Over the years, I have tweaked Melissa Clark’s pie recipe to suit my own baking needs. I no longer blind bake the bottom crust—in my estimation, sour cherries are juicy, but not too juicy, meaning that they don’t gum up an under-baked bottom crust. Bake your cherry filling directly in the crust for a tender, perfect pie.
You can get a sour cherry pie with no fuss or muss on both the North and South Forks. Looking for a fair and true representation of the tart, perfect fruit? In addition to Wickham’s, you can buy a fresh sour cherry pie from Southampton’s Blue Duck Bakery, Riverhead’s Briermere Farms, and Fairview Farm at Mecox.
“We use frozen fruit,” Fairview Farm owner Harry Ludlow told me. The perfect pie, he wanted me to know, is all about consistency, and using frozen cherries tempers their fickleness, to some extent. Sour cherries make a great pie precisely because they are not cloying. A blueberry pie, say, needs acid, like lemon juice, to prevent it from becoming too sweet. A failure to pull back on that sugar can yield a sticky pie. But sour cherries don’t suffer this fate. Taken on their own, they’re almost entirely unsweet, requiring the addition of table sugar for confections. Which means that bakers can choose their own adventures with these berries, making pies across the full spectrum of sweetness. I still prefer to make my own, but I’m happy to buy a Fairview pie in a pinch.
If pie is the final, greatest destination of the sour cherry (“They’re at their finest in pie,” Ms. Clark told me, and I happen to agree), it’s also beside the point. To reduce the Prunus Cerasus to a single baked delicacy is to limit its infinite possibilities. I’m fond of the fool, an English dessert that requires little work and is as satisfying as anything on a hot summer day. Essentially a parfait of cream and fresh fruit, I found that roasted sour cherries added a level of complexity to this otherwise non-cerebral sweet. Once cherries are roasted, in fact, they can be used in myriad ways—in baked custard, alongside scones and clotted cream, or spooned over yogurt at breakfast, for instance.
“It’s very common to use sour cherries with cheese in Russia,” Tia Keenan, fromager and author of “The Art of the Cheese Plate: Pairings, Recipes, Attitude,” told me. I wanted to know about global applications of sour cherries, and whether she used them in any of her spectacular cheese pairings. “Syrniki are cheese pancakes that sometimes have sour cherry inside or are served with sour cherry sauce.” I found a recipe for these cottage cheese-based pancakes and adapted it to include roasted sour cherries, which reminded me, not incidentally, of the blintzes served at my synagogue at Yom Kippur break fast.
Sour Cherry Pie (Adapted from Melissa Clark)
1 ¾ c. all-purpose flour
Pinch kosher salt
2-6 tablespoons water, ice-cold
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and kept cold
6 c. sour cherries, cleaned and pitted
1 c. sugar
¼ c. cornstarch
Juice from 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water
Raw sugar, for sprinkling1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour and salt to combine Add butter and pulse until the dough begins to look gravelly, with pea-sized pieces throughout. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Depending on the time of year, you may not use all of the water. Separate dough into 2 disks, one consisting of 2/3 of the dough and the other consisting of the remaining. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. Dough can also be frozen and used at a later date.
2. Prepare the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Toss the cherries in the sugar mixture until well coated. Add the lemon juice to the mixture and put aside.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Roll dough out to a 12-inch circle on a floured board. Using your rolling pin, lift the dough circle and transfer to your pie plate. Pour cherry filling into crust.
3. Brush the edges of the pie with the egg wash mixture. Place smaller disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it to approximately 3/8-inch thick. Using your rolling pin, lift the disc and fit it atop your pie and crimp with the tines of a fork. Slice three vent holes in the top of the pie with a paring knife.
4. Refrigerate the pie for 30 minutes under a damp, clean dishtowel.
5. Using a pastry brush, coat the entire top of the pie with the remaining egg wash. Sprinkle your raw sugar on top. Place pie onto sheet rack and bake in the middle rack of your preheated oven for 1 hour or until the crush has darkened and the filling has started to bubble. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 2 hours before serving.Roasted Sour Cherries3 lbs. sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
2 c. sugar
Juice from one lemon1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine cherries, regular sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix to combine. Pour mixture into a baking dish and roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until sugar has dissolved and cherries have released their juices. Cherries should still have their shape intact. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.Sour Cherry Fool:2 c. roasted sour cherries
Reserved roasting liquid
1 c. heavy cream
½ c. plain Greek yogurt
¼ c. extra-fine sugar
1 tsp. rosewater
1 tsp. vanilla extract1. Pulse half of the cooled cherries in a food processor until chunky. Mix together with the reserved cherries that have not been puréed.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the reserved cherry liquid over medium heat until reduced by half and syrupy. Set aside.
3. Whip cream, extra-fine sugar, rosewater, and vanilla extract into soft peaks. Fold Greek yogurt into the whipped cream.
4. Layer the ingredients into glasses, starting with the cherry mixture, followed by the cream mixture and the cherry syrup. Serve immediately or chill for up to an hour.Syrniki With Roasted Sour Cherries:2 c. cottage cheese
4 large eggs
3/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus about 1/2 cup more for dredging
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. white vinegar
2 c. roasted sour cherries
2-3 tbsp. extra light olive oil for each batch1. In a large bowl, mix together cottage cheese, eggs, 3/4 c. flour, sugar, and salt.
2. Place baking soda in a small bowl and add vinegar. Stir together. Add this mixture to the cheese mix.
3. With an electric mixer, mix until uniform consistency is achieved. Stir in 1 c. of the roasted cherries with a spoon. The batter will appear clumpy.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.
5. Add 1/2 c. flour to a small bowl. Place a heaping tablespoon or flat ice cream scoop of the cheese mixture into the flour. Reach into the bowl and sprinkle flour over the top of the pancake. With well-floured hands, remove excess flour by gently transferring the pancake from one hand to another.
6. Once the skillet is hot, place patties directly into the skillet as you mold them. Cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side, flipping once during cooking.
7. Transfer to a plate and serve with the remaining roasted cherries. Serve warm.
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