Cherry Pie spiced with Mahleb

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Baking pie from scratch will test your patience. The pie dough is refrigerated overnight, the cherries are halved, pitted and macerated with sugar, the assembled pie is chilled in the fridge then baked for over an hour for an ultra flaky and fantastically browned finished. And finally – just when you thought that you were going to serve it – you will have to let it sit on the counter for a few hours to set the cherry filling completely. I’m not scaring you away, the process is not as challenging as an elaborate pastry project, but it does require prepping ingredients in advance so it’s a good idea to read this recipe carefully before getting started!

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I used sweet dark cherries for this recipe and a hint of mahleb powder which is completely optional but I was looking for something unique to complement the cherry flavor. Other options include a splash of rum, lemon zest, a hint of cinnamon etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors!

Pie Dough: Recipe from Serious Eats
350g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour, cold
25g (2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
5g (1 tsp) kosher salt
280 grams (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
85ml (6 Tbsp) ice cold water

1. Make ice water by combining enough water with ice and have it ready.
2. Cut the butter sticks into cubes and chill if needed.
3. Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine (I usually put it in the fridge at this point to turn it cold).
4. Spread the butter cubes over the flour surface and pulse until the butter is the size of a large pea. Trickle ice water through the tube a tablespoon at a time while pulsing to evenly distribute the water in the mixture until the dough just starts to collect in clumps up the sides of the bowl (the dough will look sandy at this point but holds together when squeezed in the palm of your hands).
5. Tip the dough in a large bowl and get rid of any gooey clumps that usually collect around the blade. Take half of the mixture and wrap in plastic wrap then using a roll pin, roll the plastic packet into a circle about 6″-8″ wide, making sure to roll it very tightly especially around the edges. Repeat with the other half.
6. Chill overnight (8 hours or up to 3 days) or the freezer until later use.

Filling:
925g pitted cherries
100g granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

1 vanilla bean, scrapped
1 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp cornstarch flour
1 Tbsp ground mahleb
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Cubes of butter (Roughly ¼ in. or ½ cm)
Egg wash (beat 1 small egg with 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt)
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Mix the pitted cherries with the granulated sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in the fridge.
2. The next day, drain the cherries from their juices and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the vanilla bean, lemon zest, cornstarch, ground mahleb, sugar and salt making sure that the vanilla bean paste is evenly distributed. Sprinkle mixture over the strained cherries and toss to combine.
3. Roll out the first disk on a lightly floured surface into a 14″ (35 cm) round for a 9″ (23 cm) pie pan. Wrap dough lightly around a rolling pin and transfer to the pie pan. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the dough to allow a 1″ (2.5 cm) overhang. Pour the cherry filling into the pastry shell. Roll out the second pie crust to top the filling and create small slits to allow venting or create a decorative lattice top.
4. Brush the pie crust with the egg wash, dot with small cubes of butter through the lattice crust, sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Refrigerate the pie for at least 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and place a large baking sheet in the middle rack. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 80-90 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool completely at least a couple of hours on a wire rack before serving.

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