In my mind cherries are associated with the date May 24 - the Alphabet, Culture, and Education Day of Bulgaria. When I was in the primary school on this day all the students were marching via the center of the city in their full dress with a blue or red scarf around the neck, depending if they were chavdarcheta or pioneers. Chavdarcheta were the youngest children, which later became pioneers. (I was to become a pioneer when the Communist System was knocked down). After the parade, on the way home, my mother was buying for me and my sister a bunch of cherries. Because these were the first cherries they were sold in bunches of 10 cherries, like little bunches of flowers. For me this was the best part of the day. I still remember these little bunches of underripe cherries and the delight with which me and my sister were eating them slowly in order to prolong the grassy-fruity taste.
Now, when cherries are in full season, it's time for a cherry pie. I love pies but I hate the mess in the oven after making them. The juices of the fruits are bubbling and making such a fuss, that I have to clean the oven thoroughly after that. For preventing this mess I usually place the pie dish in a larger dish (meaning the baking dish that came with the oven). Thus the juices of the fruits will mess up only the larger dish.
This recipe is adapted from “Great Pies & Tarts” by Carole Walter – a lovely book with a lot of basic techniques and useful information about baking pies and tarts.
Cherry Pie in a Black Pepper Cherry-Brandy Pastry Recipe:
Makes 4 15-cm (6-inch) mini pies
For the crust:
- 270 gr all purpose flour;
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar;
- 2 pinches salt;
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper;
- 190 gr cold butter;
- 5-6 Tbsp cherry brandy (rum or white wine). I've used home made cherry brandy.
For the filling:
- 1 kilo cherries;
- 1 Tbsp instant tapioca;
- 200 gr sugar;
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch;
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon;
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper;
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice;
- 1 coffee spoon almond extract;
- 1 Tbsp butter;
- 4 tsp sugar for finishing (optional).
Wash and pat dry the cherries. Remove the pits and the stems. Place the fruits in a large bowl and distribute evenly the tapioca.
In a small bowl mix the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and black pepper.
Prepare the bottom crust – roll out the dough and cut it accordingly to the shape of your baking dish, but 3-4 cm larger on each side. Place the bottom crust into the pie dish. Scrape down any excessive dough, make it to a ball and roll out again to make the lattice top.
Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture over each of the 4 bottom crusts. Toss the remaining of the sugar mixture through the cherries. Add the lemon juice and the almond extract and mix well. Divide this cherry mixture among the 4 mini pies and dot with butter on top.
Make a lattice top with the remaining pastry and seal the edges by folding the pastry strips under the bottom layer of dough. Sprinkle every lattice with 1 tsp of sugar (apparently I've forgotten to do so). Bake for around 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown and the juices of the fruit bubbles up. If during the baking the lattice gets brown too early lower the temperature. When it's ready remove the pie from the oven and let cool. Let stand for at least 4 hours before serving – during this time the juices will settle down and thicken.
Because the pastry contains alcohol open the oven door a couple of times for a few seconds while baking to let the fumes escape.