Monday, June 17, 2013

The Chocolate Cherry Pie Experiment

My dad loves cherry pie. According to my mom, he lived on Hostess cherry pies when he was a bachelor. So, Father's Day in our family usually involves some form of cherry pie.

This year, I decided to make it interesting and try my hand at making a chocolate cherry pie, as my grandfather and brother-in-law both love chocolate. The results were mixed.

Looks fantastic, but what you can't see is all the juice that failed to thicken.
This experiment turned out to hold some interesting lessons in baking for me. First, I had a really difficult time finding cherries. I saw some really nice Rainier cherries at the store last weekend, but decided to wait and get them fresh. Of course, the Friday before Father's Day, I couldn't find cherries of any kind. I went to four different stores and had almost given up when I finally found some at Target, of all places. Lesson one: get your ingredients when you find them. Pie cherries would have been fine in the fridge for a week.

Once I found the cherries, I thought I was in the clear. Dad was going to get his cherry pie, and that's all that mattered. So, I focused on the chocolate aspect of my little experiment. I found a great recipe for chocolate pie crust, but I was so concerned about how the crust would turn out, I forgot to check my ingredients for the filling. I had the cherries, so I was good, right? Well, late the night before Father's Day, I had pitted the cherries and that's when I discovered I had no tapioca, which is the thickening agent used in the recipe I was following. No big deal, I thought. I'll just substitute corn starch. I must not have added enough, because this was the runniest pie I have ever seen. It soaked through my beautiful crust and sloshed all over my car while in transit to our Father's Day gathering. Lesson two: plan your recipe ahead of time so you don't have to make last-minute substitutions.

Lessons learned. Everyone was a good sport about it and they all said it tasted great, even if it looked like dog food.

I did get a great Chocolate Crust recipe out of it, though:
(Print Recipe)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup vodka (trust me on this...)
1/4 cup ice water

Combine cocoa, flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening. Add liquid 1 tablespoon at a time. You most likely will not use all the liquid. (The original recipe I found ended up way too gooey and I had to add extra flour.) Because this recipe uses Vodka, I would recommend making the dough a little bit wetter than a normal pastry dough, but not too much. The alcohol portion of the liquid cooks off and leaves your crust extremely flaky. But you don't want it to be too dry after the vodka has cooked off, so you'll have to make it slightly wetter than you normally would. Once you've got the right texture, wrap your dough and let it rest in the fridge for an hour or two. It will be hard to work with when you first take it out, as the butter will have hardened again. Once you start rolling it out, it becomes extremely easy to work with. Note: this recipe made enough dough for a double crust on a deep dish pie. For a single crust, you can cut the recipe in half.

The parts of the crust that didn't get soaked with cherry juice were fantastic. Once I figure out a good filling recipe, I will definitely share it.

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