I thought I was the queen of cherry pie. But I was wrong. Alicia is queen.
Alicia Hitchcock, chef-owner of Alicia’s Cookery in Brea, bakes thousands of cookies each week. In the same time-frame, she also makes about one hundred pies. That’s in addition to an untold number of sandwiches and salads made to nourish the hordes of loyal customers that frequent her eatery.
It is her unique double-crust cherry pie that I wanted to capture on video.
Her crust is foolproof; a dough recipe that shuns chilled butter or solid vegetable shortening. Instead she uses corn oil. No fancy equipment is required, just a bowl and a silicone spatula. The result is a crust that is scrumptious and crisp.
To ensure the bottom crust isn’t soggy, she bakes it before adding the filling and top crust.
She says that the filling was a happy mistake, a formula that came about when her husband called from the golf course asking her to make a cherry pie for his pals. She said that was fine, but he had to stop by the market and buy the cherries.
“I was up goose creek, because he bought the wrong kind of canned cherries,” Chef Hitchcock explains, her deadpan delivery ending with a big smile. Due to her husband’s error, she ended up with two kinds of canned cherries in her recipe, cherry pie filling and sour cherries, then flavor-spiked them with cherry liqueur, cinnamon and almond extract. Plus her secret ingredient, ground cardamom.
“We sell more cherry pies at Thanksgiving than pumpkin or apple,” she says. Sounds like a tribute to the taste, a deliciousness further enhanced by serving a slice with French vanilla ice cream and toasted (or candied) sliced almonds.
Alicia’s Cherry Pie
Yield: about 8 servings
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups corn oil
1/2 cup whole milk
Large plastic bag cut on each side to open it, or parchment paper
3 cups prepared cherry filling
3 cups tart cherries in juice (canned or frozen), drained
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided use
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided use
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 teaspoons heavy cream or milk
1. Prepare crust. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a silicone spatula, mix flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. In a glass measuring cup, mix oil and milk together with a fork. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in oil-milk mixture. Stir to combine with a silicone spatula. Open plastic bag on work surface. Place a little less than half of the dough on open plastic bag or sheet of parchment paper. Form into disk and cover dough with overhanging plastic bag or another sheet of parchment. Roll out until 1/8-inch thick and place in 9 1/2-inch pie pan (Pyrex preferred), lifting it on the plastic or parchment and turning it upside-down to place it in the pan. Crust should just come up to the lip of the pan; if necessary patch dough. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. Prepare filling: In a medium bowl, combine cherry filling, drained tart cherries, 1/4 cup raw sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, cardamom, Kirsch, almond extract and vanilla powder. Stir to combine. Place filling in the baked crust, dot top with butter. Roll out remaining dough in same manner as bottom crust, leaving a small portion of dough behind in the bowl to use for patching when crimping; place on top of filling. Build a ridge around edge of the pie pan and crimp it, using the reserved dough to patch as needed.
3. Brush top crust with cream or milk; sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for two hours before serving. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.
Source: Alicia Hitchcock, Alicia’s Cookery, Brea
Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s Produce …
Egg salad loaded with mayonnaise? You can forget that!
Substitute plain Greek-style yogurt and boost the flavor with fresh dill, and you’re in business. And I love the idea of a knife-and-fork open-faced sandwich on toasted rustic bread.
Rub the warm toast with a clove of garlic, pile on the nutrient-dense red leaf lettuce and egg salad.
Watch me make the salad at the end of the cherry pie video.
Each of these delectable open-faced sandwiches requires a slice of toasted rustic whole grain bread as a foundation. What is rustic bread? It’s not easy to define. Some might describe it as artisanal, but that is also difficult term to qualify. Rustic whole wheat bread is sold whole, unsliced, usually in round or oval shapes. The bread has a crusty exterior and an interior with a chewy texture. No preservatives are used.
Open-Faced Egg Salad Sandwiches
Yield: 4 servings
5 large eggs
4 slices rustic whole grain bread, about 3/8-inch thick
1 large garlic clove cut in half lengthwise
2 1/2 tablespoons plain, fat-free yogurt, plus more if needed.
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon minced lemon zest (colored portion of peel)
Red leaf lettuce or green leaf lettuce
Optional garnish: chopped chives
1. To hard cook the eggs: Put eggs in small saucepan with water to cover by 1 inch. Place on high heat. When water comes to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow eggs to sit covered for 12 minutes. Drain and run cold water over eggs. When cool enough to handle, crack and peel in cold water, place in airtight container and refrigerate.
2. Adjust oven rack to 6-inches below broiler element; preheat broiler. Place bread on rimmed baking sheet and place under broiler. Broil until toasted, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; turn on oven light and watch the progress because bread burns easily. Place each piece of toasted bread on a salad plate; rub top of bread with cut-side of garlic.
3. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, dill, salt, pepper and zest; stir to combine. Coarsely chop eggs and add to yogurt mixture; stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, and adding more yogurt if needed for a creamy consistency.
4. Top each toast with a lettuce leaf or two (or more if you like). Top with egg salad. If desired, top with chopped chives.
Nutritional information (per serving): calories 190; fat calories 60, total fat 7 grams; sat fat XX grams, cholesterol 235 milligrams; sodium 230 milligrams; total carbohydrates 16 grams; fiber 3 grams; sugars 3 grams; protein 13 grams; vitamin A IUs 15%; vitamin C 10%; calcium 8%; iron 10%.
FROM: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)