Growing up I often made my dad a cherry pie for his late August birthday. He liked that over cake. Birthday pie? Getting edgy there, papa.
Since moving from the midwest to LA I’ve missed this excuse for summer pie making.
As luck would have it both for me and the recipient, I had a request here in LA for cherry pie for an early September birthday. Nice coincidence. Well done, universe.
I decided to get equally daring. You wager birthday pie? I’ll take that and add trying a new recipe to the pot. Read it and weep. Actually hopefully we eat it and both win.
But then again, cooking from Baking Illustrated, by those perfectionist freaks at Cook’s Illustrated is hardly taking a risk.
All the same I was nervous.
Normally I am a shortening pie crust girl. All the way. But the Baking Illustrated crust called for a mix of butter and shortening, salt and…sugar? I put in 1 1/2 tablespoons instead of their 2. One thing I love about baking is that it is part chemistry and part instinct. Normally I ignore instinct and follow Cook’s Illustrated recipes to a T because they are so well tested but I just don’t think pie crust should be sweet.
Don’t get me wrong-if you are a butter pie crust lover this crust is the penultimate. It is balanced, buttery, understated-ly sweet, and A DREAM to roll out. Plus it is lithe, supple, easy-going, not sticky. I’d date this crust.
I think I simply prefer the slightly salty taste of my shortening crusts better. Which is shocking considering butter is like my best friend. Except for being fattier and less talkative.
I want to give butter another chance in crust. In the future I think I’ll try this recipe leaving out the sugar and adding a tad more salt than the teaspoon Cook’s Illustrated calls for.
As for the filling, the one thing they are exacting on, and right about, was going the extra mile to get jarred Morello cherries. Not only are they more beautiful than the canned ones I normally use, they also taste better. This meant having to brave the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s. I want to like TJ’s. Really I do. But their parking, produce, and aisle traffic suck. And I can never find everything I want there. I think I am the only person I know who just can’t get with that store. I am so not hip.
Normally I’ve made cherry pies with tapioca as the thickener but Cook’s Illustrated uses cornstarch. Cornstarch made the pie awfully thick. Maybe it is nostalgia but I think its nice to have a bit of ooze to a fruit pie.
They do use the almond extract in the filling. Gotta have that. But they also use some cinnamon. The plot thickens! I tasted once I mixed it all up and added a dash of the secret ingredient I add to my Thanksgiving pies. You either have to be awesome or named Eleanor for me to give up that secret.
The verdict is that this pie was not bad, but not the best. I’m gonna have to redeem myself as master pie maker…
Questions for you:
What sort of pie crust do you prefer?
Do you like(love?) Trader Joes?
Do you have secret, or trademark ingredients you use?