Summer to most people is marked by sunshine, beach and outside activities. Me, summer begins when berries come into season. My absolute favorite fruits are raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and of course cherries. I’m never satiated enough with these summer fruits, honestly I have to use every bit of will power to not buy and eat every berry in sight. Often berries are eaten straight of the container, rarely making it to be used in other ways. Fortunately I received a very large box of slightly over-ripe cherries at work, leading perfectly to an classically all American summer dessert, cherry pie. This week, I made two pies. Both inherently different due to several factors.
The first pie was a truly classic cherry pie, lattice topped filled to the brim with sweet bing cherries. My pie dough recipe, compliments of Lorna Yee, from her upcoming cook book, utilizing a variety of fats to produce the ultimate flaky crust. I adapted a recipe I found on the Internet, since most cherry pie recipes call for sour pie cherries, so I adjusted the ratio of sugar since I was using bings, a sweeter variety. I chilled the dough overnight, the desired method for pie crusts. I have to admit I was skeptical at first, the dough a bit more crumbly than my previous pie crusts, so I added a bit of half and half, but this was one of the best pie crusts I’ve made. The filling though left a bit to be desired, it was watery and lacking the right cherry flavor, the more it sat the better the pie developed in flavor and consistency.
My second pie was all together a much more lofty adventure. A wonderful friend of mine is gluten and dairy free, so I thought it would be fun to try a new type of baking and wanted to share something homemade with her. I went straight to the expert in gluten free baking, the gracious Shauna Ahern aka Gluten Free Girl. Shauna was kind enough to share her pie recipe which will be featured in her upcoming cookbook. This was my first adventure in gluten free baking, after a few email exchanges with advice in translating her recipe to be dairy free, I was ready to start the journey. I won’t reveal her recipe as I have been sworn to secrecy, however it opened up my cupboard to a whole new world of flours, literally. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, as I started to blend the ingredients together, I realized I was in a whole new league, the first time I had been truly challenged by a recipe in a very long time. The dough much more sticky than I expected, I skeptically formed it into a ball and chilled my very non-pie like dough. After a quick hour, I removed the ball, still extremely sticky and attempted to roll it out. My naivete in gluten free baking was evident, sticking to the parchment paper refusing to easily to drop into the pie plate. Luckily per Shauna’s instructions there was no worry of overworking the dough; I made several attempts to re-roll the dough each time getting a bit more frustrated with myself. Thankfully due to a wonderful Twitter community I received several hints and lots of coaching from the experts. Finally I resorted to the very technical method of squishing the dough into the plate. My next challenge, topping the pie. I had neglected to think about how I would top it, after losing a bit of dough to my battle with the parchment paper, I very delicately stretched it out adding one of the flours and again smushed the dough on top of the pie, unfortunately I only had enough dough to top 3/4 of the pie. At this point I was running late and didn’t have time to bake the pie and make my ferry, alas more improvisation was necessary, I would have to chill the pie and bake the next day.
Tonight, determined to conquer the gluten free pie, I finished with baking the pie. Not only had I made a financial investment in my first gluten free pie, but most of all I wanted to win the challenge. To be blunt, I am bit shocked by the results.
Warm out of the oven, the pie bubbled, golden brown, baked much more evenly than the first pie. The filling congealed and sparkled, brighter and more pie like. Did chilling over 24 hours do the trick? My hand pressed crust, uneven and very homemade looking, cooked evenly. This pie reminds me that the outside doesn’t reflect the inside, perfection is only in the eye of the beholder and the unexpected surprises us. My special pie meant much more to me than the previous pie; it was about facing an obstacle, a new challenge and literally rising above the bumps along the road. I persevered, expecting failure, it was the complete opposite.
Tonight I shared the pie with two friends, non-gluten/dairy free eaters. I brought both pies, topped with simple vanilla ice cream. Their favorite pie of the evening, the gluten dairy free version. Both said the crust was better, more buttery tasting yet less rich. The filling slightly tart, the cherry flavor more evident was also a hit. All of us were pleasantly surprised to like the gluten free pie so much. Personally I was proud of my pie, I faced a new challenge in my cooking endeavors. I look forward to trying new gluten free recipes. Much thanks again to Lorna Yee, Shauna Ahern and Kate McDermott. And last but certainly not least, photo credit to my dear friend Noelle Smithhart.