Alternate Title: The Pie That Almost Killed Me
Alternate Alternate Title: The Most Satisfying Thing I Have Ever Made
Moral: Nothing great can be achieved without struggle. (I checked, Frederick Douglass backs me up on this.)
Disclaimer: I am not comparing the plight of making this pie with the abolitionist movement, because that would make me a horrible person.
January 5th is Phillip’s birthday, and as is tradition, I set out to make him a dessert with his favorite flavor combination: cherry and chocolate (he also likes to drink a Coca-Cola with this combo, but this year I didn’t include the Coke in the recipe). I concocted the idea of this pie several months ago and wrote it down in my idea journal. My notes: “Chocolate pie crust, ganache layer, set up in fridge, then stovetop cherry pie filling layer. Cover top with whipped cream.”
When the time came to make this, though, I wanted to give it more of a Black Forest Cake riff, which means kirsch. I have never purchased kirsch and because DeKuyper makes it, I assumed it was a liqueur. So at the grocery liquor store, I went to the liqueur section, scanned the shelves, and came up empty. I did, however, see Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. Pricey, but my husband is worth it. So I swiped my card and went along my merry way. I made the filling with the liqueur, and while it was good, it wasn’t Black-Foresty, which prompted me to do some more research on kirschwasser.
Kirsch is not the same thing as cherry or maraschino liqueur or even cherry-flavored brandy. They are made from different cherry varieties, and kirsch is not sweet. I needed to go way up north to go to the Whole Foods where they have my favorite chocolate and cocoa powder anyway, so I figured I’d go to the liquor store up there, too. Phillip asked me to pick up some lemons and a loaf of bakery bread while I was out (he was making avgolemono soup for dinner). Whole Foods had moved the location of my chocolate products (it used to be with the cheese), and the cheese guy was unhelpful and kind of rude about it when I asked him where the chocolate had gone. Whatever, dude. I’m having a rough day, too. I made my way through the store. Lemons, check. Chocolate, cocoa powder; check. Vanilla beans, pineapple, cherries; check, check, check.
I put the other grocery/liquor store location into my phone’s navigation system. Really, it should have been a straight shot down the road, but for some reason, I was routed through a pitch black side road that just took me in a giant circle, but I arrived at last. Again, I scanned the liqueur section of the store to no avail. Then it dawned on me: kirsch is a brandy; it’s probably with the brandy. It was probably with the brandy at the first liquor store, too! But I looked and it was nowhere to be found. I asked the lady behind to counter if she knew where it was, and she led me to a shelf outside the liquor store and told me to check there. It wasn’t there, but when I went back in a minute later, she had gone on break. The woman left in her stead didn’t know how to use the computer to see if they had it in stock. After weighing my options and researching on my phone (whose battery was depleting rapidly), I decided I could not settle for cherry liqueur or cherry-flavored brandy.
Finally, I noticed an empty spot on the brandy shelf with a label indicating that it was where the kirschwasser should have been. The new woman manning the counter said she would call the other store to check if they had it in stock, but she didn’t know their number. She probably could have looked it up, but she couldn’t be bothered, I guess. It was a rough day for everyone. I decided I would call the other store myself, but my phone had died, so I had to go out to my car to plug it in.
Except the number listed online for that store is not their actual number. As had happened previously, I reached the voicemail for a bank. So I decided to take my chances and just drive over. Once again, I needed the assistance of my GPS to get to that location. At this point, I should mention, I was in what could be described as a “tizzy” and was screaming obscenities at just about every driver on the road and at inanimate objects that offended me. The store’s address was also not correct online, so the GPS led me astray, which caused a veritable hailstorm of profanities to rain down upon my phone, which stared blankly back at me, clearly unfazed.
But I found the kirschwasser (in the brandy section) and checked out. As I fumbled to get out my ID because I was shaking from stress and misplaced rage, I said, “I’m all over the place right now.” The cashier told me to take a deep breath. Me and Jeremiah (that was his name) took a deep breath together, I thanked him for the reminder, and he did a little dance to a Beach Boys song playing over the speakers. Victorious and amused by Jeremiah’s dance, I returned to my car to make my way home.
“Did you get bread?” asked Phillip. My face fell, because of course I had forgotten the bread. “That’s okay, we can just have crackers,” said my very understanding husband. I started doing dishes as he cooked, and I talked about making the new pie filling, at which point I realized that we were out of cornstarch, and I had forgotten to pick some up. I shut off the faucet, left the sink, and slowly lowered myself belly-down onto the dining room floor. I silently lay prone for a few moments while Phillip cracked up in the kitchen. He offered to run to the store after dinner because he is a saintly saint.
