If there can be no clearer indication that this will be the Summer of Pie at the Smitten Kitchen — as if a 6-week onslaught of galette after pie smackdowns after savory tart built on a platform of tartlets crusted bettys and free-form pretties did not already lead us to that conclusion — my pastry blender broke this week after putting in five very good years. First, one side of it became unglued from the handle and because I am both stubborn and cheap, I’d just hold it in with my thumb while I cut butter into flour. But then the other side came unglued and I ran out of thumbs. So RIP little pastry blender, and Amazon, hurry and bring that new one along, okay?*
If it could have a fitting final act, this would be a fine one, a sour cherry pie I’ve been angling to make for more than three years and have, without fail, missed the painfully short window that sour cherries are available. Not this year. This year the season seems to be stretching on and on, and I couldn’t be more pleased as while sweet cherries make some fine snacking, sour cherries win all prizes in baking.
It makes me wonder why I don’t make crumb pies more often. I worked at a bakery in high school that sold more crumb pies than double-lidded ones, a clear sign that most people prefer them. They’re less fussy (only half the dough to roll) and that crumbly top does a good job of drinking up any excess sloshiness. Plus, the almonds. I mean, the original recipe called for pistachios and I’m sure they’d be awesome but there’s something about the way that almonds and cherries play off each other that is perfect; they were always meant to be together. Too bad this pie didn’t last long enough for them to dally into old age.
Sour Cherry Pie with Almond Crumble
Adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book
Influenced by Melissa Clark, I blind-baked my bottom crust and remembered precisely why I hate blind baking pie crusts so much — the shrinking! I’d have been smart to have left a more generous overhang to crimp into a rim — next time. Nevertheless, the technique is sound and if you’re bothered by “soggy bottoms” (love that Julia Child term, don’t you?) it will keep the crust from getting soggy under the cherries. I’ve included directions, should you want to do the same.
1/2 recipe All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough
For the almond crumble:
2/3 cup whole oats, ground to a flour in a food processor (yielding 1/2 cup oat flour)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (you might want to first read up on kosher salts)
3/4 cup unsalted whole almonds, coarsely ground in a food processor or chopped medium fine by hand
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the sour cherry filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 pounds fresh sour cherries, pitted, or 2 pounds frozen sour cherries, partially thawed
Prepare the bottom crust: Roll out the chilled pie dough into a 12 inch round. Gently fit into a 9- or 9.5-inch pie plate. Fold the edges under and crimp decoratively. Either refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes (if you don’t wish to blind-bake the crust first) or preheat oven to 425, line dough with foil and weigh it down with pie weights. Bake until crust is light golden brown, about 30 minutes (for a more stable, crisp bottom crust). [Updated to add] Reduce temperature to 375°F.
Prepare the crumble: Grind oats to an oat flour in a food processor (you can also swap 1/2 cup oat flour, if you have it), then add the all-purpose flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and whole almonds. Grind them together until the nuts are coarsely ground (if you don’t have a food processor, you can chop them medium-fine by hand). Stir together with melted butter in a bowl.
Make the cherry filling: In a large bowl, mix the cherries with the sugar, cornstarch and kosher salt. Taste the mixture to see if you want more sugar than is called for.
Assemble the pie: Pour the cherries into your unbaked or blind-baked pie shell. Sprinkle the almond crumble over the cherries. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and thick. Remove to a rack to cool to room temperature before serving.