Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel

Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel

After emerging from the north woods and a brief stint back in D.C. to trade my spring sweaters for summer sun dresses, I headed to Berea, Kentucky, where I'm living for the month of July. I'm here on a research fellowship with the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives, studying the collection of East Kentucky banjo player, songwriter, hotel owner, postmaster, sheriff, and mother of six, Nora E. Carpenter.

As I'm in the process process of constructing a picture of who Nora Carpenter was, I'm also getting my bearings in this place--learning the trails and best blackberry picking spots around the house where I'm staying, finding the best rural ice cream stands and swimming holes, checking out the bars and donut shops and record stores in nearby cities, and trying to make friends--making sure that I keep my head just enough out of the archives.

Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel, Pre-Bake

Berea is a unique place, with its concentration of local artisans and craftspeople, not to mention its number of famous local residents including bell hooks and Jean Ritchie. But in many ways, Berea College seems to be the life pulse of the town, with its radical history of race and gender equality, belief in community and cultural diversity, and emphasis on integration of intellectual and manual labor.

Though things are a little quiet on campus now, with school out of session, I've been taking advantage of some of the school's resources, in particular the Berea College Farm. The farm is one of the oldest student-operated educational farms in the country, and is abundant with over 500 acres of cattle, hogs, chickens and eggs, goats, fish, honey bees, grains, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Many of the products from the farm can be purchased at the Berea College Farm Store a block from downtown. They sell meat and produce, flowers and herbs, fresh baked goods, and a new favorite indulgence of Crank & Boom Ice Cream, made in nearby Lexington.

Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel, Pre-Bake

So when I set out to make a pie--another practice that always helps ground me in the place where I am--I bought most of the ingredients from the Farm Store and other local producers. I've been trying out the Kentucky-milled all-purpose flour from Weisenberger Mill as well as a red heirloom cornmeal from nearby Salamander Springs Farm.

Though no sour cherries (my favorite) were to be found, this sweet cherry and cornmeal combination is auspicious-- the sweet and smooth flavor and texture of the cherries pairing perfectly with the grit and grain of the cornmeal. And of course, these pie slices were topped with some of that Crank & Boom-- of the Bourbon Honey variety.

Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel Slice

 Sweet Cherry Pie with a Cornmeal Streusel
Adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
1 small baking apple, peeled and shredded
5 cups sweet cherries, pitted
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch (potato starch may also be used)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 dashes Angostura bitters

For cornmeal streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (I used Salamander Springs' red heirloom cornmeal)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, cold and cubed

For the crust:
1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Place pie plate in fridge for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Once you've let the pie crust chill, prick crust with a fork all over the bottom. Line crust with parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove weights, and bake 3 more minutes. Let crust cool completely and once cool, place in fridge while you prepare the pie filling.

3. Preheat (or leave on) oven to 425 degrees F. To prepare the streusel top, stir together the flour, cornmeal, and brown sugar in a medium bowl, Sprinkle in the butter pieces and toss to coat. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is lumpy but not homogenous. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the filling. 

4. Place shredded apple, pitted cherries, lemon juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, sea salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and bitters in a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell and evenly distribute the chilled streusel on top. 

5. Brush pie crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar, if desired. Place pie on a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling juices are bubbling throughout, about 30-35 minutes longer.

6. Remove pie from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2-3 hours (if you can wait that long). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. We enjoyed ours with Crank and Boom's Bourbon Honey ice cream.

Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel Slice

Related Recipe:
Sour Cherry Pie


meg @ joy of cooking said...

This pie is on my short list! Right before we left Oregon to go on a business trip, we found some sour cherries--they were just incredible. I'm afraid they'll be gone by the time we get back, but I'll bet we can still get our hands on some sweet cherries.

Aging Ophelia said...

Yum! I love a cherry streusel-- my fave cherry pie, and upping it with cornmeal only fans the flames. I admit, I generally top it too, with homemade peanut butter ice cream, or peach, or a red wine sorbet, to take it way over the top-- as if it's not already, right?

Thanks for a new take on my best pie-- wish I'd seen it when it posted and we still had fresh cherries here.

Peace, Mari

emily said...

HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER ICE CREAM?!!!?? Wow, that sounds incredible. I don't currently have an ice cream maker, but have been on the search for one. When I'm ready, I may hit you up for that recipe...

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