10 Feb Cherry, Strawberry & Rose Pie
Your grocery store’s seasonal aisle is exploding with pink and red decorations, half of it dedicated to mass-produced, heart-shaped boxes of all sizes, filled with low-quality (and probably maraschino cherry-filled, EW!) chocolate, the other half lined with cartoon Valentines destined for some second grader’s hand-decorated shoe box.
Those ruby red roses you saw on sale last week are now priced as if they’re worth their weight in gold. (Probably the exact same roses.)
Your favorite restaurant has been booked for month, soon to be filled to the brim with starry-eyed diners, who are likely visiting for the first time and thus, will never realize that the half-assed prix fixe meal that they’re paying an arm and a leg for is the chef’s finest attempt at balancing frugality and flavor, an effort to feed the once-yearly Valentine’s Day diners quickly and en masse.
And the cheap teddy bears. Gah, don’t even get me started on the cheap teddy bears!
Yes, yes, Valentine’s Day is upon us.
Really though, I don’t mean to sound so anti-cupid. I too, have partaken in my fair share cheesy, heart-shaped decorations and chocolate tummy aches. (See: homemade heart-shaped paper bunting draped over my kitchen sink.) And for the record, I think hand-decorated shoe boxes are the bees knees.
But these days, mostly because of the low-quality, high-price hoopla surrounding Valentine’s Day, I find myself avoiding all things public, instead opting to stay in with Steve (or my best gals, see you ladies on Saturday!), getting as painfully smooshy and wined up as we like, in the comfort of our own home.
Last year, Steve cooked me a homemade meal, shirtless accept for my frilly, Butterlust-embroidered apron (TMI?..but hilarious). We listened to sappy love songs, and stuffed ourselves silly, first with a whole, roasted Red Snapper and hot pink beet salad (so festive! remember this?), and then on Nutella Molten Cakes, before moving the coffee table aside for a little Sam Smith dance party. It was a homemade and heartfelt expression of how much we care for each other, no frills or grand gestures required. Just us, in our element, doing things we love. Which is exactly what Valentine’s Day should be, no?
So what’s on this year’s menu? Welp, I don’t know. With both of our day jobs keeping us busier than normal, we’ve had little time for planning (we just decided yesterday, via hurried text, that we’re forgoing gifts of any kind), but seeing as Steve loves a good berry pie, I found myself feeling inspired to practice my pie skillz last weekend, just in case.
There’s just one thing. Fruit pies are my baking arch-nemesis. My relationship with pie in general has grown leaps and bounds (I’ve got the crust thing down pat), but for the life of me, I can’t seem to find the right balance between golden, crisp crust and perfectly thickened, sliceable insides. Most attempts have left me with too-wet filling, and a soggy disposition.
I’d like to say this attempt was wholly successful, but sorry to disappoint.
I followed all the rules I found on the internet, and still, there was juice. I drained the fruit first, then reduced it down to a syrup before adding it back into the filling. I started the bake at a high temperature, and then reduced the heat to bake for a longer time to allow the thickeners to work their magic and for any extra liquid to bake off. But still, JUICE.
I assure you, this filling recipe is no different from thousands of proven cookbook and other trusted source recipes I’ve found. So, here’s where I think I went wrong:
- I used frozen fruit. Because obviously, it’s neither cherry nor strawberry season here in Texas. Frozen fruit tends to be more watery than fresh, thus, even with the time spent draining, I was probably screwed from the start. To fix this, next time I’ll try cooking the fruit for 5-10 minutes on the stove top (or even roasting it) in order to cook off more of the natural liquid. Or, if you can resist the siren call of Valentine’s Day pie, wait until summer and use fresh fruit (still drain!).
- I used cornstarch as a thickener. I know, I know. You’ve used cornstarch dozens of times with success, and so did your grandma and her grandma, too. All I can tell you is, after multiple attempts, it hasn’t worked for me. Based on my research, next time I’m going to try quick-cooking tapioca, as it thickens at a lower temperature.
- I didn’t bake my pie long enough. (Maybe). While I follow a very standard recipe for baking pie crust — 20 minutes at 425F, then lower to 375F and bake for another 30-40, I might try shortening my high-temp cooking next time. This way, the crust will not finish as quickly, thus allowing more time for baking to help evaporate excess juice.
All of this said, I was still able to save this pie and serve it successfully, juice-less, at my parents’ Super Bowl party.
YES! I fixed the pie. I ate the pie. It was delicious. EFF YOU, JUICE.
How, you ask? Well, see that dark area on the bottom left? Since the juice had already bubbled up there during baking, I took advantage of already-stained spot and drained off a little juice from there, then covered the edges of the crust with foil to prevent it from burning, and baked the pie for another 15 minutes at 375F, until I saw some serious bubbling. Then I took the pie outside into the cold(ish) winter air to cool completely before serving (this is very important) and VOILA! It worked, and none of the party-goers knew any better.
Moral of the story, don’t cry over juicy pie. And don’t give up!
OKAY. I know I’ve thrown a lot of words at you today but don’t leave just yet, we still have to talk about what makes this pie more special and delicious than normal old pie.
