I am obsessed with cherries lately. It happens every year at this time. The markets are just overflowing with fresh cherries, sometimes there are even a few different kinds to choose from. I'm actually kind of surprised that my skin isn't taking on a bit of a scarlet hue with as many cherries as I've eaten in the last month or so. It occurred to me that maybe I should actually make something out of them if I could resist the urge to eat them all.
I've never made a cherry pie before, so I wasn't really sure how this would turn out. I decided almond would be a nice accent flavor to the cherries, and really.... wow. This turned out amazingly. If you're thinking this seems like way too many cherries to pit, don't worry, you can buy a little cherry pitter for just a few dollars. It'll make fast work of it. Just be sure that you wear an apron or a shirt you don't care about because the cherries will splatter a little when you pit them. Better safe than sorry.
Cherry Almond Pie
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cold, non-hydrogenated shortening (like Earth Balance or Spectrum)
1 Tablespoon soy milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
cold water to make ½ cup liquid
¾ cup sugar
4 Tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup apple juice (cherry or pomegranate juice would also be good!)
1 Tablespoon non-hydrogenated margarine
½ teaspoon almond extract
3-4 cups cherries, pitted and cut in half if they're large (I bought 2 bags of cherries and that was perfect)
2 Tablespoons soymilk
2 Tablespoons sugar
¼ cup sliced almonds
To make the crust, sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the shortening into smallish pieces and cut into the flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs about the size of peas. Stir together the wet ingredients and add a few tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork until all of the liquid has been incorporated. Give the dough a quick knead or three, you just want to make sure all the flour has been mixed in, you don't want to actually knead it much.
Divide the dough in half and flatten into discs. Place them in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Once the dough is cold, take one of the discs and roll it out until it's large enough to fit into the bottom of your pie dish. I used a 9" dish, but you can use whatever size you want. Make sure there is a little bit of dough overlapping the edges of the dish so you can make a nice edge after you put the top bits on.
Meanwhile, start making the filling. Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a large pot. Whisk in the juice and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. If you don't keep stirring while it's heating, you'll get lumps and you don't want that. Boil for 1 minute, remove from heat and then whisk in the margarine and almond extract. You can also add a little bit of red food coloring if you want to make the pie look a bit more exciting. No one has to know. ;) Now fold in the cherries. Pour the filling into the pie dish.
I made a lattice crust for the top. Don't be intimidated if you've never done that before. It's actually super easy. You can always make a flat top crust, but if you do, it's very, very important that you cut holes for steam to escape or you might get a little bit of a cherry explosion in the oven. And that's not good.
Now for the crust topping. Smash up the slivered almonds a little bit. Either by squeezing the bag they come in with your hand or use the back of a spoon after you've put them into a bowl. Mix the soymilk, sugar and almonds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for about 2 minutes and then immediately brush it onto the top crust of the pie. If you have one of those silicone brush thingies, this is an excellent use for it. The regular pastry brushes don't work as well since the sugar gets very thick. I just used a spoon to spread it around on mine. Just make sure you work fast because the sugar is going to harden quickly as it cools and then you won't be able to spread it any longer.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!