Monday, 13 March 2017

Pi Day Special: Cherry Pie (Wheat- and Egg Free, with Dairy Free Option)

Nothing can beat tender, crisp, flaky pastry wrapped a sweet and sour and slightly spicy fruity filling, and that's why this cherry pie is so delicious!

I love fruit tarts, particularly apple tart, but they can really be made or broken by their pastries: sometimes it can be too hard or too crumbly; too firm or too soft; too thick or too thin. It's a very subjective thing. Personally, I love a pastry that makes a fabulous crispy sound when you bite into it, and it firm enough to hold its shape when cut. This is such a pastry.

The trick to great pastry is to make sure everything is cold, cold, cold! You've seen it repeated in cookery blogs all over the internet, and cooking personalities on the telly say it over and over again, but they wouldn't say it if it weren't true. The trick to tender flaky pastry is cold dough, hot oven (this is also true of popovers and Yorkshire pudding), and there are a few ways of achieving this with very little effort.

1. Hands are warm, use them as little as possible
Hands generate heat, as does working the pastry too much. Try and be as cold and distant as possible with your pastry: use cold knives to mix, not your hands, and when you do use your hands, only use the very tips of your fingers.

2. Keep everything in the fridge, even the tools...
Like many people advise when whipping cream, it's wise to chill your tools: use a glass bowl if you can, and chill the knives, the box grater, etc.

3. ... and the flour...
Yes: chill your flour for at least half an hour beforehand. If you can freeze it, even better. Same goes for the butter and vegetable fat (I use a combination for maximum flakiness); and make sure the water is as cold as you can get it without it turning into ice cubes.

4. ... and the filling.
Make sure whatever filling you're using it also cold. If you put warm, or God forbid hot, filling into the cold pastry, it will melt all that fat that you've been trying so hard to keep cold all this time; you'll undo pretty much all of your hard work.

5. Chill between steps
After making the dough, chill it. After rolling the dough, chill it. After lining the dish, chill it. If at any point you see the butter or fat softening in the dough, chill it. Heck, even if you can chill the pie after it's fully assembled for a few minutes, do so. Obviously, this is best case scenario, so in the recipe I have outlined chilling only where completely and utterly necessary.

Keeping that in mind, making the dough it really simple. No rubbing of fat into flour necessary: the box grater does all the hard work for you!

So, without further ado, let's get baking...

For one 9 inch (22 centimetre) round pie

For the pastry
  • 12 ounces (340 grammes) white spelt flour, preferably cold
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) butter or margarine, very cold
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) white vegetable fat, very cold
  • 1 ounces (30 grammes) caster sugar
  • A few drops of lemon juice, or white vinegar
  • Up to 5 fluid ounces (150 millilitres) very cold water, to bind
  • Good pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) of water, or use all milk for an egg free version
  • Coarse Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
For the filling
  • Two 14 ounce (400 gramme) can of cherries in syrup, I used black cherries but you can use whatever canned cherries you want
  • 4 teaspoons (20 millilitres) cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 gramme) sugar, white or brown
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 millilitre) mixed spice
  • Generous pinch of salt

To make the filling,
  • Empty one can into a saucepan, and drain the other can. Add the drained cherries to the pan, and save the syrup for another project. In a small bowl, mix the the cornflour, sugar, lemon or lime juice, mixed spice, and salt with a little water until it becomes a slurry.
  • Add in the slurry, stir through thoroughly, and then cook over medium high. Bring to the boil, and boil continuously for about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Pour immediately into a shallow bowl, and cover the surface of the filling directly with cling film. Allow to cool to room temperature before chilling until completely cold, about 2 hours.

To make pastry,
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the flour and salt, then grate in the butter and the fat on the coarse side, dipping the grating side in the flour between strokes to prevent clumping.
  • Very gently rub and break up the strands of butter and fat between your fingers to make the pieces smaller, about the size of peas.
  • Add in the lemon juice or vinegar, then add in a tablespoon or two (15 or 30 millilitres) of the water. Use the tip of a table knife to mix the water through. Continue this until you get a nice soft dough. It shouldn't be sticky. I added about 8 tablespoons in total myself, but it depends a lot on humidity and flour quality.
  • Make the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm, and chill in the fridge for an hour, or the freezer for half an hour.
To assemble the pie
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas Mk.4) and lightly (and when I say lightly, I mean it) grease a 8 or 9 inch (20 or 22 centimetre) pie dish.
  • Take the dough out of the fridge or freezer, then cut into two pieces, roughly two-thirds and one third. Wrap the smaller piece and return to the fridge.
  • Roll out the larger piece to about quarter of an inch thick (5 millimetres) on a flour surface. Drape into the pie dish and press into shape. Trim the overhang.
  • Pour in the completely cooled filling into the pastry, then wet the edges with some egg wash or milk.
  • Take the remaining dough out of the fridge, and place it on the work surface on top of the trimmings. Roll out as before, then drape over the topping, pressing onto the wet rim of the base layer. If you want the Pi symbol cut into it like I have, do that before draping and lift it very carefully.
  • Once again, trim the overhang with a straight cut, or a crimped cutter, or in whatever way you want. Brush the top with eggwash or milk, and sprinkle with the coarse Demerara sugar.
  • Pierce the top of the pie if you've not done the Pi symbol to allow steam to escape.
  • Place on the centre rack of the preheated oven, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. The filling is precooked, so you're just cooking the pastry. If it browns too quickly on top, cover with foil to allow the bottom crust to fully cook (don't make my mistake and let the top get a sun tan!)

No blogs on this day in previous years.

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