Cherry Pie for the Crust Lover

There are crust lovers, and there are people who prefer the middle to the crust. Most of the people in my family are crust lovers – pie crust, crusty bottoms on biscuits and cornbread, crusty bread. I have a very vivid memory of offering to split a piece of pie with my aunt. I was going to cut it crosswise and let her have the point while I took the crust end. Didn’t happen. We cut it the long way and both got a crust end. She still remembers when I tried to get away with getting all the crust. In my defense, I was eleven and didn’t fully understand the importance of crust to some members of the family (other than me!).

When you make a freeform pie, you get a pie with a high crust ratio to filling. In fact, there is just enough filling to enhance the flavor of the crust, so make sure you use a tasty crust, like my All-Butter Pie Crust.

I used cherries that I have had in the freezer since we went cherry picking (blush) three years ago. Thank goodness for deep freezers. I had run across the cherries a few weeks ago when I was looking for something in the bottom of the freezer, and this past weekend I decided to make them into a pie. I didn’t think I had enough cherries to make a regular pie, so I though I would make a freeform pie just big enough for Rich and I (Calvin was spending the night with friends and doesn’t like cherry pie anyway. He would have balked at missing something chocolate, though). I ended up having more than enough cherries, so I still have a stash in the freezer to use another time. And the pie ended up bigger than I planned – enough for at least six servings. And we ate it in two sittings. Oh well…

I decided to gild the lily and make a crumb topping for the top of the pie, and it added a nice crunch and sweetness to the top. Feel free to skip the topping. Your pie will still be delicious and beautiful.

I was amazed at how much the pie crust rose and made wonderful flaky layers. The parts of the pie that had the crust folded over were almost like a turnover. Sometime soon I am going to have to try my hand at cherry turnovers. Or maybe apple.

There will probably be lots of leftover pie crust. Use the scraps to make cinnamon sugar bites – place the crust scraps on the edge of the baking sheet, or if making a regular pie, on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle heavily with cinnamon sugar and bake alongside the pie for 10 minutes, or until starting to crisp and brown, but not burn. Eat while the pie bakes the rest of the way.

Freeform Cherry Pie
from The Cook’s Life
serves 6-8

Half recipe of Butter Pie Crust
3-4 cups pitted sour cherries, frozen or fresh
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
dash salt

Crumb topping (optional):
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cold butter

If using frozen cherries, let them thaw at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before making the pie.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Roll crust out to less than 1/8-inch thick.

Place crust on prepared baking sheet.

Place cherries in a large bowl. Mix cornstarch and sugar together in a small bowl and add to the cherries. Add almond extract and salt and mix thoroughly.

Spoon cherry filling into the middle of the pie crust, leaving a 3-4 inch margin of crust all around the edge. Use a slotted spoon if there is a lot of liquid. You don’t want the cherries swimming in juice.

Start folding the edge of the crust up over the outside edge of the cherries, pleating it as you go.

You might have to cut off some of the extra crust if it gets too thick at the pleats. Reserve this crust to make cinnamon sugar bites.*

If using the crumb topping, mix the almonds, flour and brown sugar together in a small bowl. Cut the butter into the almond mixture with a pastry blender or your fingers until you have coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle the topping over the entire top of the pie.

Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, until crust and crumbs are golden brown and cherry filling is bubbling and thickened.

Remove baking sheet from oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Do not try to move the pie off the baking sheet until it is almost cool.

Cut pie into wedges to serve.

*Place the crust scraps on the edge of the baking sheet, or if making a regular pie, on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle heavily with cinnamon sugar and bake alongside the pie for 10 minutes, or until starting to crisp and brown, but not burn. Eat while the pie bakes the rest of the way.

Download the recipe here.

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