What with vacations, summer colds, and temperatures that made my kitchen hot enough to boil lead, I fell behind on my pie-baking schedule. This month, I made a Sour Cherry Pie in an Almond Crust.
First of all, I made the pastry. I followed the recipe, but I also added one cup of ground toasted almonds
to the flour (using 1/4 cup of the flour from the recipe to help grind the almonds finely). I think the almond flavor complements cherries so well. I used 2/3 of a cup of butter and 1/3 of a cup of lard as the shortening.
While the dough was chilling, I prepared the filling. We didn't get enough cherries from our tree for a whole pie this year, so I used frozen sour cherries—but I’ve pitted several pies' worth of cherries. If you’re lucky enough to live in a region that grows sour cherries, I highly recommend going the fresh cherry route. It is, like so much of home baking, a labor of love…and the end result is so good. A cherry pitter makes fairly quick work of the job.
Following other reviewers' recommendations, I doubled the amount of cherries called for in the recipe for a total of four cups. I kept the amounts of sugar, cornstarch, butter, and almond extract the same, though, and for my tastes, the filling still might’ve still been a little too sweet.
Here's where I deviated from the recipe instructions: I didn't cook the filling. The main reason why you cook a fruit filling is to boil off extra liquid and—most importantly—activate the starch. If the pie doesn't bake long enough or get hot enough in the oven for the filling to actually boil, the thickener can't do its job properly. Cooking the filling on the stovetop ensures that you won’t end up with a runny pie. I chose to omit this step because a) my filling wasn't particularly juicy and b) I like to bake pies as long as I can: I want to see bubbling filling and browning crust before I take it out of the oven.
I rolled out the bottom crust, lined the pie tin, covered the crust with plastic wrap, and returned it to the fridge to rest while I rolled out the top crust. I roll the top crust out in a circle about 2 inches bigger in diameter than my pie tin. If you cut that circle of dough into strips, you have just the right amount and length of dough to weave your lattice. I used a crimped pastry wheel to cut my strips.
You can use a ruler to keep the strips straight, or you can do it freehand if you don't mind a wobble here and there.
When the pastry had chilled for another half hour, I scooped my filling into the pie shell and began the lattice top. I start with by making a big X across the pie using my two longest dough strips. I add more strips, folding back every other perpendicular strip so that I keep the pattern straight. Here's where having chilled dough matters: you're handling the dough strips a lot, and if they get too soft, they can stretch, get gummy, and break as you work.
I trimmed the overhanging lattice with kitchen shears
, folded the ends under the bottom crust, and pressed lightly to seal. I baked the pie in a preheated oven on a preheated baking sheet (so the bottom crust browns). I used a hot oven (400°) for the first twenty minutes, and then lowered the temperature to 375° for another thirty or forty minutes—my pie took longer to bake because of the frozen cherries. I covered the edges of the crust with foil after about thirty minutes—the crust was plenty dark but the filling still wasn’t bubbly, so I kept on baking. When the pie was golden brown and bubbling, I pulled it out of the oven, brushed on a glaze for shine [the same water-golden syrup glaze I used on the strawberry rhubarb pie
] and sprinkled toasted sliced almonds around the edge of the crust. After another minute or two in the oven, it was done. When it was cool, I dusted the edges with powdered sugar.