract
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Prepare the cherries by pulling off any stalks and removing the stones. Place the cherries in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice, and cook gently until the cherries have released their juice (around 10 minutes).
In a bowl, combine the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Add the mixture to the cherries, stir well, and cook the cherries until the liquid thickens. At this stage, add the almond extract and/or cinnamon (if using) and stir well.
To assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Roll out half the pastry, and use to line a 23cm pie dish. You want to leave 2-3cm of pastry hanging over the edge of the dish. Pour in the cherry filling. Use a little milk to wet the overhanging pastry.
Roll out the rest of the pastry and use to cover the pie. Make sure the edges of the pie are well sealed, and trim off any pastry. Make a few holes or slits in the top of the pie to release steam when it cooks.
Coat the surface of the pie with a little milk or cream, and sprinkle generously with granulated or demerara sugar.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 175°C and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden. Allow to sit for at least an hour before serving with vanilla ice-cream, or a dollop of softly whipped double cream.
Worth making? This pie was incredibly good. The fruit makes for rich, dark filling, and using the lemon helps to keep it suitably tart and highlights the flavour of the cherries. The pastry is also very easy, and can easily be made ahead of time – perfect if you are off for a country walk and expect to come back with a haul of goodies.