So after all that, I made the new pie filling, left it to cool overnight, and the next morning I assembled the pie. I had some trial-and-error with the chocolate curls and decided tempering was just not going to happen, but that is actually okay because the softer chocolate curls work way better with the texture of the pie. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) My heart raced when I cut into the pie, because it could have spilled out everywhere or tasted awful, and after all that work, I don’t think my heart could have handled it. But the pie did not fall apart or taste awful. It was perfect. Happy Birthday, Husband!
- ⅓ cup boiling water
- 1¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (35 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (20 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- ¾ cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
- 2 pounds (900 grams) frozen sweet cherries
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (120 mL) kirschwasser
- ¼ cup (60 mL) fresh lemon juice (from about half a lemon)
- 4 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch
- 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
- ¼ cup (60 mL) heavy cream
- 4 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 16 stemmed maraschino cherries
- Confectioners' sugar (optional)
- In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together boiling water and instant espresso powder until espresso powder has dissolved. Place bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder. Sprinkle cold butter cubes over the top of the flour mixture and pulse until butter chunks are the size of peas. Drizzle in cold espresso and pulse to combine. Turn out onto plastic wrap, press into a disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough disc in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°F. Roll dough disc out into a 14-inch circle. Place into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan or a 10½-inch pie pan. Trim so there is a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under, tucking it between the dough and the side of the pan. Flute the edges. Pierce all over the bottom and the sides with a fork. Place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
- Transfer pie pan to a baking sheet. Place a piece of parchment paper inside the pie pan and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Use enough to press against the sides of the dough so they don't sink. Bake pie crust (on the baking sheet) for 25 minutes with the beans/pie weights in place. Remove the beans and pie weights and return the pan to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes. Cool the crust completely on a wire rack.
- While crust is cooling, make the pie filling. In a large saucepan, combine cherries, sugar, kirsch, lemon juice, and cornstarch and toss to coat. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Boil 1-2 minutes, until syrup is thick. Remove from heat and cool completely. (You can pop the saucepan into the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process.)
- Place chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer over medium heat. Pour over chocolate and let rest for 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into cooled pie crust. Spread evenly over the bottom of the crust with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Chill in the refrigerator until ganache is firm, at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the ganache-filled pie crust from the refrigerator (and the cherry filling, if you placed it in the refrigerator to chill). Let sit at room temperature while you make the chocolate curls.
- Chill a baking sheet in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, fill a medium saucepan with an inch of water and bring to a simmer. Place chopped chocolate in a large, shallow heat-safe bowl. Place bowl over the saucepan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it is melted and smooth. Remove baking sheet from the freezer and place upside-down on a countertop. Pour melted chocolate onto the bottom of the baking sheet (which should be facing up), and spread out into a thin, even layer with an offset spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until chocolate firms up, 5-10 minutes.
- Hold a bench scraper at a 45° angle at the edge of the chocolate and push forward to create curls. If the chocolate flakes off and doesn't roll, it is too cold. Let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to warm up, then try again. If it seems too soft, put it back into the refrigerator chill some more. The curls don't need to be perfect, don't stress out about it! Use the bench scraper to transfer the curls to a small bowl (your fingers will melt the chocolate) and place the bowl in the refrigerator while you assemble the rest of the pie.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (you can also use a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer), combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and set aside.
- Pour the cherry pie filling into the crust over the ganache layer and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Pipe 16 stars of whipped cream around the circumference of the pie.* Place one maraschino on the top of each whipped cream star.
- Pour the chocolate curls into the center of the pie, covering the cherry filling. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.
- Serve immediately with remaining whipped cream (more whipped cream is always a good thing.)
- *If you can count, you'll notice that my pie only has 15 stars/cherries. That is because I didn't think ahead. If you pipe 16 stars, each slice of pie will have two maraschino cherries and whipped cream stars.
- Make Ahead: There are a lot of parts to this pie! You can do it in one day if you have lots of time, but here is my recommendation for spreading it out over a few days if you need to.
- Day 1: Make the pie dough and chill it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- Day 2: Bake the crust and cool it while you make the cherry filling. Fill the cooled pie crust with the ganache. Refrigerate the ganache-filled crust and the cherry filling overnight. You can also make the chocolate curls now, or wait until Day 3.
- Day 3: Bring the pie and filling to room temperature. If you haven't already, make the chocolate curls. Make the whipped cream. Assemble the pie and serve.
- Pie Crust adapted from Martha Stewart