I hate it when I miss the summer solstice. I do not mean that in some mystical sense—though I do have quite an inner hippie—it’s that I like appreciating the lingering of the sun on the longest day of the year. Today is also the hottest day of the year (i.e. too hot to cook), but I had my mind set on making a cherry pie for Sam and to kick-off summer.
On one of our early dates as we talked about my love of cooking, Sam showed me a picture on his phone of an apple pie he had made once (I was skeptical). Then he suggested we make a pie together come apple season which was half a year away. This may not have seemed like much at the time, but looking back it was one of those special early dating moments when we both started to see each other in the future—even if it was just making pies together a few seasons later. We did continue to make plans and cook many meals together, but never the pie. So today I finally made us one and he brought home vanilla ice cream to go with it.
With just the small stash of cherries I got at the farmer’s market I made a rustic, free-form pie. I wanted the fresh cherries to shine, so I just tossed them with sugar, vanilla, and a touch of nutmeg, before folding them into the flakiest crust I’ve ever made. (Spoiler alert: The secret crust ingredient is whiskey—the captions below explain). Here’s to summer, a big slice of pie, and sweet memories.
Easy-Going Cherry Pie in a Whiskey Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, cubed
2 Tbsp. Whiskey mixed with 3 Tbsp. really cold water.
2 to 3 cups of cherries, pitted
2 Tbsp. to 1/4 cup of sugar (match it to the amount of cherries and how sweet they are)
1 tsp. pure vanilla
a few grates of fresh nutmeg (optional)
Slivered almonds, toasted
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
In the bowl of a food processor combine flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse the processor several times to chop the butter until cut down to pea-size pieces. Slowly pour the whiskey and water through the feed tube, pulsing at its added to combine into a crumbly-looking dough. Do not overwork it in the processor. Turn the dough onto waxed paper and gently and quickly, using the paper as a shield between your hot hands and the buttery dough, press the pastry into a ball and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the cherries with the sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg and set aside to get syrupy. Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch and transfer to a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet. Pile the cherries in the center of the dough and trim to create a two inch border. Fold the edges up over the cherries to form a crust. Brush the edges with a lightly beaten egg mixed with a little water, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425°F for 40 minutes or until bubbly and the crust is nicely golden brown.