For this week’s project…Tart Cherry Pie, I was happy for the opportunity to bake it since my last crust didn’t resemble anything like a pie crust, but rather a collection of over baked dough crumbs. Needless to say, I was determined to get this thing right. The second challenge that I faced was locating fresh tart cherries! To the best of my knowledge, cherries do not grow in the late winter, and you find most of them in their initial blooming stage. I knew I might have to go for the plan B that Rose offers in her book, but then I had something in me that said there must be somewhere in the United States of America that will have tart cherries for sale…. So I went on to search, and I am so glad I did. I came across “Northwest Wild Food” from Burlington, Washington. They grow Montmorency cherries which are harvested once a year. When I spoke to the owner on the phone, he explained to me that they had already de pitted the cherries, and to maintain their unique flavor and nutrition, they had the cherries flash frozen. I knew I was off to a good start with that information. When I received the package I couldn’t wait to see and taste them. They are the brightest cherries I ever seen, and when you take a bite of them it’s like a tart explosion in your mouth. My family and I had a hard time not eating them and remembering to leave enough for the pie.
The first day I started making the pie crust. To make sure that I would do everything right, I spent hours reading comments at Rose Levy’s blog. I re-read all the instructions in her book. Learning from others experiences and Rose’ tips, I knew it was not the cream cheese, nor the butter or the heavy cream (I used “Organic Valley” cream cheese, heavy cream and butter). My baking powder was fresh since I just purchased it, so I knew it had to be something with the flour. For my first attempt to make the pie crust, I used “Arrowhead Mills” pastry flour, the same flour I used to make the blueberry-blackberry pie. When it was time to roll the dough to a 12” diameter, the dough did not roll smoothly and it tore easily. I then disposed of the dough and made the dough pie once again. This time I used Bob Mills Unbleached Extra Fine Pastry Flour. The dough came out just like the pictures in the Baking Bible, and I was pleased. While the dough was chilling and resting in the refrigerator, I compared each brand of flour to their protein contents. According to Arrowhead Mills website, each serving of pastry flour (30 gram) has 4 grams of protein, compared to the Bob Mills Unbleached Fine Pastry Flour each serving (34 gram) has 3 grams of protein. With higher protein content in the flour, the amount of liquid must not have been enough to hold all the dough together. Surely a lesson learned here.
I then went on to make the filling. It took me back to the day when I was determined to make the best cherry pie filling. Several years ago, I had discovered several different ways to make the cherry filling. I used black cherry juice, cherry syrup, and tart cherry concentrate just to name a few. I even cooked the cherries to a reduction with sweet wine. I did find that adding the cherry concentrate gives a more distinct cherry flavor and it eliminates the need to add red food coloring. I then made the cherry pie lattice topping. I very much appreciate the instructional photos that show how to make the beautiful topping for the pie…it sure takes the guessing away.
Finally the pie went into the oven to bake for 40 minutes, and another 3 hours of rest before we all got to try it. The crust was flaky and tender, and the filling had an intense, dynamic flavor that you wish will never go away. I overheard one of my Family members say “this is the best cherry pie I ever had in my life, amazing crust…”. Someone else also said “this is the pie to celebrate a pie day”. Hearing all of that, after all the hours that are spent in the kitchen, just to get the right pie dough…made it all worthwhile. I think I can say with confidence “mission accomplished”. Have a Happy Pie Day…we all sure did.