Cherry Pie with Balsamic Vinegar and Madeira

June 18, 2012

It took me several years to understand cherry pie. I’ve been making pies with fresh fruit since I was 15, but for some reason, back in those days, it was hard to find a good recipe for cherry pie that didn’t call for canned cherry filling. That was pre-Internet and pre-food blogging mania, so if you didn’t have the right cookbooks, you were screwed. While that thick, gelatinous canned filling is nostalgic for some people, it just wasn’t my style, so I avoided cherry pie at all costs.

That changed a couple of years ago, when I found a sublime cherry coulis recipe in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by my beloved Rose Levy Beranbaum. She included the coulis as a topping for a cheesecake, but I decided to bake it into a pie crust and see what would happen. After a few tweaks, I came up with a cherry pie that amazes and confounds some of the most devout cherry pie fans living today.

Here’s a photo of my first cherry pie this season. I’m experimenting with different lattice crust designs, and though you can’t really tell, I tried to fan out the vertical pieces to reinvent that classic look. I’m still working on this one.

For Father’s Day, I couldn’t resist breaking out my new United States cookie cutter that I got for Fourth of July. My dad drilled the states and capitals into my head at a very young age, and instead of counting sheep at bedtime, he goes through them alphabetically to help him fall asleep. “Use it or lose it,” is his motto. He also likes a good cherry pie, so even though I didn’t get to spend the big day with him, I made a cherry pie in his honor. My dad is also a huge fan of vinegar, so if anyone will appreciate the special addition of balsamic vinegar in this particular pie, he will.

And here’s what the pie looked like fresh out of the oven. Using words on pie crusts is another fun experiment I’m trying. Although the letters expanded a bit in the oven and “fathers” looks like “pathers,” I’m still pretty happy with it. It could probably be remedied by cutting bigger letters, but seriously, if you can’t decipher the message, it might be time for a check-up. Happy Pathers Day!

Cherry Pie with Balsamic Vinegar and Madeira (Serves 8-10)

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cherry Coulis

  • 1 recipe basic pie crust (below)
  • 2 pounds fresh Bing cherries, pitted (about 1 3/4 lbs after pitting)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 T. cornstarch
  • 2 T Madeira
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 T brown butter (find instructions here)
  1. Make pie crust and chill for at least one hour.
  2. Combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch, Madeira, 2 T. balsamic vinegar, vanilla bean and salt in a medium saucepan. Allow to macerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  3. Cook cherry mixture over medium heat until the juices thicken. Remove from heat. Add brown butter and remaining balsamic vinegar. Allow to cool.
  4. Blind bake bottom shell of pie in a 9″ pie plate. (Instructions below)
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and place a baking sheet in the lower third of the oven.
  6. Once pie shell and cherries are cool, fill the pie shell with the cherries, spooning the cherries in first and then pouring the juices over top.
  7. Roll out the second pie crust and make your favorite design. Place over the cherries and adhere the top crust to the bottom crust by folding it over the side a bit. Make a pretty border to cover any imperfections. Egg wash the crust using a mixture of 1 egg and 1 T water.
  8. Bake pie on preheated baking sheet for 15 minutes. Turn down oven temp to 350 degrees and continue baking for 20-30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling.
  9. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Basic Pie Crust (for two pies—freeze the extra one if necessary)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup/8 oz (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 tablespoons (about) ice water
  1. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in processor or stand mixer, or a bowl. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms (or paddle in a stand mixer, or cut with a pastry cutter or forks or fingers).
  2. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.
  3. To Blind Bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll one disk out to an 11-inch round. Place in a 9-inch pie plate, crimp the edges, and dock with a fork. Cover with parchment and fill with pie weights, rice or beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment and bake for 5 minutes. Crust should be dry and a pale golden color. You’ll be baking it more, and this is just to prevent the shell from getting soggy. Set crust on a wire rack to cool.

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