HAPPY PI(E) DAY EVERYONE!
I may have mentioned before that pie is my favorite dessert of all time. It’s always hard to pick favorites… but if it came down to a deserted (dessert-ed? 😛 ) island and the one thing I could have for dessert for the rest of my life, pie would be my one and only. (Though I mayyy continue to flirt with ice cream – but pie a la mode counts as a type of pie, right?)
Though I may be an expert pie eater, I actually haven’t ventured much into the realm of pie making. Mostly because I know better than to stare at temptation in the face. A whole pie in the fridge means a whole pie in my tummy while the night is still young. You think I’m kidding…ha. Don’t underestimate my fierce love for pie!
The last time I made a pie was actually the first pie I’ve ever made. I spent hours reading article after article on the science of pie crust – check out my previous blog post for Apple Raspberry Pie to see the fruits of my research.
So for this pie adventure, I really wanted to showcase the filling in this Dark Chocolate Cherry Pie – a gorgeous burgundy tart cherry filling loud and proud in plain view, and a rich creamy bittersweet ganache hiding as the best surprise ever underneath. Not to say that the crust isn’t also super yum in its own right – as much as I loooove flaky pastry crust, this naturally gluten free almond-oat crust has a slightly sweet nutty crunch just like the MVP granola cousin of the graham cracker crust. I’m certainly not the first person to come up with the idea of a nut-oat pie crust, but I mainly found my inspiration when coming up with ideas to use up all the almond flour left over from my recent macaron marathon 😛
As before, I definitely geeked out and read a lot about the science of pie filling – what is the best thickener? which fruits need more or less thickener? should fruit filling be pre-cooked or baked raw? As always, gotta love Google. These articles here and here from The Kitchn are a great starting point to understand the basics of pie filling. But for those not super interested in the science, a few key points I took away that navigated my decision making in creating this recipe:
cornstarch as thickener – mostly I went with cornstarch because I think it’s the thickener most likely to already be found in the average person’s kitchen, and as always I strive to keep this blog fairly accessible to both amateur and expert kitchen experimenters.
applesauce – pectin is basically nature’s thickener, and apples have a lot of it. Cherries don’t. So, I added applesauce to the filling to 1) help the filling thicken up sufficiently and 2) add a bit of natural sweetness – that’s right, this pie filling has no added refined sugar to keep the natural flavors of the fruit to shine!
precooking the filling – since the almond-oat crust is more prone to burning than a typical pastry pie crust, I precooked the filling over the stove to give it a little head start.
Full disclaimer…the pie in the photos is not exactly the same as the recipe. When making this pie, I realized belatedly that the ratio of chocolate filling to cherry filling was a little off – too much chocolate (you don’t hear that often!) and too little cherry. It’s definitely not a bad pie, but for a better balance of flavors and textures I would suggest making a little less chocolate ganache and a little more cherry filling – so this correction of my error has been reflected in the recipe below.
Whether you celebrate the best holiday ever with fruit pie, chocolate pie, pizza pie, or all of the above, hope everyone enjoys this year’s 3/14! SPRING IS NIGH!
Dark Chocolate Cherry Pie with Almond-Oat Crust
makes one 9″ pie – approximately 12 generous slices
gluten free, egg free
dairy free/vegan options available
almond-oat pie crust
- 1 cup almond flour (or finely chopped/ground almonds)
- 1 cup oat flour (or finely chopped/ground oats)/gluten free oat flour
- 1 tablespoon honey, or maple syrup or agave nectar or brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup butter or vegan butter
dark chocolate ganache
- 2/3 cups (about 4 oz) 60% dark chocolate chips/vegan chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup milk of choice – I used cashew milk, my new obsession
- 3 cups (about 16 oz) dark sweet cherries, pitted – frozen is fine
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- generous squirt of lemon juice
- sweetener such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc to taste – but I used none as it was sweet enough for me 🙂
- First, make the crust: preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a 9″ pie pan.
- Mix together all the ingredients for the crust – don’t worry, it will look way too dry at first but will come together into a nice, slightly crumbly mixture. Press about 3/4 of the mixture into the pie pan; reserve the rest to top the pie later.
- Parbake (ie bake just a little before filling, with the intention to bake again later with the filling) for 5-10 minutes, just enough to set it. Let the crust cool.
- While baking the crust, you can make the ganache: heat up the milk and the chocolate over a double boiler (heat water in a pot on the stove, place a bowl over the pot, melt chocolate in there) or by microwaving in 30 second bursts, stirring in between bursts. Set aside to cool so that it’s still pourable but not too piping hot to handle.
- Pour the ganache into the parbaked pie crust and give it a little shake to spread everything out evenly. Let cool to room temperature to set the ganache.
- While waiting for the ganache to cool, make the cherry filling: heat cherries over the stovetop on medium heat for a few minutes to release some of the cherry juices.
- Add the applesauce, cornstarch, and lemon juice and continue to cook until the filling starts bubbling and thickening (or as I like to call it, blurp-ing). Take off heat and taste; add sweetener if needed to your preference, but with the applesauce and natural sweetness of the cherries, I thought it already tasted pretty good 🙂
- Pour cherry filling evenly over the set ganache. Top with the rest of the crust mixture, either as a charmingly rustic crumble, or pressed flat and cut out into shapes using cookie cutters like I did.
- Cover the pie in aluminum foil and bake for 25-40 minutes, until the crust is nicely golden (but not burnt!) and the cherry filling is blurp-ing again.
- Let cool to room temperature/chill in the fridge for a few hours to set both the cherry filling and the ganache. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Yet another thing I love about pie – sometimes it tastes even better as leftovers as the flavors have time to mingle and continue to develop.
Nutritional description: as indulgent as it may seem, this pie truly is a pie you can feel good about. The crust is packed with nutrition such as protein and heart-healthy fats from the almonds and whole grain fiber from the oats. The naturally sweetened fruit filling is a good source of tons of vitamins and minerals; cherries specifically are a good source of antioxidants, and interestingly enough are also a good source of melatonin, which helps regulate healthy sleep. Even dark chocolate has its benefits when eaten in moderation (and yes, the amount per serving in this pie is well within moderation) – dark chocolate is also a source of antioxidants and research suggests it may have heart-health benefits as well. Overall, not a bad dessert (or breakfast, or lunch, or dinner) to have on a more than occasional basis! 🙂
Nutritional information (calculated without vegan substitutions, based on 12 slices per pie): Calories 218, Total Fat 12.9g, Saturated Fat 5g, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbs 22.2g, Fiber 3.3g, Sugars 11.5g, Protein 4.6g, Sodium 6.1mg