Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Cherry Pie That'll Kill Ya


Twin Peaks premiered in 1990, begging the question of "who killed Laura Palmer." It didn't premiere in my own life until many years later when I studied film in college, and took a class on David Lynch, the peculiar film director and creator of Twin Peaks.


The class on Lynch was one of my favorite film studies classes, and I was one of few students who managed to earn an A in the class. My final paper discussing the linear evolution of morality (or lack thereof) through three of his films (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Lost Highway) is still one of my proudest achievements as a graduate of the film program at BU.


It comes as no surprise that over a decade later I still have an intense love and appreciation for David Lynch's work. Some may think he's off his rocker (and perhaps he is to some extent), but that's what makes him such an amazing artist and storyteller.


On Sunday May 21st, Showtime is bringing back Twin Peaks with a look and these characters and their lives 25 years after the show's finale. I am so excited! Twin Peaks is such a cult classic, and most people who have taken the time to watch the show at some point in their lives have formed a level of appreciation or even obsession.


In honor of this truly momentous occasion, I've decided to pay homage to Special Agent Dale Cooper and his beloved cherry pie. Take a moment to flash back to the 90's in the video clip below.


"A cherry pie that'll kill ya" and a "damn fine cup of coffee" are only a couple of the food and drink references that cult followers of the show will remember. There are LOTS of them. I can't think of a better way to revisit these perplexing, sometimes crazy, incredibly nostalgic characters from Twin Peaks than by digging into a slice of my own cherry pie alongside a damn fine cup of coffee.


This cherry pie is not super traditional, but it IS super good. Instead of a standard double crust (lattice or full top crust), it features a crumbly, lightly spiced streusel topping. Sweet cherries will be plentiful as the weather warms up more, so for the purposes of this mid-May pie I used frozen sweet cherries, and PS they are already pitted so that definitely saves you the trouble of pitting them yourselves.


As an aside, check out this adorable plush Minnie Mouse from my vast collection. She is wearing pajamas adorned with images of steaming cherry pies and plump cherries, and precious pie-shaped slippers! She is a perfect companion for enjoying this cherry pie and snuggling up for some Twin Peaks action on Showtime this upcoming Sunday night.


I shall leave you with some wise words from Special Agent Dale Cooper: "Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee." Or perhaps a slice of this pie. Enjoy!


Sweet Cherry Streusel Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie; Serves 8 to 10
(Adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)

All-Butter Single-Crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup ice

Pre-baking Crust:
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon water

Streusel Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, at room temperature

Filling:
1 small baking apple
5 cups sweet cherries, pitted (fresh is preferable, but frozen works perfectly fine--just don't thaw the frozen cherries, and add a bit of extra baking time as needed if using frozen versus fresh)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons potato starch (I used tapioca starch)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 dashes Angostura bitters

For the crust: Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender (or your fingers), cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.

Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

To partially pre-bake the crust, preheat the oven to 425°F and place baking sheet on a rack on the lowest position. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness and carefully lay it into a 9-inch pie pan or dish, being careful not to stretch the dough. Trim the edges and crimp as desired. Refrigerate the crust for about 30 minutes to allow it to set. Prick all over the bottom and sides with a fork about 15 to 20 times. Line the crust with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dry beans. Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the crimped edges are set but not browned.

Remove the pan and the baking sheet from the oven, lift out the parchment and the pie weights and let the crust cool for a minute. Beat together the egg white and water. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of egg white glaze to moistureproof the crust. Return the pan, on the baking sheet, to the oven's middle rack and continue baking for 3 more minutes. Remove and cool completely before filling.

For the streusel: Stir together the flour, brown and granulated sugars, and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the butter pieces and toss to coat. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is chunky but not homogenous. Chill for at least 15 minutes before using. The streusel will keep refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for 1 month.

Position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel the apple, and then shred it on the large holes of a box grater. Combine the shredded apple with the cherries, lemon juice, brown sugar, potato starch, cinnamon, cardamom, and bitters in a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell and evenly distribute the streusel on top.

Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 30 to 35 minutes longer (I used frozen cherries, so mine baked an extra 50 minutes instead--cover the edges of the crust with foil as needed if it is browning too quickly).

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

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