Friday, February 22, 2013

Not My Mama's Cherry Pie and Toasted Coconut Cookies

Not My Mama's Cherry Pie

               “If life is a bowl of cherries, then what am I doing in the pits?”
                                                           Erma Bombeck

Today is George Washington’s Birthday. A long, long time ago when I walked miles to school we celebrated George’s birthday on his real birthday. I don’t think President’s Day was invented yet. And when I walked those miles home all by myself, or with my brother, and no one worried about stranger danger, we were greeted with cherry pie. In honor of George, of course. Because he chopped down that cherry tree; because he could not tell a lie. Which is just a myth, don’t you know?

In any case, thanks to George, my mother would buy a frozen pie and sprinkle the top with sugar before she put it in the oven and we had cherry pie for dessert. I don’t remember having many desserts, at least at the kitchen table, so this was very special. It was delicious; even if it was frozen. I think it is still my father’s favorite pie. So today when I give thanks to the founding father of our country, I also give thanks for cherry pie.

Yes, I make these. I couldn't help my self promotion.

Years ago when we bought our home there was a cherry tree in the back yard. It has long since passed to wherever cherry trees go when they can no longer show us their delicate pink blossoms. I though it was a good sign we had a cherry tree and I wish we would plant a new one. For many years we were blessed with cherries which meant pies and a really good cherry cobbler. Since its demise I have had to find fresh, sour, pitted cherries at the farmers market to bring home and freeze. The last few months have found me subscribing to frugality which means my freezer is quickly being cleaned out. It was during this discovery process I found enough cherries to bake one more pie. Thank you George!

(And as a side note I will tell you that our Skye Terrier is named George. The breeder we bought  from gave him his name. She also told me she named his sister Martha!)

But back to the pie. When I discovered the cherries, I also discovered that I was out of butter which meant I couldn’t make a pie crust. So necessity being the mother of invention (was that Ben Franklin?) I decided to do a Momofuku. Go look up his cookbook. David Chang. I love his stuff. He is the one that makes awesome Japanese food and has a bakery where he makes cookies and then crumbles them all up to make crack pie. It’s good. I made it once. So, you guessed it. My freezer had cookies, too. These were not my faves which is probably how they ended up in the freezer. Not that they weren’t good cookies but I tend to like soft, chewy cookies and these are chewy, but crisp. Luckily, I had a refrigerator pie crust leftover from God knows when, and I decided to use that as my bottom crust and crush up my leftover cookies for a really good crumbly top crust. A bit of a streusel, you say.

Now lest you think you must go to the trouble and make the cookies for the crust I say, fear not. Use whatever crust you want for this pie. The refrigerated Pillsbury ones that come rolled up in the refrigerator aisle will suffice. And I say that crust is good, but in this case it is the filling that counts! Those cute little tart cherries with a hint of cinnamon are killer. But if you do decide to bake the cookies they will be an added bonus because then you can eat cookies AND pie. Yes, the cookie recipe makes enough for you to have leftovers. I mean leftover cookies, it doesn’t get much better than that. So once again-thank you George!

A few notes on cherries: You may be able to find frozen sour cherries in the freezer case, in which case use them. You can also buy sour cherries in a can. I, repeat after me, do not like cherry pie filling. Make your own. It is SIMPLE!

A note on crust: Use your favorite. Make a graham cracker crust. It’s the cherries that count. But I do love a good crust so we will revisit crust at a later date!

Not My Mama’s Cherry Pie
Decide on your favorite bottom crust. Make it.

4 c pitted sour cherries drained but save ½ c cherry juice
1 c sugar
1 T flour
2 ½ T cornstarch
¾ t cinnamon (If you like)
2 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put sour cherries and juice in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the sugar, flour, cornstarch and cinnamon. Toss well and place in your choice of bottom crust. Dot with the 2 T butter.

Top with streusel and bake for about 45 minutes. If top starts to get too brown (like mine did) cover with foil. You can later sprinkle with powdered sugar to hide that unsightly too brown streusel!

For the streusel:

Toasted Coconut Cookies – (Gourmet Today) Makes about 6 dozen (Don’t worry. Your pie will not taste like coconut.)

1 ½ c sweetened, flaked, toasted coconut
1 ¼ c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
½ t salt
1 ¼ c unsalted butter, softened
½ c packed brown sugar
¼ c sugar
1 large egg
1 t vanilla
1 c white chocolate chips (my addition to recipe)

Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
Spread coconut evenly on baking sheet and lightly toast in oven, stirring once, until pale golden, about 7 minutes. Cool.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt in mixing cup.
Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl with electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and coconut and chips (if using) until well combined.

Place level teaspoons of dough about 1 ½ inches apart on parchment paper line cookie sheet. Bake in batches until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on sheet for one minute.

Freeze 15 cookies to use for streusel.

Streusel Topping
Put your leftover 15 frozen cookies in a plastic bag and pound them until crumbly.
½ stick unsalted butter
½ c unbleached flour
½ t cinnamon
¾ c brown sugar

Using a pastry blender cut butter into cookie crumbs and flour. Stir in cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle streusel over unbaked pie.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar if crust turns too gold!

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  1. Cherry Pies are the best! Michigan's fruit belt begins just across the Lake and I've driven over there in June just to get a few pounds of tart cherries. They make the best pies, tarts, and muffins. This pie of yours sounds like a perfect use for them. And these cookies would make a delicious snack to nibble on while the pie is baking. :)

  2. You are right John, Michigan has great cherries! And good idea for those cookies.

  3. Yeah...I love the good old days where no one worry about kidnapping on the streets! Totally envy that you've got a cherry tree at the yard!

    Your cherry pie looks awesome. So glad you have things in the freezer to save the day! ;) I had a similar experience before and I don't let myself ever run low on butter since. hahaha....But nevertheless, this is one scrumptious pie! Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. You re right. I should not run out if butter. It is bad for the hips! And it is a good pie. You have a good weekend, too!

  5. I just love cherrys and coconuts. Thanks for the recepies

  6. When I was growing up my mom always used to make a cherry pie every year on Washington's birthday (other times during the year too, but she never failed to observe George's birthday). It's always been one of my favorite pies! And back when I was thinking about doing a blog and wondering what on earth I'd write about, cherry pie was one of the first things I thought about. Of course I've never gotten around to doing one. So I'm glad that this year you're doing one! Good recipe - love the cookie streusel. Brilliant idea. Exceptionally fun post - thanks.

  7. Isn't that funny? I guess great minds think alike, huh? Well this pie then is in honor of your mom!And I can't wait to see your pie!

  8. Thanks Meirav! I hope you enjoy them!

  9. You just remind me that I haven't baked any pie in ages! The pie looks divine with cookie streusel.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Thanks Angie. If you like cherries than this is your pie! You should bake one this weekend! Have a good one!

  11. That is one good looking cherry pie! And coconut cookies? Yes please.