Fella’s birthday was coming up. Having heard him declare on multiple occasions that his Favourite Pie Ever is cherry, I decided to take on the challenge. Oh yeah. Best cherry pie ever. Eat my dust, artificially flavoured Safeway crap.
This challenge has been taunting me for some time. Last summer, just before fella’s birthday, he first revealed his thing for the cherry pie. I equipped myself with a mess of sweet red goodies. Then looked at the bowl full of cherries, all clinging lovingly to their inedible pits (each one of which I would be forced to remove, by hand) and made peach tarts instead.
While I was learning how to make cop-out … er, I mean peach pie last summer, I stumbled upon an amazing recipe from Stephen Cooks. Like many of my favourite recipes, it’s not remotely vegan, but was easily veganized by subbing out butter and shortening for Earth Balance and … well, that was actually the only substitution needed, aside from the fact that I used whole wheat flour, as always. More on that later.
What’s truly cool about Stephen’s recipe is that instead of the pie shell being on the bottom, where it normally belongs, it’s lovingly sandwiched between a layer of fruit. I was skeptical the first time around, fearful of a layer of doughy mush and a waste of 9 tablespoons of ever-increasingly expensive Earth Balance having been wasted.
It. Was. Amazing. It’s like an extra layer of love where you’d least expect it. Baking the crust before the final layer of pre-cooked fruit is applied seems to render it deliciously immune to the sogs, and leaves it, snuggled entirely intact, waiting to bring you untold pleasure halfway through your pie.
Back to this year’s birthday celebrations. Now that I live in the suburbs, and far, far, far away from Capers/Whole Foods, I can’t get my old familiar bulk organic whole wheat pastry flour without a $10, 2 hour roundtrip bus ride. I “invested” in a new-to-me organic whole wheat flour, which looked nice and fine-ground. Great foundation for a non-exfoliating pastry. So I thought.
Back at home, I checked recipes for cherry pie for guidance on filling-prep, and the consensus seemed to be that it’s best to add quite a bit of sugar–a whole 3/4 cups to 4 cups of the pitted fruit, where normally I’d add a tablespoon or two and let the fruit do its thing, rather than precooking. I complied with the consensus. Mistakes one and two.
Also, I didn’t have tapioca (does anyone just “have” tapioca sitting around? Well, yes. I’m sure many do. I didn’t.) so I subbed cornstarch. I looked and thought “hmm, this looks a bit moist” but figured it’d be okay (mistake three). I also added some fairly standard lime juice and a touch of almond extract, the latter of which I would skip because it ultimately seemed to perform no function.
In short, it was a hot mess. The flour looked gentle, but it was a byatch to work with. As I gritted my teeth and played fit-the-puzzle-pieces with our delicate desert crust, I could hear my mother’s voice in my head, chirping “whole wheat flour is a little hard for pastry …”
In the end, the pie was like a date with a pseudo-intellectual vacuous hottie. It looked good and smelled enticing, but was ultimately disappointing, despite its purported substance. The filling was way sweeter than I like, which proves that you shouldn’t use a special occasion as an excuse to follow a recipe’s ridiculous, or at least unusual for you, quantity of sugar thinking it’ll make it taste “extra special.” And for all the trouble it gave me (and the extra $2 I spent on a bag a third the usual size I buy), the flour had a very strange and unwelcome aftertaste.
Fella seemed to like it, although he might have been being decorous.
So, don’t make cherry pie like I did, with soggy filling, too much sugar, and strange tasting flour. Do, however, check out the cobbler recipe from Stephen Cooks. http://www.stephencooks.com/2006/07/peach_cobbler_.html
Oh, and a heads up: if you ever plan on hand-pitting four cups of cherries, expect to have black-stained fingernails and cuticles for at least three days afterwards.