My favorite baker, Chrysta Wilson, author of Kiss My Bundt: recipes from the award-winning bakery let me share this easy cherry pie recipe. Chrysta isn’t just an authority on bundt. She’s also an expert on creating a flaky, butter crust and a balanced, sweet-tart pie filling. In fact, she’s pretty much my go-to expert for any sort of classic, American dessert!
How to make a cherry pie
This fresh cherry pie recipe has “easy” in the name, so you know this recipe is going to be straightforward. But I do have a few notes to help you make the best homemade cherry dessert possible. And that starts with the cherries. If you want to have a great cherry pie, you cannot make this cherry pie recipe with canned filling.
What kind of cherries should you use in cherry pie?
Chrysta’s recipe simply calls for fresh “sweet” cherries. The sweet designation can include several varieties. Sweet cherries are generally in season in the United States from May through mid-July. But the varieties available will change from month to month.
One of the most popular sweet cherry varieties, Bing, is considered a late-ripening variety. So if you’re planning on making a pie in May, you’ll have to find a different variety. Lambert cherries are a great cherry variety for baking and they’re available most of the summer. If you’re shopping at a big box grocery store, the cherries may simply be labeled as “sweet.” And that’s ok, too, just as long as you don’t mistakenly buy tart cherries.
Blending sweet, fresh cherries with tart, dried cherries
To achieve the right balance of sweetness and acidity, Chrysta’s pie recipe calls for blending the fresh, sweet cherries with dried tart cherries, (or cranberries as a substitution). This is a smart way to ensure that your pie has a complex, full cherry flavor.
As with the sweet cherries, you may be able to choose your cherries by variety. Or you may simply have to buy something labeled “dried, tart cherries.” (If you order your dried cherries from Amazon, you can get my favorites, which are Montmorency.)
The addition of almond extract
Chrysta adds a hint of almond extract to her simple cherry pie recipe. To me, it’s the direct, almond flavor of the almond extract, along with the flakey crust, that distinguishes her pie. Chrysta notes that the almond extract is optional. But if you’re not sure, I recommend trying it at least once.
To make a great, flakey pie crust
Achieving a flakey pie crust is easy if you follow Chrysta’s instructions to the letter. You must use real, unsalted butter. Do not try to skip chilling the butter or rush adding the water.
Chrysta’s cherry recipe offers two methods for making the crust, depending on your equipment. But you will need one of two pieces of equipment in order to make this butter pie crust. The inexpensive option is to use a pastry cutter. This is an indispensable tool for anyone who loves making flakey biscuits or traditional scones.
Alternatively, you can make this pie dough in a food processor. It requires less elbow grease and you’ll have perfectly formed pie dough in no time. (Personally, I’m a sensualist and I like the action of cutting the butter into the dough by hand.) But if you want to get a food processor, this inexpensive model is a real workhorse for the price.
How to make your pie look pretty
This made-from-scratch cherry pie recipe calls for a full top crust instead of a lattice. (This is actually easier than trying to weave the dough and will cut down your prep time considerably.) However, with a full top crust, you have to add vents. Chrysta likes to use a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I think it’s a great touch for date night. If you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can just slice several, evenly spaced vents with a sharp knife. But if you want a good-looking pie, you cannot forget the final step, which is to egg wash the top crust.
Why do you put egg wash on a pie crust?
The egg wash is what gives the pie’s golden crust that glossy, professional look. The egg also helps the dough to achieve the best, deep golden color as it bakes.
The history of cherry pie
When I think about a recipe, I like to know something about its origin. Understanding where a recipe came from can inspire me to create something special. Sometimes the history of an ingredient is mundane. But in the case of cherry pie history, it’s full of surprises.
We think of cherry pie as an American tradition. It’s as much a part of long, summer days as is baseball. But according to the American Pie Council, cherry pie is not American at all. At least, its origin isn’t American.
The concept of pie dates back to the ancient Egyptians. And although we think of pie as something more like this simple, double-crust cherry pie recipe, the first pie recipe was published in ancient Rome and it included a filling of goat cheese and honey. (Hmmm, goat cheese and honey? That sounds to me like it was intended as an aphrodisiac!)
The origin of fruit pies
Interestingly, there is little evidence of fruit pies until the 1500s. However, it is believed that cherry pie is actually British. The first cherry pie is linked with Queen Elizabeth I. It is believed to have traveled to America with the earliest settlers. But it didn’t evolve into the fruit-filled, flakey-crusted masterpiece we now love until recent times.
