You may remember from my very first post on this blog that when I was growing up, my mother and I attempted to make pie several times. Every time was a harrowing experience. We tried everything – dozens of pastry recipes including the phrase “fool-proof” in the title or description, given to us by family friends; several different methods (the food processor! two knives to cut the butter! our hands!); we tried rolling out dough on wax paper, or on a pastry mat, or between two sheets of plastic wrap (actually that last one works pretty great). Always we ended up with a crust that was overworked and nowhere near as flaky as we’d like, pie edges that were often burnt, a very messy kitchen, and a lot of frustration. In the years since I have started to make pies on my own, I have grown quite comfortable with pastry dough – I’ve found what works, what I like and don’t like, and methods that are, for the most part, “fool-proof” for me.
None of these things remain true once you step into my mother’s kitchen.
Every pie that I have made at my parents’ house has had some element of disaster or failure associated with it. The first year that I declared that I could now make pie well, I was tasked with making the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. The story has become a running joke in my family – I made several batches of dough (the first was with this weird-tasting “butter” flavoured Crisco that was all wrong) and required several additional trips to the grocery store. When I finally got some pies in the oven that I felt okay about, my mom and my aunt convinced me that they could keep an eye on the pies while I had a shower. I think you can imagine how this ends….they didn’t exactly keep an eye on them, and the result was pumpkin pie filling that was boiling like thick lava in the pastry, and came out with charred crusts and blackened filling.
On several occasions since then I’ve attempted pies there – always having my pastry stick like glue to my rolling surface and having to patch up many hole and tears – this was the problem my mother and I most frequently encountered in my youth, and I decided that it was the surface that was to blame. I would only roll pastry out on plastic wrap or parchment or wax paper from now on!
It was with this resolution that I decided to make a cherry pie when I was visiting my parents for a weekend in July. Because I thought I might make a pie while I was there, I travelled with my cherry pitter and tapioca starch in tow – which garnered lots of giggles, I have to say. First we decided I would bake a pie using the cherries from my parents’ cherry tree – so I went out and picked a bunch, only to discover that they either weren’t ripe or weren’t edible for humans. Another trip to the store…not off to a great start. Fast forward, and let’s just say that I had a similarly frustrating pastry experience – dough sticking and glueing to the counter, ripping and tearing when I tried to transfer it to a pie plate. Then, it seemed to have to bake for the longest time, and every time I checked on it it looked as if the cherries were dry as a bone and rock hard – as if the sugar wasn’t turning to syrupy-pie goodness, as if something was terribly wrong. I fretted.
In the end, while it was certainly one of the uglier pies I’ve made, it received rave reviews from my parents and our dinner guest, so maybe, just maybe, the curse is soon to be broken.
To make this pie, you can simply follow the recipe that I shared in the Colossal Cherry Pie post – these cherries were less colossal, but still quite large, and so this time I actually halved all the cherries after pitting them, and it made for a much nicer filling, in my humble opinion.