My mom isn’t a cake person. Growing up, our celebration treats were always pies… cupcakes were the closest thing to a birthday cake that she’d attempt, and then only under duress. She always claimed that cakes were too hard and prone to mistakes, but I think that was just an excuse. The real reason was that she was addicted to cherry pie, and would much rather perfect her crust than bother with something that couldn’t be packed with the season’s freshest cherries. And, I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, I’ve held the course with this tradition. I almost never make cakes in the true sense of the word. My cakes tend to be of the quick-bread variety, or come in cup form. When I get the urge to bake, I gravitate towards a crusty slice rather than a towering piece. So, it’s not surprising that instead of a Black Forest something or other, I decided to make a Rustic Cherry Pie with my first bag of local Washington Cherries.
Recently inspired by Food Beam Fanny’s perfect Tarte aux Pommes, I decided to forgo my typical crust choices for a shortbread variety. And, because I’m lazy and bad at measurement conversions, I grabbed the old stand-by, Joy of Cooking, for my shortbread crust recipe, instead of using Fanny’s delicious instructions.
This crust isn’t the easiest to work with. Particularly if you are trying to be tricky and make the whole pie without the aid of a pie dish. But, if you can get over the fact that it looks a bit funny going into the oven, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing combination… the texture of the most tender shortbread cookie stuffed with the juicy goodness of a pie. Heaven.
Rustic Cherry Pie
(note: I made a 1/2 recipe, and my pie came out to be about a 6 inch round. Since the dough is hard to work with, if you make a full batch, you may want to make 2 separate 6-inch pies)
1 1/4 cups all -purpose flour
1/3 cups sugar
1 t lemon zest
1/4 t salt
8T butter, cold
1 egg yolk
sugar for the top
3 cups cherries, pitted and halved
2 T lemon juice
1 T sugar
1 t flour
Sift the flour and sugar into a medium sized bowl. Mix in the lemon zest and salt with a whisk. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture becomes course crumbs. Add in the egg, and mix with your fingertips until combined. Form into a ball. The dough will be crumbly, but if you can’t form it into a ball, add about up to 2 T of cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time. The more water you add, the less crumbly and less “shortbread” like your crust will become. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill for up to 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix the pitted cherries with the flour, sugar and lemon juice and set aside.
Roll out the crust into a round, a bit more than a 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured sheet of parchment. This dough is really tricky to work with as it likes to just crumble apart, so the parchment will help you move it to the baking sheet.
Pile the cherry mixture into the center of the dough, and then starting from one side, carefully fold up the dough around the cherries, and then move about 20 degrees and fold the next section up. Repeat until you’ve folded all the sides up. You are likely to have a lot of cracks. Pinch them together as best as you can… but don’t worry about them too much… this is a rustic tart. Then, carefully cut vents in the top of the tart and sprinkle the top with sugar.
Transfer the whole piece of parchment to a baking sheet, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and you start to see juice bubbling out. Let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.