By Lei Shishak
There are lots of great pies out there but in my opinion, cherry pie tops the list. It’s a pie that looks great, tastes great, is easy to make and is fairly foolproof.
Cherry season is distinct. The season begins in May and lasts thru August with the majority of cherries being harvested in the Pacific Northwest. Every time April rolls around, the anticipation of the start of cherry season begins to build. By the time May arrives, I’m about to bust! This is the number one reason why cherries make great pie: their season is fleeting. Cherries are here for only a mere four months and then poof, they’re gone.
Reason number two? There are many types of cherry varietals to choose from. You can play around with them and figure out which ones you like best. Cherries can be siphoned into two general categories: sweet and tart. Both are fine to bake with, but many particular Bakers prefer using tart as they can manipulate the sweetness to the liking. Tart cherries can be found at specialty farmer’s markets and are bright red, small and sphere-shaped. Sweet cherries, on the other hand, are much more prevalent and can be found at grocery stores. They can be eaten as is and are heart-shaped. Popular varieties are Bing, Rainer, and Lambert. Choose cherries that are plump, firm and are bruise-free.
Reason number three? Aside from the pitting step, cherries are easy to bake with. Cherry pie is a great pie for first-time pie bakers. Cherries are hard to over- or under-cook, maintaining their integrity well even after baking under high heat. We’ve all had apple pie with undercooked apples, and strawberry pie with mushy berries – such a disappointment! Even if the cherries are cooked prior to baking (as in my recipe for Windswept Cherry Pie), they maintain their texture and shape well.
Reason number four? Cherries pair well with other great flavors that can make your cherry pie unique. I love pairing cherry with almond. Other great pairings include chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, pistachios and sage. By the way, cherries are nutritious, too. They are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants.
To celebrate Pie-Palooza, I’m sharing my recipe for Windswept Cherry Pie. It’s from my first cookbook Beach House Baking. The reprint is coming out next month and includes 10 additional new recipes. You can order it on Amazon here. And while you’re on Amazon, check out my latest cookbook Farm to Table Desserts here.
About the Author
Lei Shishak is an established pastry chef who trained at the CIA in New York and worked at restaurants in Sun Valley and Los Angeles. She is the author of three notable cookbooks: Beach House Baking, Beach House Brunch, and the forthcoming Farm to Table Desserts. Her formative years were spent working as Michael Mina’s pastry chef at the Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California. She has been featured in People, Riviera Magazine, Sunset Magazine, Coast, the Los Angeles Daily News, Fine Living, and many more media outlets. She resides in Dana Point, California.
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