Cherry pie (she CAN bake a cherry pie, Billy boy)

Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife, she’s the joy of my life,
She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother.

Can she make a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she make a cherry pie, charming Billy?
She can make a cherry pie, quick as a cat can wink an eye,
She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother.

Traditional folk song

cherry pie4 resized

As soon as I had the idea to take advantage of the beautiful cherries that are available in my part of the world at the moment, the folk song ‘Billy boy’ has been going round and round in my head. I learned it as a child, singing in my school choir, and it came rushing back from the school-room to my present consciousness and took up residence!

This free-form pie is a neat way to show off the luscious cherries, juicy and tart, with only a tiny sprinkle of sugar added. The pastry is short and crumbly, but easy to make, and needs no pie dish and acrobatics with the rolling pin to construct. I’ve been doing some research into pies, particularly the strong American tradition of making and serving pies, which dates from the earliest settlers who adapted their own pie recipes to the local ingredients available in the New World, whereupon they seem to have become a significant national food, with apple, pumpkin and cherry pies all favourites. When I was in New York last year I went to the most beautiful bakery called Two Little Red Hens and had the best apple pie I have ever eaten. This pie is a little homage to that experience, but I could not hope to make a pastry as delightfully flaky as I ate there. Enjoy this pie warm or at room temperature and with a drizzle of cream or a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Serves 8

700 g fresh cherries, halved and pitted
2 cups plain flour
125 g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup caster sugar, plus a little extra
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup almond meal
cream or ice cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 180 C. Combine the flour, butter, sugar and egg yolks in a food processor and process until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Carefully add 1 – 2 tablespoons icy cold water and whizz until the pastry forms into a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly. Wrap in cling film and rest in a cool place for about 20 minutes. Roll out the pastry into a circle and, using a dinner plate as a guide, cut out a neat circle about 30 cm in diameter. Place the pastry on a baking tray lined with silicon paper. Sprinkle the pastry with the almond meal, to within about 5 cm of the edge. Tumble on the cherries and then carefully turn over the pastry to cover about 5 cm of the filling. Sprinkle over a little sugar over the pastry and the filling and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep for a couple of days, but best eaten on the day it is made.

cherry pie5 resized