“Don’t overwork it. Don’t overwork it. Don’t overwork it.”
This is what plays over and over in my brain, like some sort of Rain Man, while I rub flour and butter through my fingers, aiming for that sweet spot of “pea size” or “coarse meal.” Knowing there is a right answer to forming a pie crust sends similar shudders down my spine as math and science did in junior high. The perfectionist inside me wants to SPRINT to Language Arts class, where I could dance around themes and concepts and not worry about being right or… god forbid… wrong!
Much like my math and science track record in junior high (nerds get A’s despite self-induced stressing), my pie past should encourage me. People eat my pies, and they even request future pies, but somehow that’s not enough to assuage my inner fears, for in that record, is one miserable failure. By “failure,” I mean one EPIC failure. Much like a lunchtime cramming study session, I had not prepared at all. I just read “butter and flour” and went to town pulverizing those ingredients together until a cookie-ish crust emerged from the oven. Was it a pie crust? Hell no. Was it delicious? Yes, it was still quite edible.
Regardless, that failure plagues me, and in some twisted sense of logic, rather than just avoid pies, I set out to make overly ambitious pies…and in the case of the 4th of July, deep dish pies…meaning even more pie crust than necessary!
Furthermore, rather than stick to custom/safe fillings, I tend to stray from tradition, which is why this particular recipe from Adventures in Cooking appealed to my overcompensating, perfectionist side. The addition of coarsely ground black pepper adds an element of surprise to bites of this crust. The unexpected contrast is abrupt, but the mouth continues to chew, the mind processes the flavor, and everything meshes with the slightly balsamic notes of the cherry filling.
Though I stressed, though I recited my “don’t overwork it” mantra repeatedly, the pie earned the good graces of my friends, and if the idea of pitting 3.5 lbs of cherries has you hesitating, at least take comfort that this pie lasts for a long while. It is, after all, a very deep dish pie!
Balsamic Cherry Pie with Whole-Wheat Black Pepper Crust
adapted from Adventures in Cooking
3.5 lbs Cherries, pitted (1.75 quarts, pitted)
1 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons organic cornstarch
3 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon organic, unsalted butter
2-3 Tablespoons water & 1-2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar, combined & chilled
1 organic egg, whisked
1 Tablespoon water
For the Filling
Bring the ingredients to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium high heat, stirring every few minutes.
Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, taking care not to crush the cherries while stirring. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the Crust
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Use your fingers to rub the butter and flour mixture together until the texture resembles coarse meal.
Begin adding the tablespoons of ice water & vinegar while stirring gently. Grab a handful of the mixture and squeeze. If it generally sticks together when you let go, it is fine. If it completely crumbles apart, it needs a bit more water.
Separate the dough into two pieces, one that is 2/3 of the total dough and one that is 1/3 of the total dough. The larger portion will be the base, and the smaller portion will form the lattice top.
On a well floured surface, roll the larger portion of dough into a circular shape, about 1 cm thick. Carefully transfer the dough to a lightly greased and floured, 8-inch springform pan. Mold the dough into the sides of the pan, letting the extra crust hang off the edge. Trim excess crust.
Roll out the remaining crust. Cut it into 1-inch strips for the lattice pattern, but leave the lattice pieces on a large plate lined with parchment paper.
Place the plate and the crust shell, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl until combined.
Remove the pie shell and lattice from the refrigerator.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and then arrange the lattice strips on top. Use your thumbs to press the edges of the crust and lattice strips together and cut off any excess crust. Brush the tops of the lattice strips with the egg mixture and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Set the egg mixture aside.
Place the pie on the second-lowest rack of the oven, and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, lightly brushing the surface with more egg at the 45 minute mark. If you notice the edges of the crust browning too quickly, cover them with tin foil.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 45-60 minutes before serving. Serve with a healthy scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on a sunny deck!
Here’s to Pie Stresses & Successes!