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Experimental Baker: Discovering Cherry Pies

A few weeks ago, I had the best cherry pie I’ve ever had. I’m not a big fan of fruit pies so I don’t often try them… so that may not be saying much. However, I’m still chasing that flavor. This weekend I attempted my second cherry pie-ish dessert and I’m quite pleased.

The perfect cherry pie…

The pie that changed my dessert life, was in my work cafeteria. From that you should gather it was nothing super fancy, but it was amazing. It was the perfect balance of sweet and tart and a beautiful bright red. It had a bottom crust that was somehow flaky and slightly chewy at the same time. It was topped by a thick crumb top that blended deliciously with the filling with each bite.

I’ve been stalking the cafeteria dessert table ever since. That cherry pie has not returned. Being me, I’ve tried to make my own.

Since this might be a thing, here’s background…

I enjoy baking, but I don’t cook or bake too often. Like cooks, bakers become better with practice. I’m out of practice. And I’m my only taster. Fortunately, over the years I’ve learned to take baked goods into the office for shared consumption or freeze them for later consumption. Not that that’s helped my waistline. Anyway, not everything is a hit. Mostly everything is a nice blend of hit and miss!

I won’t share exactly what I did, ’cause it’s not all great, but the experimenting is fun!

Attempt #1: Cherry Blackberry Pie

I love sweets. And I’ve been trying to ween myself off sugar and refined foods for last couple of years. Over the last year, I’ve been experimenting with baking with all natural products (for the most part). What I’ve learned in my experiments, is sometimes the best sweetener is the worst sugar for you. #StillAWorkInProgress

I do my own thing by “improving on other people’s stuff. I didn’t want canned cherries; I found frozen cherries. I was also ok using a frozen crust. I started my cherry filling with this recipe (Easy Homemade Cherry Pie Filling). Then I added my standard seasonings that I put in almost everything: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger. With a pinch of salt and black pepper. Knowing me, I probably added a dab of cayenne pepper too – I got hooked on that a while ago.

After that, I went completely off-script and tossed in a handful of frozen blackberries from my freezer. Completely forgot about the seeds. Seeds in my pie filling were a complete miss. Ruined the gentle chewy experience I wanted. Then I tossed in the starch without sifting it. It beaded up in the mixture; the beads did not dissolve, causing a hiccup in the texture.

I baked it as a two crust pie. The flavor was phenomenal. An absolute hit! Cherries and blackberries with honey, spices and a kick of pepper, oh my!

Attempt #2: Cherry Cream Cheese Pockets and Roll-ups

I hit Costco this week and they had fresh cherries. 🙂 I bought four pounds with the thought of trying another cherry pie.

A couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at beef empanadas. I still had a pack of pastry wraps in my freezer from that experiment. I also had cream cheese in the fridge from a prior baking plan. I decided to try pockets and roll-ups.

20170107_002845.jpgI basically followed the same pie filling recipe from above, starting with two cups of fresh pitted cherries. Nothing else was really measured. I boomed, powed, bammed to taste. Added my standard spices and seasonings, a bit of honey, Sugar in the Raw, and brown sugar (probably no more than 3 tablespoons of each, give or take). Forgot the vanilla this time. No additional fruit was added. This time I sifted the starch and dissolved it in hot water (about a quarter of a cup) before adding it to the cherry mix. Just adding the starch mixture (roux?) to the cherry mix didn’t do anything. I had turned off the heat. When I turned the heat back on and started stirring I got this beautiful shiny compote.

This time, everything about the cherry filling was a hit!

I wasn’t crazy about the pastry dough though. I rolled them too thin for the pockets. The bottom had a thin hard crunch to it. The top wasn’t as hard but was still thin.

You can certainly tell which was the fisrt roll-up… but see how much better I got with practice 😉

I liked th20170107_002637.jpgis as a roll up better. The dough in the middle had some of the chewy I was going for.

I only cooked one pocket without the cream cheese. So glad it was only one. The cherry and cream cheese together was an absolute hit!

If you have any cherry pie goodness to share, please do!

What do you think?

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