I took these photos last summer so I could share this Amaretto Sweet Cherry Pie recipe that I pieced together through trial and fancy and luck. However, when I finally found time to sit down and type out the recipe, it was well into pumpkin season. A post about sweet summer cherries just seemed cruel.
Now those gorgeous cherries are popping up everywhere once again, begging to be nestled into a buttery crust. Here in North Carolina, as in much of the country, temperatures are solidly in the triple digits, accompanied by stifling humidity. The very last thing I want to do is turn on the oven let alone wrestle an all-butter crust into a pie dish before the whole thing turns to a melty, gooey mess. However, you're probably made of sterner stuff than I, in which case, you should give this recipe a try. It is refreshingly different from the traditional cherry pie filling, with the addition of toasted almond slivers, a hint of nutmeg, and a hearty glug of amaretto. I originally intended to make an almond crust, but at the time all I had in the pantry was hazelnut flour (What? Not one of your pantry staples? You can usually find both almond flour and hazenut flour at Whole Foods. Or you can grind up your own nuts until they are fine crumbs.) The hazelnut crust tastes a bit like a Linzer cookie, which triggers all kinds of early childhood food memories for me of Christmas in Germany and road trips to Austria. So I stick to hazelnuts for this one. However, I use this same crust recipe with almond flour as my go-to crust for most sweet pies. It is simple and flavorful and not quite as persnickety as an all-wheat flour crust. The almond flour adds a hint of nuttiness and a wonderful texture, whereas the hazelnuts really pack a flavor punch.
Amaretto Sweet Cherry Pie
1 recipe for a 10-inch double pie crust (see below for a hazelnut all-butter crust)
4 Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup Amaretto
4 cups pitted sweet cherries
1/2 cup toasted almond slices
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place one crust in the bottom of a 10-inch pie plate.
In a large mixing bowl combine tapioca, salt, sugar, nutmeg, amaretto, and cherries. Let stand 15 minutes. Add cherry mixture to the bottom crust, sprinkle with the toasted almond slices, and dot with butter. Cover with the second crust, seal the edges, and poke a few vents in the top. Brush with an egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water). Place the pie on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes until golden brown.
Hazelnut All-Butter Pie Crust
adapted from Simply Recipes
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts or hazelnut flour
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp brown sugar
3 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold
Chill the cubes of butter in the freezer for 15 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, hazelnut flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or a fork, until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea size pieces of butter. Add the ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, swiftly and gently kneading until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready, if not, add a little more water and knead again.
Place the dough on a clean surface and carefully shape it into 2 discs. Keep everything cold and do not over-knead the dough! You should still be able to see intact bits of butter in the dough. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Remove one disc from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disc and roll out with a rolling pin to form a 12 inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. Gently fold in half. Place on to a 9- or 10-inch pie plate, lining up the fold with the center of the pan. Gently unfold and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.
Add the filling and repeat with the top crust.