Why is it that sour cherries, sometimes called "pie cherries" have reigned supreme in cherry pie recipes? I've never understood that. Sour cherry pie is delicious, to be sure. But when I make cherry pie, it's always with bing cherries. When baking with bings, the sugar can be greatly reduced. Therefore, when you taste the pie, the flavor of the cherry is so pronounced that it practically socks you in the face...in a good way. In the height of their season, bing cherries can be as cheap as 1$ a pound in this area- pies are a great way to take advantage of their cruely brief time at that price.
Tackling the task of pitting the bing cherries for this pie is an effort well worth making. In the pastry kitchen, we liken this to the mind numbing chore of shelling fava beans or de-veining shrimp. Commercial cherry pitters will cut your prep time in half. Decent handheld pitters can be picked up for less than $20.00. However, if you don't want to spend the money for yet another gadget, don't let that discourage you from making this pie. Grab a friend, a couple of paring knives and make it a team effort. Like shelling fava beans, this is the perfect job to do sitting on the porch, dishing with a pal. Just remember to wear your grubbies, bing cherry juice will splatter everywhere, including your clothes.
My fancy cherry pitter....40 bucks at sur la table, and totally worth it
Hot form the oven, with a melty scoop of toasted almond ice cream
Use a good quality butter for this, you will thank yourself later. I like Plugra, a European style butter which can be found at Trader Joe's. This recipe will leave you with plenty of extra dough.
2 cups pastry or all purpose flour
8 oz. cold unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt (or 3/4 tsp. kosher salt)
5-7 Tb. ice water
Cut your butter into small cubes, and place on a dinner plate. Put the plate in the freezer while you gather the remaining ingredients.
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor, pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until mixture in crumbly and the butter is pea sized (this can also be done in a large bowl with a pastry cutter or two forks).
Add 5 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse just to combine (mixture should still be crumbly!). Grab a handful of the crumbs and squeeze it together with your fist. If the mixture holds together, it's done. If not, add more water, one teaspoon at a time.
Dump the crumbly dough out onto a work surface. Divide it into two piles (one for the top crust and one for the bottom). Press each pile together so you have two discs of dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
This may seem like a strange method for making a pie filling, but it's necessary to cook a few cups of the cherries with the starch. The pie is still delicious if the pre-cooking process is eliminated (just be sure to omit the water!), however, the juices and starch with fall to the bottom of the pie. This creates a strange gelatinous layer after the pie sits for a while.
4# Bing cherries (weighed before stemming and pitting)
2 Tb. lemon juice
6 oz. water
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tb amaretto (optional)
2 Tb unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Stem and pit the cherries. Save any juices that accumulate.
Whisk the sugar, starch, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large pan, bring the water, lemon juice, two cups of the cherries and any juices accumulated during the pitting process to a boil. Add the starch and stir consistently over medium heat for about thirty seconds. Mixture will be very thick and gloppy. Fold in remaining cherries and amaretto if using. Cover surface with plastic and chill until cold.
Spoon filling into the crust and dot with the butter. Cover with the top crust, seal and crimp the edges. Cut a few steam vents on top and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for thirty minutes, then turn heat down to 350, and continue baking for one hour.