My parents have been planting fruit trees on our property since my sister and I were young, in the hopes that we could all enjoy fresh cherries, peaches, plums, and apples from our own trees. Unfortunately, nature and luck haven’t been on our side. Between stray pesticides, fungal infections, and trees that never produced, our experience with fruit trees has been, forgive the pun, the pits. After several years of scant peaches and about ten years of apples, the cherries (the real prize) have finally produced. And I mean big time.
The irony is that my dad nearly missed out on the bounty because he had to travel for work, but as luck would have it, he and I were home at the same time to take advantage of the last of the sour cherries and the height of the sweet cherries. Sadly, my sister still hasn’t been home this season and my mother isn’t a huge cherry fan (she thinks they’re fine, but nothing to get too excited about). My father really likes cherry pie, but has only ever made them with sour cherries, so this year he asked me if I knew a recipe for sweet cherry pie. I figured that one of the blogs I follow would have an acceptable recipe; smitten kitchen had exactly what I was looking for, so my dad whipped one up. He gave it a solid endorsement, but expressed disappointment that it was so similar to sour cherry pie in flavor.
Now I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of pie. I hate (and I mean really, really hate) making crusts of all shapes and sizes. Plus, I generally think the first slice or two are good, but then the filling starts tumbling out all over the place – messy! That’s why I was surprised that I couldn’t stop thinking about that pie my dad had made (I didn’t get to try any, he was making it when I had to leave). I decided that I’d have to make it myself, but instead of one large pie, I’d make single-serving pies in the custard cups gifted by a friend.
The crust is adapted from Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies. I added a little sugar and used half lard and half unsalted butter, instead of shortening. Instead of making the dough by hand I blitzed it together in a food processor after freezing all the ingredients, including the flour and sugar.
Single-serving Cherry Pies
Adapted from smitten kitchen
4 cups pitted fresh cherries (about 2 1/2 pounds unpitted)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
Pie crust (see recipe below)
6 6-ounce custard cups or similar vessels
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Stir together the cherries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, lemon and almond extract gently together in a large bowl.
Roll out half of chilled dough (use larger piece, if you’ve divided them unevenly) on a floured work surface until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Place one of the custard cups, opening down, on the dough. Cut a circle that is slightly larger than the cup from the dough. Flip the cup and lay the dough into the bowl and press it firmly down into the bowl and then all the way up the sides. You may need to use a few small strips of extra dough to cover the entire interior and then place in the refrigerator. Repeat with the remaining 5 cups.
Spoon filling into the cups and dot the filling with the bits of cold butter.
Roll out the remaining dough. Using another custard cup, cut out circles that are the same size as the opening. Lay this crust over the filling and pinch the edges of the dough together and scrunch it down into a the cup a little bit.
Cut slits in the crust with a sharp knife, forming steam vents (I did four slits radiating from the center), and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the pies in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let the pies cool on a rack.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lard
1/3 cup unsalted butter
5 tablespoons cold milk
Freeze flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Place butter and lard into freezer for at least 30 minutes. Add the dry ingredients, lard and butter to food processor with blade attachment and process until the mixture becomes the size of small peas.
Pour the milk over the flour mixture. Process until the dough is just starting to come together, 3-4 pulses. Press the dough together to form 2 equal balls, then flatten each ball into a disk. Roll out the dough right away or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, smoothing out any little wrinkles or air pockets, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out each disk to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Use as directed in any pie recipe.