A few weeks ago, Michelle posted this beauty, touting the many benefits of switching from an all-butter, to a lard and butter-based pie crust recipe. With a little bit of experimentation (i.e. many attempts to slay the monster that is pie), she’s discovered that she prefers a little lard in her crust because this type of pastry is more malleable and holds its shape better while baking. YES PLEASE. Having also suffered pie disasters where I spent far too long crimping only to have the pie lose shape while baking (why so fickle, pie?), my interest was immediately peaked and I knew I had to try a lard crust for myself. So, this is her recipe, taken straight from the pie geniuses at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, and slightly adapted by yours truly because I thought it needed a touch more sweetness.
The verdict: lard + butter = two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
While I do think I still prefer the flavor of an all-butter crust, because butter, I very much love how this dough held the shape of my festive little heart cutouts as well as that beautiful, wavy crimp. I also found the texture to be more tender than an all-butter dough, likely due to the low water content in lard. I’m still TBD on which will win out at Thanksgiving next year; there are many more experiments to be had before then.
So all-in-all, HOORAY! Yes, I’m endorsing lard. Go try it! And before you go getting all grossed out, think about that al pastor taco or pulled pork sandwich you ate last week and tell me it wasn’t delicious. I rest my case. (Just don’t serve this pie to your vegetarian friends.)
OKAY OKAY, ONE MORE THING — the filling. Cherries and strawberries because, duh, it’s Valentine’s Day and I wanted to be sweet and pink. But to make this pie extra festive and Valentines-y, I added a couple teaspoons of rose water. It’s just enough to add light floral notes in the background, imparting just a touch of romance to what is otherwise a fairly classic recipe. Warning: use rosewater sparingly, it’s quite easy to go from a subtle hint to drinking water straight from the vase. You’ve been warned, now go forth and pie!
A FEW NOTES ABOUT THIS RECIPE:
(though most have been expressed above…)
- Use fresh fruit if possible. If using frozen, try thawing and cooking out some of the moisture from the fruit prior to using it in the filling. If you go this route, make sure to cool the fruit completely before adding it to the raw crust.
- Use a thickener that has worked for you in the past. If it’s cornstarch, great. If your new to pie, try quick-cooking tapioca and let me know how it goes. Godspeed.
- Make sure you bake your pie long enough. The juices should be reduced and bubbling, the crust should be a deep golden brown.
- Keep your crust and all of the ingredients cold at all times! In fact, err on the side of caution and freeze your un-baked pie for an hour before it goes in the oven. This will help ensure it holds its shape while baking.
- Use leaf lard, if possible, as it’s the highest grade of lard (I’ll spare you the details on why). That said, I also tried this recipe with the easier-to-find, shelf-stable rendered version from my grocery store and the results were almost identical.
Happy Pie-Making! Happy Valentine’s Day!
OH! P.S. If you have any tips & tricks that I can try next time, pleeeeaaase, I beg you, share in the comments. K, thx. Luv you, bai.
- 1 cup (8 oz.) ice cold water
- 1/4 (2 oz.) cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 1/2 (12.5 oz) cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) cold lard, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 4 cups sweet cherries (frozen or fresh, see notes)
- 2 cups strawberries (frozen or fresh, see notes)
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar (increase for less-ripe fruit)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (I used Meyer lemons)
- 1-2 teaspoons rose water (to taste)
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons of butter, softened
- all-purpose flour, for rolling
- egg wash (1 egg whisked with a splash of water)
- course sugar, for sprinkling
- Combine the ice water and apple cider vinegar and set aside.
- Add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food process and pulse to combine. Drop in the butter and lard pieces and pulse until fats are cut into the flour -- there should be some pieces the size of large peas and others the size of barley.
- Add in about 7 tablespoons of the water/cider mixture. Once added, give the dough a few long pulses to help moisten the flour. If the dough does not begin to come together into soft curds that hold together when pinched, add another tablespoon and give the mixture one good final pulse until you get a dough that sticks together when pinched but still has some visible chunks of fat in it.
- Pour the dough onto a floured work surface — it should be crumbly. Divide the dough and form into two discs (this will make it easier to roll out later), wrap well and refrigerate for AT LEAST three hours, preferably overnight. The colder the dough, the better the pie.
- If using frozen fruit, combine the cherries and strawberries in a large saucepan and and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes to help evaporate some of the natural juices. Let cool.
- Combine the cherries, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest and rose water in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to a mesh sieve, placed over a bowl and let the juices drain for an hour. Once drained, transfer the juices to a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until reduced to a syrup. Set aside to cool, then combine again with the fruit mixture.
- Add the cornstarch to the fruit mixture, and mix well.
- Roll out one of the discs of pie dough on a well-floured surface, into a circle large enough to fit into your pie pan, with about 1/2 inch overhang.
- Carefully lay the rolled out dough into your pie dish, being careful not to stretch it. If your dough has become warm while rolling, you may need to refrigerate it for 15 minutes prior to this step.
- Fill the uncooked crust with your fruit filling, top with pats of softened butter, then place in the freezer while you roll out the top.
- Roll out the second disc of pie dough on a well-floured surface, to about the same size as the first. If desired, use a small cookie cutter to cut shapes into the dough.
- Place the top crust onto the pie and crimp the edges to seal. Place in the freezer for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425F. When ready to bake, place the pie on a cookie sheet (this will save your oven floor if the juices boil over). Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with course sugar.
- Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425F or until the crust just begins to lightly brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and cook for another 40-45 minutes. If the edges begin to brown too quickly, remove the pie from the oven, cover the edges with foil, and then continue to bake until the juices are reduced and bubbling.
- Cool pie on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.
Looking for more information on how to best thicken a fruit pie? Here are some great resources: