This homemade cherry pie recipe is an impressive dessert with slices of delicious fruit filling baked inside a flaky, buttery crust. I share my easy tips for pitting the cherries and making a stunning lattice crust.
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If there’s one dessert I can’t resist, it’s a thick slice of cherry pie, especially when made from scratch. Cherries are in season during the summer months, so grab a few pounds and load them up in a homemade pie crust. I use my go-to dough recipe, which I prepare in advance to speed up prep on bake day. Don’t worry. It’s easy to swap in frozen cherries to make during the holidays.
When you imagine the ideal filling, it should burst with a sweet and tart flavor balance and be easy to cut and serve. To prevent the fruit from spilling out of the crust, I find that halving some allows for better packing and a juicier consistency. Plus, using just the right amount of cornstarch helps to tighten up the sauce when it cools.
Make the pie dough
For a flaky pie crust texture, I use a classic recipe called Pâte Brisée. It’s incredibly versatile. I use it for my savory chicken pot pie and blueberry pie. The ingredients are simple; all-purpose flour, ice-cold water, unsalted butter, and salt.
What’s important is how you break down the butter. I use a stand mixer, but a dough cutter, food processor, or your fingers will work to make pea-sized pieces. This process will create little pockets of fat that steam up and flake during baking.
Chill the dough
This recipe uses a high ratio of butter, so it needs time to chill and solidify, making it easier to roll out and allowing the gluten protein network to relax. The result is a pliable dough that’s tender and not tough. There is a four-hour wait time, so I recommend making the dough a day or two before so you can grab and roll out.
Rolling out the dough
Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes before rolling to become more malleable. I find that a ¼-inch thickness for the top and bottom crusts works well to give a sturdy structure. You want it to be able to hold in the fruit filling without being too thick.
Use just enough flour on your work surface and on the dough to prevent sticking, but don’t overdo it, or it will taste off and be tough to eat.
I use a shallow 9-inch pie dish that’s about 1 ½-inches high. I find it gives an excellent ratio of crust-to-filling and prevents shrinking like a deep dish often does. I prefer glassware because it’s easier to monitor the browning.
Glass takes a little longer to heat up than metal, but it retains heat better during the cooling process. The carryover cooking after baking helps the crust become golden brown with no raw dough areas.
Fresh cherries typically tend to pop up at the markets between May to August. I use sweet red cherries (Prunus avium), like Bing or Lambert. They have a firm, juicy texture and deep red for that characteristic appearance.
The blush yellow Rainier cherry is milder in flavor and more tart. I would increase the sugar level to about ¾ cups if using this variety or other sour cherries (Prunus cerasus). For a year-round option, use frozen cherries that have been thawed but not completely defrosted.
Halve some cherries
You need two pounds of cherries for this recipe, about 5 ½ cups once pitted. I have a few easy methods to remove the cherry pits. I find that cutting down at least 2 ½ cups into halves releases more of the fruit’s liquid, resulting in a juicier texture and a more concentrated flavor.
The smaller size does a nice job of filling in the gaps between the remaining whole cherries and prevents the filling from rolling out the crust when you cut and serve a slice.
Prepare the cherry filling
To ensure the cherry taste stays at the forefront, I keep the filling ingredients simple. I use granulated sugar for a clean sweetness, unlike canned products, typically consisting of high fructose corn syrup. Lemon juice and zest add a hint of citrus aromatics and tartness.
A small amount of cinnamon and vanilla extract adds warmth and dimension. I add almond extract because it has a similar taste profile to cherries, elevating the natural flavor. Cornstarch is an effective thickening agent as you need half as much as flour, and I like how it gives a clear glossy appearance.
Make a lattice crust
Creating a weave pattern on the top of the pie makes for a stunning presentation. Check out my step-by-step tutorial for making a lattice design. I use 1-inch strips, but you can make them thinner for more intricate patterns. Chill the strips to make it easier to weave and hold their shape.
Not only pretty, but the extra open spaces also create a vent to release steam. The openings help concentrate the flavor and thicken the filling. If you like a less thick filling, use a traditional double-crust which I used on my apple pie. Just poke a hole in the center to reduce the amount of moisture that evaporates.
Make the crust golden
An egg wash is critical! Brushing a mixture of whisked whole egg and milk creates a deep golden brown hue on the crust’s surface. The yolk bumps up the yellow sheen. Due to the Maillard browning reaction, the milk solids darken and develop more intense and delicious baked notes.
I use two temperatures for baking the pie and adding color to the crust. First, at 400°F (204°C) for 30 minutes to kickstart the steam release and to cook the dough. After this time, the surface should start to turn golden. Second, reduce to 350ºF (177ºC). After about 40 to 50 minutes, the fruit juices should bubble for at least 5 minutes consistently.
The very center of the filling should be around 203ºF (95ºC). At this temperature, the cornstarch gelatinizes. A soft gel with some loose juice ensures sliceable pieces but not so thick that it’s a solid jam consistency. If the top crust or edges get too dark during baking, loosely tent the pie with foil to shield it from the heat.
Let it cool completely
Resist the temptation to cut open the hot pie. The juices will run out, making a soggy bottom crust. Cooling to room temperature, about 4 hours, makes a considerable texture difference. The butter firms up, making it easier to slice.
The filling also cools and allows the starches in the cornstarch to create a more rigid gel-like matrix. The consistency should be soft, like pudding, but not soupy. You can cool it overnight on a wire rack to serve the next day. It’s hard waiting, I know!