Why this pie recipe is food for romance
I’m always looking for a romantic connection with the recipes we feature on this site. Cherry pie might be associated with backyard barbecues but cherries are historically aphrodisiac. In fact, the fresh cherries baked into the pie are a source of several nutrients beneficial to sexual health.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that, in 1997, Dr. Alan Hirsh released findings that, in a controlled lab study, the scent of fresh cherries decreased female sexual arousal. (The study found that the scent of men’s cologne reduced female arousal as well.) However, I assert that when sweetened and baked into a pie, the aroma of fresh cherries mingles with buttery pastry and sugar. The resulting dessert is something totally seductive to both sexes.
So if you’re looking for some summer romance, light some candles and get baking!
Chrysta’s Cherry Pie with an All-Butter Crust
For the All Butter Pie Crust Ingredients
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp granulated white sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick + 2 tbsp cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
- 1/3 cup ice cold water* you may need extra—see recipe
For the Cherry Filling Ingredients
- 4 lbs cups pitted, fresh, sweet cherries about 2 1/2un-pitted
- 1/3 cup of chopped, dried, tart cherries dried cranberries can be used as a substitute
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 3/4 cup sugar
- pinch salt about 1/8 tsp
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/4 tsp almond extract* optional
- 1 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into small bits
- 1/3 cup almond meal ground almonds
Make the flaky pie crust recipe
- Cool your Fats: Cut your butter into small cubes. Place on a plate and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Sift the Dry: Sift together the flour, salt and sugar.
- Add butter to flour: Add the cold butter cubes into the flour and work it into the flour mixture with your pastry blender. Work quickly so that the butter doesn’t get too soft. (If you think the butter is melting, pop bowl back into the freezer for a few minutes.) You can also use a food processor, pulsing about 8 times. Blend the butter into the flour until the butter looks like crushed crackers with small pea-sized bits of butter in there.
- Add Water: At this stage, you want to add your water until the dough sticks together to form a ball. Start with 4 tbsp of water to start, then add water in 1tbsp increments. (You probably won’t use more than ½ Cup of water.)
- Tip: Too much water will make the dough very tough. So, you want to add just enough water where the dough holds together into a ball. Another tip: you could use ¼ cup of water and ¼ cup of vodka instead of the ½ cup of water. ½ of the vodka will evaporate in the oven, and this technique helps ensure you don’t “over water” your dough.
- Form Dough Ball: Squeeze dough together in the bowl, then plop the dough onto a floured work surface. Give it a quick roll or two, just to make sure the dough is a well pressed together.
- Divide Dough, chill: divide the dough into two balls (I use a scale to make sure they are the same size by weight). Press each ball into a flattened disc, which will make rolling easier. Then wrap in plastic-wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 days) to let the glutens rest and the butter get cold again.
- Roll Out Dough, Form Crust: Remove dough from the fridge, and unwrap onto a floured surface. (I like to take a piece of parchment paper and trace pie-pan onto the parchment paper. This gives me a guide for how wide to roll out my dough.)
- Making sure to flour the parchment paper (use the side without the ink on it, or it will get onto your dough) and the top of the dough disc, roll out to about an 11-inch circle.
- Place rolled out crust into your pie pan, and put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Prepare the cherry filling
- In a large bowl, combine fresh cherries, dried cherries (or dried cranberries), cornstarch, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and almond extract). Set aside.
To assemble and bake
- Remove the chilled bottom pie crust (in the pie pan) from the fridge.
- Sprinkle almond meal evenly into the bottom of the pie crust.
- Pour the cherry mixture into the bottom of the pie crust.
- Cut the butter into small pieces, and sprinkle on top of the cherry filling.
- Roll out the 2nd crust to be about 1 inch larger than the bottom.
- Put on Top Crust: Roll out your second dough disc just like you did before. Place on top of the filling. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, pinching to seal the two crusts together. Crimp the border to also help seal and for decoration.
- Cut ventilation holes in the top of the pie crust so steam can release. I like to cut shapes into the pie crust to serve the function of a “vent”, such as a heart of a star.
- Cover pie with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (which helps the crust and filling cool down and set up).
- Remove pie from fridge. Beat 1 egg and 1 tbsp of water together. Brush this egg wash mixture on top of the pie. Optional: sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- Place pie in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.
- Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake pie for an additional 30-35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and the filling appears thickened.
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