Pastry Perfection, or; What I Did with All Those Sour Cherries

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Were you as crazy for pop tarts and toaster strudel as I was as a kid? I swear I ate them every day for years. Maybe that’s where my love of flaky, crispy pastry started – but I’m actually pretty sure it started with my grandmother making apple pie for me. Anyway, those little toaster pastries filled with jam-like fruit were the first thing that came to mind when I was assembling what came to be known as The World’s Largest Pop Tart for Tala’s birthday party last month.

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This pastry, a riff on Smitten Kitchen’s Sour Cherry Slab Pie, was, as Deb says, the perfect ratio of crust to filling. Tons of crust, some filling – pastry perfection. That giant sheet of pastry up there is the largest single piece I have ever rolled. And not to toot my own horn, but I have rolled a lot of pastry in my life. This is actually the only challenge the entire recipe. I used a double recipe of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Favorite Flaky and Tender Pie Crust, and split it into two even pieces to rest overnight. I SWEAR BY this recipe, but as I heard once, just use the pastry recipe that works for you. You’ll need double the amount as for a regular double-crust pie, and store bought would be just fine. Roll it into a rectangle that fills any sheet pan that you have.

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The filling is about 4 pounds of sour cherries from that batch we pitted and froze a while back. This is exactly why I did so much – I knew this would be Tala’s birthday treat and I needed a lot of cherries. My pan was 18″ x 13″. Honestly and truly, all that’s in this filling is the freshest sour cherries, the juice of a half a lemon, 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of corn starch, and a half teaspoon of salt. I suggest mixing the cherries, the lemon juice and sugar together, then tasting the cherries to see if they’re sweet enough for you. If not, add more sugar to taste. Stir it, pour it, top it, bake it, ice it. This bakes in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. You’ll probably have a beautiful rustic crack appear, through which you can tell if the juices are boiling or not. All you really need is bubbly filling and golden brown pastry, so once you have both those visual indicators, you can take it out of the oven. Start checking at 30 minutes.

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Rolling the top pastry is a little easier because it can be a bit smaller than the bottom one. The bottom piece has to fold up and over the edge of the top to seal, and that extra 1.5″ may cause you to tear your hair out. It’s true, there may have been a near pie-pocalypse in the baking of my own World’s Largest Pop Tart, but I was able to rescue it. My only advice is this – make sure your pastry’s edges are quite thin, or they may melt off the rim of your baking sheet while in the oven.

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The last touch is a simple powdered sugar and lemon juice glaze. I poured it in a lattice pattern to make it seem even more like a breakfast pastry. The glaze amps up the visual appeal of the entire thing. I just can’t get over the contrast of those magenta cherries and the golden brown crust. They still manage to have that beautiful glow even when baked. But if you’re looking at this and thinking you hate me because you can’t find sour cherries, this recipe is very adaptable. You can easily use about the same amount (4 lbs) of any other fruit. Great variations could be blueberries, apples, peaches, blackberries… Lots of options here. So, did you get any sour cherries this summer? How did you use them? Let us know in the comments!