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Making Cherry Pie

It goes without saying that this is a sour cherry pie, because there’s no other kind of cherry pie. Not in the J. Pastry universe. Sour cherries, being more acidic, are much more interesting from a flavor standpoint. They also have thinner skins and more tender flesh, which means they bake down more readily. The result is a pie of a complexity and texture that sweet cherries can simply never deliver. Enough said.

So where were we? Right, pie. Every great pie starts with a home-made crust, and no they’re not hard to make. Roll yours in the same way I did here for peach pie. While the crust is resting, make your filling. Begin by assembling your ingredients. You’ll need a quart or more of sour cherries.

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Sweet Cherries, Sour Cherries

Reader Mac asks how sweet cherries compare to sour cherries when they’re in pie form. Fair question, Mac! As far as I’m concerned, sour cherries are the only cherries when it comes to making a filling for a pie, tart, Danish or blintz. What is it about sour cherries that make them superior for baking? […]

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The Pits

Reader Z wants to know why I’m using almond extract in my cherry pie instead of something like vanilla. Isn’t that a little “Euro” for an American pie? Well Z, if that IS your real name, that may be. However almond extract is a natural addition to a cherry pie filling. The flavor of almond is already present in cherries, you see. So a touch of almond extract, far from being a contrast, simply serves to emphasize a flavor that’s already there.

A cherry is a drupe, a member of a family of fruits that contain only one large, stony pit. And the pits of drupes — specifically those of the genus prunus — all taste like almonds. Almonds themselves are actually drupe pits, if you can believe it, not true nuts. They aren’t even the most “almond” tasting of all drupe pits. That distinction goes to the apricot pit, which is why it’s used to make the almond liqueur Amaretto.

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Cherry Pie Recipe

My father loved sour cherry pie so much he planted a cherry tree in our suburban back yard. His plan for Infinite Pie pretty much worked. The little tree produced the first year as I recall and ultimately grew to something like 20 feet. I can still remember how he draped it with nets in a vain attempt to avoid sharing his bounty with birds and squirrels. What can I say, he’s a greedy man. Oh the hours my twin sister and I spent pitting all those things…the stains on our hands — and our Catholic school uniforms! But mom’s pie was worth it. Here’s how it goes:

1 recipe standard pie crust
4 cups pitted sour cherries
3 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
generous pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

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Hold the phone…

I know we’re on candy bars, but I managed to score a quart of sour cherries while I was up in Wisconsin on business, and well, I don’t know about your world, but mine comes to a full screeching stop for fresh sour cherry pie. It is truly one of the glories of the pastry-making world, and one I had to give up when I moved south. I couldn’t find fresh sour cherries in Louisville if someone put a gun to hy head and demanded them. Fortunately that almost never happens.

But even in Illinois and Wisconsin they’re fairly scarce outside of farmers’ markets. Fresh pie just isn’t something people bake much anymore. Though after the Corona Baking Renaissance…who knows? Homemade pie, including homemade sour cherry, the King of Fruit Pies, may come back into vogue.

Hey, a guy can dream.

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The Pastry Girls Get Back to Nature

Vacation transitioned to business trip, which meant the Pastry daughters had the run of the kitchen for a few days. These were among the results. When I realized those were real Swiss meringue buttercream petals, I got all verklempt.

What’s wrong, daddy?

Nothing, honey, daddy has something in his eye…

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Back Soon…

I’d hoped to get one bar done before we headed out to the Appalachian foothills for a 4-day cabin break, but you know how it is when you’re trying to get out of town, tasks stack up. So it’ll be hiking, card games and s’mores for the Pastrys these next few days. And social distancing, […]

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Candy Bar Nougat Recipe

Nougat is a classic treat that’s traditionally served on its own with nuts and dried fruit mixed into it. But that nougat is not this nougat. This nougat is the kind that many staple candy bars (your Snickers, your Milky Ways, your Three Muskateers and Baby Ruths) are based on. It’s not difficult to make, particularly if you’ve had experience making candy syrups or buttercreams (the real ones). You’ll need a digital candy thermometer like a Thermapen and a stand mixture to make it happen.

3 cups (1 lb. 5 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup (8 ounces) light corn syrup
about 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
3 egg whites 
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar

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Next Up: Candy Bars

This is one of the advantages of working with 13-year-olds: they think of things you’d never have come up with on your own. Like making your own candy bars. Casting about on the web, I see there are quite a few home made candy bar recipes out there, but almost all of them appear to […]

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How does fat create crispiness?

Oooh..COOL question, reader Monica! Whether you’re deep frying, sautéing, or coating a madeleine form to help create crispy edges, fat plays a key role in creating the sensation of crispiness I described below. At least in cooked foods.

The reason is that fat facilitates heat transfer. When we coat chunks of potato with oil before oven-frying them, or melt butter in a skillet before frying a steak, what we’re doing (other than lubricating the food so it doesn’t stick to the cooking surface) is creating the conditions for the quick migration of heat — from the oven air to the potato or from the pan surface to the meat.

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