Serve this with
Yes! However, they should not be completely defrosted, just thawed until soft enough to cut in half. You don’t wait to drain off the juice and lose the great flavor in the pie. Any extra liquid will thicken up when mixed with the cornstarch and baked. The pie may need some additional time to bubble and heat up.
You can use pre-cooked canned filling for the pie since the filling is already sweetened, often with high fructose corn syrup and thickened with starch. It’s redder in color due to the addition of red 40 food dye. To enhance the cherry flavor, I recommend stirring in ½ teaspoon of almond extract. Add about 2 cans, 42 ounces for about 5 cups of filling. Less is needed since it’s already cooked down and concentrated.
Cornstarch is a potent thickening agent that creates a translucent and glossy appearance. Tapioca starch/flour is the best swap, as it’s 1:1 and has a similar sheen. Arrowroot powder requires 1 ½ times the amount of cornstarch. You can use flour. However, it needs double the amount, and the filling will be more opaque.
The benefits of using almond extract
One of the leading flavor compounds that create the flavor profile of cherries is benzaldehyde. It has characteristics also found in the taste profile of almonds, which is why the fruit and the nut have similar nuances. When you add concentrated almond extract to the cherry filling, it bumps up the natural cherry taste, resulting in a more intense cherry note. A little goes a long way!
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- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ¾ cups unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
- ¾ cup ice-cold water, chilled
- 2 pounds unpitted cherries, (5 ½ cups pitted)
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into ⅛-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, or coarse sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
- 1 tablespoon whole milk, or cream
- Keep the measured ice water and diced butter in the refrigerator until ready to use. In a stand mixer bowl, add the flour and salt. Combine using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (Stir) for about 10-seconds.
- Add chilled diced butter to the bowl. At the lowest speed, turn the mixer on and off quickly for a few seconds to coat the butter with the flour. This helps to prevent the flour from spilling over. Continue to mix at low speed until the flour and butter resemble wet sand with coarse crumbles and some pea-sized pieces remaining, about 60 to 75-seconds. Use fingers to break up any large pieces. Do not overmix. The dough should not bind together before the water is added. Alternatively, use a dough/pastry blender or your fingers to break the butter into the dough.
- Gradually add 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water to the bowl. After each addition, turn the mixer on for 1 to 2-seconds. Only add enough water until the dough looks lumpy and hydrated but not wet or sticky. Where it just begins to clump together with small crumbles on the bottom of the bowl. All of the water may not be needed, about 8 to 10 tablespoons is typical. When the dough is pinched together, it should compress and hold, not be dry or crumbly. Do not over mix. The dough will be pressed together before resting.
- Separate the dough into 2 even-sized portions, about 1 pound (454 grams) each. Press them into a 1-inch thick round disc and cover separately in plastic wrap. Place both in a resealable plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator to rest for at least 4-hours, overnight, or up to 2 days.
- Once removed from the refrigerator, allow the crust to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes or until pliable. This will make it easier to roll.
- Dust the counter and top of the dough with flour. When rolling out, make sure to rotate and dust with flour underneath and on the top. This will prevent the dough from sticking and make it easier to transfer to the pie dish. Roll the dough into a 12 to 13-inch circle, about ¼-inch thick.
- Bottom Crust: Place the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch pie dish and gently press against the sides and bottom. With a paring knife, trim the excess, leaving a ½-inch overhang to fold over the crust edges later. Place the prepared pie dish in the refrigerator to keep cold.
- Lattice Crust: Using the top crust portion, roll out a 13 by 10-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into ten strips that are about 13-inches long and 1-inch wide. Transfer to a sheet pan and refrigerate to make it easier to weave later.
- Remove the pits from the cherries. Then halve 2 1/2 cups of the pitted cherries and keep the remaining whole.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cherries, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract, stir until evenly coated.
- Take the bottom crust and lattice pieces out of the refrigerator. Pour the cherry filling mixture and any liquid in the bowl into the pie dish, spread out evenly to fill in any gaps. Dot the cherries with the cubed butter to prevent sticking to the crust.
- To make the lattice, lay 5 parallel strips evenly over the filling, then weave the remaining pieces. Trim a 1/2-inch lattice crust overhang to press with the bottom crust. Fold the excess dough over the edge and crimp by pinching the dough using the pointer and thumb fingers.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Brush the egg wash on the top and edges of the crust. Sprinkle the surface with granulated sugar.
- Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 400°F (204°C). Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil.
- Place the pie dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the crust begins to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.
- Without removing the pie from the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (177ºC). Bake until the top and sides are deep golden brown and the cherries are bubbling, about 40 to 50 minutes. The center of the filling should be about 203ºF (95ºC) to ensure proper thickening of the cornstarch. If the edges or top begins to get too dark, loosely tent the surface with foil. This may be needed after 25 to 35 minutes.
- Let the pie sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Then cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours before serving to help the filling set. If desired, serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
- For a double crust: Roll out the top crust into a ¼-inch thick circle, about 12-inches in diameter. Lay the flat top crust over the cherry filling topped with the butter pieces. Trim the excess to about ¾-inch hanging over the pie plate. Gently press the dough against the fruit, fold the excess underneath the bottom crust edges, and crimp. Using a small round cookie cutter, about 1-inch in size, cut a hole in the top.
- For a sweeter filling: Increase granulated sugar to ¾ cups and lemon juice to 2 tablespoons to balance the flavor.
- Storing: The fully baked pie can be covered and left at room temperature for one day before eating or refrigerated. Wrap and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat: Place pie dish on a parchment-lined sheet pan and loosely cover with foil. Bake at 225ºF (107ºC) until warmed through, about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on if it’s been at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator. Individual slices can be reheated on a foil-lined baking sheet until warmed through.
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