If I had to choose one baked good that truly challenged me I’d have to say it’s pie. Making your own pie crust can be an intimidating task that prevents a lot of novice bakers from trying it. Pie crust can be temperamental especially when it’s too warm in your kitchen. It can feel like there is no happy medium between your pie crust tearing, and over kneading it until it is a gummy, chewy mess. That’s why I want to share an easy cherry pie recipe, and a few tips and tricks that will help you make the perfect pie even in the hot summer months.
A key point to remember when making your pie dough is that a chilled dough is a happy dough. Chilling your dough ball after forming it should help prevent tearing that results in the need to overwork your dough. Kneading your dough too much causes the flour to produce excess gluten which will make your crust tough and chewy.
The fat used to make the crust is also important. I prefer using vegetable shortening in my pie crusts, and most of my other baked goods, instead of vegan butter or margarine. Most of my tried and true recipes from my grandma Billie, including the one for this pie crust, call for shortening. I find that it’s greater shelf stability makes it much easier to work with, and honestly find the taste preferable in my baked goods. I feel that food should not be flavored by the fat you use, but rather the additional seasonings you choose. Fat does provide necessary moisture, and contributes a great deal to texture. I’ve tried baking many of the same things with butter and margarine, and the texture just isn’t as good as it is with the vegetable shortening.
The last note I have for you on pie preparation is perhaps just as important as chilling the crust. Take ten minutes to cook the filling first. Seriously, don’t skip this step. Cooking the filling before hand gives the tapioca starch the chance to activate before you put everything in the oven. This should lessen your chance of your pie boiling over. It takes longer for the pie filling to cook than the crust, so it’s pertinent that it’s most of the way cooked down before putting it in the oven. That is, unless you want an overdone and dry crust with runny filling. Most importantly, you probably don’t want your filling to soak into your pie crust and make the whole pie mushy. Cooking the filling on the stove top first helps create a more viscous, stable mixture that won’t seep into your crust.
This recipe creates a top and bottom pie crust. If you only want a bottom crust and want to skip the top crust or any latticework or additional decorating feel free to halve the measurements of the crust ingredients.
Pie Crust Ingredients
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup Crisco or other vegetable shortening
- 5 tbsp cold water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp plant based milk
- 4 cups pitted cherries
- 1/2 cup granulated vegan cane sugar
- 1/4 cup vegan coconut brown sugar
- 2 tbsp tapioca flour
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
1. Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir until they are well integrated.
2. Add Crisco or other vegetable shortening. Cream together with the flour using a spoon or a fork until a soft, mealy texture is formed. The crumbly pieces should be somewhere in between the size of a lentil and a black bean.
3. Slowly add the chilled water, gently kneading with your hands. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
4. Form the pie crust into a ball. If several cracks form in the surface, and it’s difficult to get it to stick together try adding additional water a little bit at a time until it becomes more pliable. You’ll want to be careful not to make the dough too moist.
5. Cover the dough, and place it in the fridge to chill for at least a half hour.
6. You can use the time your dough is chilling to prep your other ingredients. First you’ll need to pit your cherries. I use a cherry pitter to do this. Normally I’m not one for single use kitchen gadgets, but this is one it’s difficult to live without. You can sit there and poke the pits out with a chopstick, or dig them out with a knife, but I strongly suggest purchasing a pitter. It will save you an hour of prep time. Either way, be cautious that you’ve removed all of the pits.
7. In a large mixing bowl combine the pitted cherries with brown sugar, white cane sugar, tapioca starch, lemon juice, and sea salt. Stir until the cherries are evenly coated with the other ingredients.
8. Cook down the cherry mixture in a sauce pan. The cherries should cook down to a slightly smaller size, and their juice should become about the consistency of jelly.
9. Remove the cherry filling from heat, move to a heat resistant container, and chill in the fridge.
10. Split your dough ball into two equal portions. On a lightly floured surface roll out the one pie crust to about 1/8th” thickness. Gently wrap part of the pie crust over your rolling pin and carefully transfer it to a lightly greased pie pan.
11. Using kitchen shears, or a sharp knife, carefully remove excess pie crust. The pie crust should hang to about the bottom of the pie pan, depending on how elaborate you want to make the edge of the crust.
12. If you are not using a full top crust now is the time to crimp your crust. If you are using a full top crust roll out the crust, and add it on top after you fill the pie. Crimp the edges, and be sure to vent the top. We opted for a latticework design on this pie, and did not use a full top crust.
13. Fill your pie crust with the cherry filling. We made a tiny pie out of the scraps from our crust, so if you want to do this as well set aside a few spoonfuls of filling.
14. If you are doing a lattice design on top of your pie roll out your additional crust on top of a cutting board. We used a pizza wheel to cut thin slices, but a sharp knife works as well.
15. Lay the thin pieces of dough across the pie crust horizontally. Lift up each piece to weave other pieces through vertically. Refer to the pictures for the design we made, or make your own accents. We sculpted some braids and tiny bumble bees as well. Trim excess decorations so they are just about flush with the edges of the pie crust.
16. Using the left over pie crust, and small pie tin, we made a second tiny pie with less intricate latticework.
17. Whisk together some non-dairy milk and vegetable oil. Brush the pie crust with the fifty-fifty emulsion. This will help the crust to brown.
18. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Once it has come up to temp place the pie/s on top of baking sheets, and put them in the oven. The baking sheet is important, because it helps catch anything that might boil over. I’ve learned this from experience. It’s better to take five minutes to clean a baking sheet than an hour to clean burnt sugar off the bottom of the oven, trust me.
19. Bake for about fifteen minutes. Check the pies to see if they’re done. If the dough still feels and looks very raw leave them in for intervals of no more than two minutes until they seem done. They should be a nice golden color, but won’t be as golden as if you had used egg wash with actual egg. Be cautious not to over bake the pie waiting for this to happen.
20. Remove the pies and transfer to a cooling rack. If you used aluminum pie pans be cautious, and make sure it doesn’t collapse under the weight of the hot pie as you transfer it. I recommend using glass pie dishes as they’re less wasteful, and sturdier, but the aluminum ones are great if you’re gifting a pie to someone or taking it to a party.
21. Wait several hours for the pie to cool before consuming, or placing it in the fridge.