Photo by David Bishop
A box of frozen puff pastry sheets from the store is one of my favorite go tos for creating easy and beautiful, delicious confections. Add some seasonal fresh fruit to the rich and buttery pastry, and voila, a treat everyone will love. Cherries macerated in cognac and sugar elevate this dessert to elegant status, while topping it with semi sweet whipped cream or vanilla ice cream makes it irresistible.
The amount of cherries you need depends on the size of your dish. Test the amount you need in the pan you choose to use. Pit about two cups of cherries. This is made enormously easier with a sweet little gadget I found at both Bed, Bath and Beyond and at Sur La Table, made by Progressive. It pits 4 cherries at a time cleanly and neatly with the push of the lid and without staining your fingers and kitchen surfaces Mix the cherries into a medium size bowl with 1/4 cup of cognac, a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of all purpose flour. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
While the cherries are soaking up the good stuff take the time to prepare the pastry. Following package directions, take out only as much pastry you will use, one sheet in my case. Seal the rest and store in the freezer until you need it next. Lightly flour your working surface and the pastry sheet and cover it with a dish towel while it thaws, about 1/2 hour.
Choose a baking vessel that is appropriate in size and style for the occasion. I used a pre-seasoned cast iron Au Gratin baking dish From Sur La Table to make a pie for two. Trace the outline of your dish on a piece of paper and add two inches diameter for the crust. Cut out the paper form and lay it onto the pastry. If your form is bigger than the sheet of pastry, you may need to roll the pastry out a bit with a rolling pin, making sure you sprinkle flour as needed to prevent the pastry from sticking to your rolling pin, surface or hands. Cut the pastry oval out with the tip of a very sharp knife, tracing the paper, and lay it evenly over the baking dish. Gently form it to the bottom and sides.
Fill the pastry with the cherry mixture, including the liquid, piling it high. Form the edges around it. Beat an egg with a teaspoon of milk and brush the pastry top. Sprinkle both the pastry and the cherries with about a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake it in a preheated at 425’F oven for about 10 minutes until it is puffed and browned. To prevent over browning while finishing the internal cooking, turn the heat down to 325’F and bake for another 10 minutes.
Garnish with lemon zest when cooled.
- Before baking, use a thermometer to validate the oven’s temperature. If the thermometer is new, check it against two other thermometers. Most ovens aren’t accurate to the dial settings.
- A pizza stone helps keep the oven temperature from fluctuating wildly, which most ovens do. Adjust a shelf to the middle of the oven and place the stone on it while the oven is cold, to prevent breakage.
- Make sure the oven achieves 425’F before putting the pie in the center on the stone. The stone will also help the bottom crust cook thoroughly and prevent sogginess.