So here's my thing with cherry pie: When sweet cherries are in season, they're the most perfect food in the world. I wouldn't dream of baking them. And since sweet cherries are in season for maybe the hottest month and a half of the year, I'm not in the mood to bake pies then anyway.
But that still leaves all the other months of the year, especially fall and winter, so for me, the best cherries for cherry pie will always be tart cherries. Fresh ones are great, and so are frozen ones. Canned ones are less great, but they'll work. Whichever you choose, just make sure they're unsweetened.
Since this is a double crust pie, you'll need a full batch of this flaky pie crust dough. But since you want the top crust to be flakier than the bottom, you'd have to make two batches, one with the butter cut in to the size of cornmeal, and one with the butter cut in to the size of peas. The one with the bigger lumps will be flakier, and you'd use that one for the top crust. The bottom one needs to be less flaky so it doesn't get soggy.
What that means is you'll have enough dough to make two pies, and you can easily double this recipe. Or, you could buy one pre-made bottom crust and make your own flaky crust for the top.
By the way, the key to making a flaky pie crust is using cold butter, and cutting it into your flour so that it forms pea-sized lumps. Here's an interesting technique for cutting in butter that I learned from a baker friend of mine. Shortening makes a flakier crust, and it's easier to work with. But butter gives the best flavor. Some people use a combination of both.
- 1 batch flaky pie crust (see above)
- 4 cups tart cherries (frozen, unsweetened)
- 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (plus additional for sprinkling)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoons butter (cut into cubes)
- 1/4 cup milk (as needed for brushing)
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- Thaw and drain the cherries. Then combine them in a large bowl with 3/4 cup of the sugar, plus the cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and almond extract. Stir to combine, and taste. Add more sugar if necessary and stir to combine.
- Divide the dough in half, and roll each half into a round that's about ⅛-inch thick and 12 inches across. Fit one round over a 9-inch pie dish. Press the dough all the way down firmly without stretching it.
- Fill the bottom pie shell with the cherry mixture and dot with the cubes of butter.
- Brush the edges of the bottom crust with milk to moisten it, which will help get a good seal with the top crust.
- Now fit the top crust over the bottom one and press the edges firmly to seal them. Crimp the edges with a fork to trim off the excess dough, or flute the edges with your fingers. Cut a few small slits in the top crust to allow steam to vent.
- Brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
- Transfer the pie to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and flaky. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before slicing.