This month, my online book club read My Life from Scratch by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Gesine previously worked as an executive in Hollywood (she is Sandra Bullock's sister) but then realized she really hated it and actually really liked baking, so her and her husband moved to Vermont and she opened a (very successful) bakery. I love how simple it sounds, but Gesine is very open with how difficult it actually is to run a bakery: the hours, the customers, the employees, and sometimes even the baked goods. While at times Gesine seems a bit tyrannical about the life she left behind, her perspectives on the wonder of baked goods and the importance of doing something you love made me enjoy the book very much.
All of her recipes sounded amazing, and for that reason alone I highly recommend reading this book. Because cherries are in season right now, I chose to make her cherry filling and make a pie out of it (using a crust recipe I've been making since I was little) to make one rockin' cherry pie. I also will probably make Starry Starry Nights at some point (recipe in the book), and in a moment of guilt in the future, I will order her macaroons from her online store.
I snagged a bag of organic cherries from my co-op, which were sourced from Ferrari Farms in Linden, CA just under 60 miles from here. I then spent the next 20 minutes pitting two pounds of cherries; hard work (made me want to invest in one of these), but totally worth it. With red fingers, a little cherry juice on my Badger t-shirt, and a bowl full of succulent and now pit-less cherries, I was ready to make the filling. Now, the chapter containing this recipe begins with complaints from a regular customer of hers about the pie being gummy one day. That being said, I took extra care in following the instructions to make sure mine was not gummy as well.
I was a little nervous, because I cannot remember having ever made a cherry pie before, and haven't made a pie since the holidays. Even then, I remember having several "run-ins" with the crust and, since the crust makes the pie, I was determined to get it right. For the most part, I did, but noticed after baking that the bottom crust sunk down more than I had expected, leaving less of a crust on the edge, so make sure you leave a lot of extra crust up there by folding the excess over and pinching with your thumb before cutting off the rest.
As I was making this, I noticed some confusing parts how the recipe was written, so the recipe below is slightly different than hers. I also took out the vanilla, just because I didn't want to dilute the cherry flavor. However, I will stick beside her in her claim that sour cherries work best. Honestly, it is really true - sweet cherries are not only too sweet, but they lack the flavor punch that sour cherries provide. If you cannot find fresh sour cherries, Gesine says that frozen cherries are a fine substitute. Plus, you can use this recipe for other fruit pies by simply swapping out the cherries for other summer fruits, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc. I didn't try other fruit, but if you do, please let me know how it turns out!
Makes one eight-inch pie
Pastry for a two-crust pie
5 cups pitted sour cherries (about 2 lbs fresh, unpitted cherries)
1 c sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch*
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c water
1 tbsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup water and stir to combine. Continue to add water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture reaches a milk-like consistency. (Gesine's recipe called for only 1/4 cup, but I needed a 1/2 cup to get to the consistency desired in the recipe.)
Heat the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until cherries are soft and the sugar is melted. Add the cornstarch mixture and heat, stirring occasionally, until the filling is thick and bubbly. Keep an eye on it, as if cornstarch is overcooked it will lose its ability to thicken. Remove from heat.
Line the bottom of an 8-inch pie pan with pastry. Pour in the cherry mixture. If you are doing a full top crust, dot a few pieces of cold butter on top of the filling before covering. Otherwise, use the remaining crust to create a lattice-top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until crust is golden.
Serve with Greek yogurt or homemade whipped cream.
*I use Rumford non-GMO cornstarch and highly recommend seeking out a non-GMO cornstarch.