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Miniature Cherry Pies

Servings: Makes 4 miniature cherry pies

Cherries come in two primary types: sweet and sour (or tart). Sour cherries need to be cooked before eating and are most readily found processed and jarred for use in pie filling, or made into preserves or juice. You can also make these pies with pitted fresh sweet cherries. Replace the jarred sour cherries with 4 cups fresh sweet cherries, reduce the sugar to 3⁄4 cup and add 1⁄2 tsp. almond extract. During their short summer season, look for large, plump, smooth cherries that are darkly colored for their variety and preferably still have their stems attached.

For the Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup shortening
2 to 3 tbsp. ice water, or as needed

For the Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
4 cups drained jarred or canned pitted sour cherries plus 1/3 cup cherry liquid
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

To make the pastry, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse once to mix. Add the butter and shortening and process in short pulses to form pea-size crumbs, 20 to 25 seconds. While pulsing, gradually add the water to form larger, moist crumbs, 10 seconds more. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, with floured hands, shape the mixture into a flat disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

To make the filling, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Place the cherries in a large bowl, sprinkle with the sugar mixture and toss to distribute evenly. Add the vanilla and the cherry liquid and mix well. Immediately divide the cherry mixture among 4 mini pie dishes and dot the tops with the butter.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and form each into a small disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the disks into a 6-inch round, about 1⁄8 inch thick. Cover each of the filled dishes with a round of dough. Fold under the excess dough and, using your thumb, decoratively flute the edges. Using a paring knife, cut a few slits in the crust. Refrigerate the pies until the dough is firm, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 425°F (220°C).

Bake the pies for 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and continue to bake until the crust is golden and the filling is thick and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes more. Transfer the pies to a wire rack and let cool completely. Serve the pies at room temperature.

Makes 4 mini cherry pies.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series,Pie & Tart,by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Date: June 18, 2003