An Old German Family Recipe for Sour Cherry Pie
Coffee and cake on Sunday afternoons in the company of your family and friends at home is one of the most classical traditions in Germany, and although there are so many excellent bakeries around people continue to love baking their own cakes. There is so much pleasure, satisfaction and also relaxation that comes with such a simple process as mixing your own dough, kneading it carefully, seeing it rise and changing its shape and texture and inhaling the beautiful aromas coming out of the oven. One of us grew up in a family that always was, and to this date continues to be, fond of cakes and afternoon coffee and cake sessions. There are lots of early memories of sitting on the kitchen countertop as a small child and watching/learning the whole process, hoping to be allowed to do some mixing and kneading, and also always trying to sneak some fresh dough into one’s mouth. This recipe for a sour cherry pie is one of our family classics and was handed down by at least three generations.
You will notice that this recipe is still in its original German form and therefore calls for some special ingredients such as German baking powder or vanilla sugar (both from Dr. Oetker) which can be found at World Market. The most characteristic flavor of this cake comes from the sour cherries (or black cherries, in a glass, sold for example at Trader Joe’s) that are cooked in their own juice, slightly sweetened with sugar and thickened with starch before being baked inside the cake. Because of the sourness of the cherries, this cake is not overly sweet and pairs nicely with whipped cream. Originally we used a flat sheet of the short pastry as the top of the cake, but later changed it to crumbles for a more crunchy taste.
Sour cherry filling: Remove about ½ of cherry juice from the sour cherries jar (keep about 5 tablespoons aside), and pour the rest into a large cooking pot. Bring to boil over medium heat and add some sugar. Meanwhile, dissolve corn starch in some cherry juice. Remove pot from heat, stir in the corn starch mixture, and let cool to room temperature.
Blend flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Make a well, add the egg and cover with sugar and vanilla sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and place on top.
Knead mixture with hands inside the bowl, or process with a hand mixer for 1-2 minutes (kneading blades), and then place dough onto a work surface. Knead with hands until dough becomes smooth. Place dough onto a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and place into the refrigerator for ca. 30 min.
Roll out a third to half of the dough on a floured surface, transfer dough plate to a greased spring form pan, and form crust edges.
Pour cherry filling onto dough, and distribute evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle cinnamon powder over filling, and crumble the remaining dough evenly over filling. Finish with two tablespoons of sugar.
Preheat oven to 180 °C (360 °F) and bake for ca. 25-30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
300 g (10 ½ oz) all purpose flour
100 g (3 ½ oz) sugar
1/2 package baking powder (Dr. Oetker / World Market)
1 package vanilla sugar (Dr. Oetker / World Market)
150 g (5 ½ oz) butter or margarine
1 glass jar sour cherries (Trader Joe’s)
2 tbsp corn starch
1-2 tbsp sugar
We like to use Hainich Kirsch fortified with some kirschwasser. Even with good quality pitted cherries it pays to be wary of the presence of an errant stone or pit fragment. Topping with lots of whipped dream and high fat cocoa or flakes of chocolate can be a plus.
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