One of the things I love about our neighborhood is that there are fruit trees and bushes planted on the public byways for all to enjoy. Within a block of our house we can harvest plums, blackberries, and cherries as they ripen. My 7-year old daughter and I picked a bucketful of tart cherries this week and made them into a delicious, healthier, non-traditional version of a cherry pie.
Did you know that cherries are chock full of antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory effects, and are helpful in dissolving the uric acid buildup of gout? Good tasting and good for you, too! I love cherry season.
But I’m not super good at following recipes, and this can lead to trouble when it comes to the science of baking. Mostly I stray because I want a slightly different outcome than the recipe-writer does. Looking back over my baking posts, most of my baking experiments turn out really well… except for those that don’t. But here is one that came sailing in with flying colors: Cherry Pecan Pie.
When I think about creating a new version of a classic recipe, I first ask myself what I like and don’t like about the original concept. Thinking about it, there was not much I liked about traditional cherry pie other than the crust. So that was a place to start.
I hate the thick gel-like stickiness of regular cherry pies (not to even mention the food dyes, thickening agents, and other questionable additives to canned or prepared cherry pie filling), but I’d never made a cherry pie before and guessed that people heat and add things to thicken the cherry filling so that the pie crust underneath doesn’t become too wet and mushy during baking. I didn’t want to pre-cook my cherries, and I didn’t want to add even corn starch to my pie, so I needed to find something that would absorb some of the cherry liquid while not congealing into a traditional “cherry pie filling” goo. I thought: oatmeal. Mmmm… or coconut flakes. I love the combination of cherry with coconut. I’ll use both!
I also don’t like that basket weave of pie crust you often see on cherry pies, so I switched that to more of a crumble crust like the one my mom puts on her homemade apple pie. Hers is made from wheat flour and cold butter; I switched to oat flour. Just because.
Another thing I’m not so fond of about store-bought cherry pies is their lack of texture in the filling. The cherries are too soft and mushy, and the whole thing is too smooth. I thought chopped pecans would add that chewability I wanted. Mmmmm… pecans with cherries and coconut? It was already sounding great.
I halved the amount of sugar called for in some cherry pie filling recipes and thought we ended up with a perfect amount to leave a hint of tartness while not being overly sweet. You could use any natural sweetener you prefer, or leave out the sugar all together.
Locating in the back of the freezer a pie crust I had made from scratch during one of my bouts of major domesticity was a treat. As a bonus, I discovered that I had lined a mini tart pan with pie crust and nestled it inside the center. Perfect for making a special cherry pecan pie to freeze and save for when my son returns from summer camp.
After it cooled, we agreed that our hand-picked cherries made an excellent cherry pecan pie that’s more toothsome and less sticky-sweet than a traditional cherry pie, and we loved it! The pecans add an addictive crunchiness and the coconut gives an unexpected but delicious flavor. Let me know if you like it!
Cherry Pecan Pie
1 pie crust
4-5 cups pitted fresh cherries
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 stick organic butter, frozen or very cold
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Drain the pitted cherries and then mix them with the sugar, oats, coconut, and pecans until well blended.
In a separate bowl, cut the butter into the flour until it is crumbly. Place the pie shell on a cookie sheet to catch any overflow. Now, scoop the cherry mixture into the pie shell until it is mounded (do not add any liquid left in the cherry bowl to the pie). Sprinkle the flour-butter mixture over all and place it in the 450 F oven for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature to 350 F and continue to cook for about 40 minutes or until the crust is browned on the top. Remove from the oven and cool before slicing.