Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sour Cherry and Blueberry Ginger Pie with Almond Crumble Topping

This SmittenKitchen post was the inspiration for this recipe, but what I actually constructed is available below. A number of years ago I read some articles about sour cherries and became very intrigued. One year in Chicago, I saw them at a farmer's market, but had no way to transport them home (the same problem that plagues the entire industry!) so I've never actually had them. I think a couple people around Seattle have one growing in the yard, because I think I've seen them when out on walks, but with basically no hopes of trying fresh sour cherries, I bought a couple of cans at the grocery store one time when they were on sale. There they sat in my pantry. 

When we were invited to a Memorial Day barbeque, a pie just seemed like a better dessert contribution for cake, but especially in our region, it's still much too early in the season for any kind of fresh fruit. So I thought about pulling out those cans of cherries. I am always embarrassed to not use fresh ingredients - especially for guests! - but this seemed like a good time to give it a try, so I started my recipe search.

I screened out recipes using sweet cherries, since I was unsure what the conversions on sugar quantity would need to be, and I eliminated recipes calling for tapioca or other thickeners that I don't have on hand. I liked the crumble topping idea from Deb's Smitten Kitchen (mostly as a way to avoid the lattice top that I traditionally associate with a cherry pie! but also because she said it helps absorb some of the moisture in the pie to keep it less runny) so went with her version. Not to mention that Deb is universally trustworthy in all matters of baking.

What I especially liked about the post was her discussion of pie crusts. I have referenced before the  New York Times article, Heaven in a Pie Pan, by Melissa Clark, and Deb points to that as well as she explains her decisions not only to go all butter, but also to eschew the food processor as a blending method. I highly recommend reviewing this link for a better understanding of pie crusts.

For this pie, I did not blind bake, and I was impressed and amazed with how perfectly the final pie came out. We were able to cleanly slice and remove unbroken, lovely wedges from the pie pan. In addition, the crust was crispy on the bottom, not soggy, which I attribute to heavy draining of the cherries, but also to an excellent base recipe.

When I prepared the filling, it just did not look like enough to fill a pie. That is partly because I was using my favorite Emile Henry cherry red enamel pie pan, which happens to be a deep dish version. So to backfill, I added some large blueberries I still had in the freezer from last season when they were fresh. It ended up being just the thing and perhaps pectin from the berries helped hold the whole thing together in the end.

Finally, I wanted a bit extra a way to add my own touch to the recipe, but also because I was anxious that a "canned" residue flavor might lurk from my shameful use of processed food. I decided on ginger and mixed some minced crystallized ginger into the fruit along with a dash of cardamom in the crumble topping.

Unbaked pie ready to go in the oven.

Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

1/2 - 3/4 ice water (on a Spring Seattle morning, I used 1/2 cup + 2 T)

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in large mixing bowl. Put in fridge while you cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Put butter in freezer for a couple minutes after cutting, to make sure it's all really cold. Sprinkle butter cubes over flour mixture and mix by hand using a pastry blender, until mostly even crumbles the size of small peas. Do not overmix. It's better to have pieces slightly too large or uneven.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup water over and continue to cut through with pastry blender. If necessary, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, up to 1/4 cup more, just until the dough comes together.
Divide in two pieces, form into discs, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, or freeze (defrost before using). If using canned cherries, start draining them now.

Roll out dough into 12" round and transfer to 9" pie plate. Preheat oven to 375 and prepare filling.

Cherry-Blueberry Ginger Filling
2 cans sour cherries (14.5 oz each) - can replace frozen or fresh, drained
1 cup blueberries (I used frozen, partially thawed, rinsed, and dried)
3 tablespoons corn starch
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (use a microplane)

Start draining the cherries as early in the process as possible. I let mine sit over a strainer for almost three hours, stirring them periodically to release juice. Toss remaining ingredients together. Pour into unbaked pie crust.

Almond Crumb Topping
1/2 cup oat flour (or 2/3 cup whole oats, ground to a flour in a food processor)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly crushed

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl. Pour cooled butter over and stir with spatula until it comes together. (I felt this made too much topping for a 9" pie, so used all but 3/4 of a cup of the prepared crumb topping, but didn't want to scale back the original proportions here.)
Use your hands to crumble the dough over the fruit filling, smooshing into pieces the size of grapes.

Bake at 375 for 70-75 minutes until topping is golden and filling is bubbling. Since I was using a deep dish pie plate, there was no spillover, but it's a good idea to put a cookie sheet in your oven on the rack below the pie to catch any juices that might bubble over.
Cool on a rack to set.

Perfectly cohesive slice of baked pie, great with vanilla ice cream!