As soon as I publicly admitted that I’m not very good at making pie crusts and don’t have a recipe I really like, I knew I had to change that. (Truth be told, and bacon apple pie aside, I’ve avoided pies for years because of my crust-phobia.) Then I heard these cherries calling to me from across the farmer’s market. There were just two boxes of bright red Michigan sour cherries sitting among the bings, and I heard them calling just in time to watch one leave with someone else. My fate was sealed. I quickly swooped in to grab the last box. Afterall, what better way to end a pie drought than with cherry pie? Now I just needed a crust.
I turned to The Pie and Pastry Bible as a likely place to find a good pie crust. I quickly settled on the Flaky Cream Cheese crust, and as I was skimming the instructions, a thought came to me. I’ve known about the food processor method for pie crusts, but I’ve never owned a food processor, so I’ve just discounted it. But what I do have is a mini food processor chopper thing. (Something like this.) Why couldn’t I just do the pie crust in that? Sure, it’s small, but maybe I could do the crust in batches. And you know what? It worked. And was surprisingly easy at that.
The crust came out tender AND flaky. It rained little flakes of pie crust with every bite, just like a good pie crust should. Now that I have a good recipe, I need to start making up for lost time. Luckily, I still have a good bit of summer left to make more fruit pies. (I’ve always liked fruit pies best.)
And I’m glad I gave the hand pies a whirl as well. They’re like what a Hostess pie would be if it wasn’t made entirely of shortening and chemicals. Which is to say delicious, portable and perfectly sized. Great for a picnic or a quick breakfast, if you’re so inclined. (Hey, they’re full of fruit, so that makes them good for you, right?)
I got to try out my new pastry cloth on this recipe, and it really does make rolling out dough MUCH easier. At $6, it’s well worth the money.
Flaky Cream Cheese Crust (recipe below)
1 1/2 lb (about 1 quart) fresh sour cherries, pitted
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Mix the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, salt and any cherry juice. Set aside.
Roll out the pastry crust to about 1/8″ thick. Use a ring cutter to cut the pastry into 4 to 5″ circles. (I used the largest ring from my set of cutters, which is 4 7/16″.)
Transfer the pastry circles to a baking sheet and spoon a bit of the cherry mixture onto each circle. About 6-8 cherries will fit on one circle, if you want it to close.
Fold one side of the circle over onto the other side to make a half circle. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges. (If a bit of juice leaks out, don’t worry too much. It will bake up into a chewy/crispy cherry carmel. Just peel it off the pan and eat it.) Cut a few slits into each pie to allow the steam to escape.
Bake the pies for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the juice is thick and bubbling out of the slits.
Flaky Cream Cheese Pastry Crust
Adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
1 1/3 cup AP flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
3 oz cream cheese, cold
1 1/2 Tbsp cold water
1 1/2 Tsp cider vinegar
Freeze the butter for about 30 minutes, until very firm. Toss the butter, flour, salt and baking powder into a chopper or food processor and pulse until combined. The texture should be like sand.
Remove about half the flour/butter and put in a bowl in the fridge.* Add half the cream cheese to the chopper and pulse until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add half the water and half the vinegar and pulse until just combined. Put this half of the dough in the fridge and repeat with the other half.
Once the dough is made, flatten both pieces, stack them and fold the stack over on itself. (This will layer the two pieces in case there are any inconsistencies.) Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least an hour and up to a few days.
*Since I don’t have a full-sized food processor, the instructions are written for a small chopper. If you have a food processor, by all means, use it and do it all in one batch.
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