Sour Cherry-Happy Pie vs Phony Fruitcake


Fresh sour cherry summer pie is one of those foods that I just can’t stay away from no matter how hard I try: it’s the best way for me to enjoy those intensely tangy and rich little fruits in season. In the juxtaposition with the neutral and subtle baked pear, the cherries shine even more. I intensified the filling taste with lemon zest, ginger and cinnamon and added a bit of almond flour to the crust dough to give an extra nutty charm to the flaky crunch. I also replaced the standard vanilla ice cream with quick homemade yogurt cream. The result: simply irresistible summer concoction bursting with freshness and flavors!

This pie actually broke my almost 10 days of strict diet regimen. In strive to get more of a bikini body towards vacation time I decided to be more active: I took up running and (almost) eliminated sugar and carbs from my diet (fats die hard with me). My only dessert during this time was a little fresh watermelon cake, the recipe of which I picked up from Better Homes & Gardens (June 2014 issue), although I’ve discovered many of them on Youtube and internet after.

I got really hooked: it was refreshing and innovative with almost zero calories and great quench. I named it phony fruitcake and continued to experiment with the concept of having the no-bake body of a cake made of fresh fruit. I eliminated the frosting part (which was a little too kitsch for me) and just kept carving my phony fruitcakes from melon, pineapple, papaya, etc. topping them with fresh berries and sometimes a lace of berries coulis with maple syrup instead of sugar. The cake didn’t have much of a substance, but I liked the simplicity and the skinny side of it.

The phony fruitcake became my best dessert-friend for a while and I really hoped that our connection would last… Then the sour cherry-picking time arrived and I became ravenous-hungry for an old-fashioned simple rustic pie with lattice crust. (Last summer I already disclosed my weakness for sour cherries here).

So when a friend came with a pack of pie dough in shell (yes, I’ve even cheated on the dough this time) to help me cherry picking and asked me to ditch the diet for once (politely) and whirl the grandma’s cherry pie with her, I gave up. Later that night I was devouring the best cherry pie I’ve had in a long time, even with commercial crust (below is my recipe of the pie dough from scratch).

I quickly traded the previous motivational quote by Kate Moss: ‘’Nothing tastes as good as thin feels’’ (heck, I don’t even remember how thin feels, although I’m sure even Bethenny Frankel often feels like that too) for much more appealing one by Woody Allen: ‘’ When we lose twenty pounds… we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have! We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.’’ (What a great soul bargain – I like it!) 

Like anything seasonal, my phony fruitcake has to go into temporary liquidation. Obviously it’s hard to compare these two desserts because both are very different and have almost the opposite designations.   The phony fruitcake might be a great addition to some over-the-top posh micro-cuisine table d’hote, or some special occasion, but sometimes you just need a simple cherry galette to nourish your body and soul. It should be noted, the cherry pie tastes much more complex and interesting than just a piece of water melon and is much more than just an empty calorie. It wraps me mentally in my grandma’s blanket and I close my eyes and realize that I’m already in vacation at so many levels…

I suggest you try them both and tell me which one you prefer: the Cherry Pear Pie or the No Bake Fresh Watermelon Cake.  Cheers!

 
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SOUR CHERRY & PEAR PIE WITH YOGURT CREAM
Yields: 8 portions
Ingredients:
For Double Crust Pastry
 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond flour (optional)
1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter cut in cubes
1/3 cup (or more) ice cold water
  
For Filling & Assembly
 4 cups (1 lb) sour cherries, pitted (about 1 ½ lbs whole unpitted cherries) fresh, frozen or canned
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
 3 tbsp cornstarch
2 medium size pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp lemon zest
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tbsp butter, to dot
1 tbsp milk for brushing the crust
Instructions:
Combine flour, almond flour, sugar, salt in a bowl or food processor. Add butter and pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or rub with fingers until the small clumps form).  Add ice cold water gradually while pulsing until the mixture forms a ball.  Divide in two pieces, form each piece into a ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 days).
Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix cherries with sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add lemon zest, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Add pears and mix. Set aside.
Roll out the first dough disk on floured surface to 12 inch round. Transfer to 9 inch diameter round pie dish. Roll out the second dough disk on floured surface to 12 inch round. Cut 10 ¾ inch wide strips from dough round with pizza knife or similar.
Transfer the filling to dough-lined dish. Dot with butter. Top with dough strips in a lattice pattern. Trim the dough overhang to ½ inch. Crimp the edges to seal. Brush lattice crust with milk. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Place pie on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Bake for another 45-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. Transfer pie to the rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with yogurt cream, frozen yogurt, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
YOGURT CREAM
1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
1-2 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
Mix the three ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

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