There are three foods from back home that I find myself missing consistently – wild mushrooms, black currants, and sour cherries. I made sure to eat good portions of each while I was visiting my mother in Russia this past May. Most people won’t eat black currants and sour cherries raw, as they are, but add the slightest touch of sweetness to them, and your heart will be stolen. Sour cherries made it into many of my meals – from morning yogurt to salads, to ice-cream. And of course there was the Sour Cherry Pie – my mom’s specialty.
When we finally arrived at my mom’s house after a very long transatlantic journey, we knew what would be waiting for us at teatime – a fragrant and pillowy pie, jeweled with sour cherries. All her grandchildren get a wild sparkle in their eye when talking about grandma’s pie – it is a family-wide obsession. Paloma, the youngest, had her initiation and was quick to join the circle of cherry pie lovers.
My mom always makes sure to preserve some sour cherries while they are in season. She pits them with a hair pin, then freezes some and cans the rest with a little sugar. That way, she always has ammunition for when company turns up.
I was curious to make a gluten-free version of the pie and began the search for ingredients. What has become second nature to me at home, turned out to be quite a challenge in Russia. Finding all kinds of gluten-free grains there is not a problem – buckwheat, millet and quinoa are widely available, but flours made of those grains are not. I freshly grind my own flours at home, but only with the help of my high-speed blender, which was absent in my mom’s kitchen. I finally used a coffee grinder and ended up with grainy, but perfectly workable flours.
I really loved the final result – the overall flavor of the pie was different from mom’s of course, but delicious in its own way.
One more thing before we get to the recipe –
Public speaking has hardly been my favorite thing, in fact I find it absolutely terrifying. During the four years of working on this blog, I ran into situations when I had to speak in front of big groups of people, during cooking classes and such. As difficult as it was to get started, I’ve noticed that when I speak about the subject that I absolutely love, my fear disappears and I actually enjoy the process. Our cookbook coming out has brought on a new wave of public events, and after a little over a month of book talks, I’ve noticed the stage fright getting lighter every time. For that, I accredit my friendly and encouraging audiences -thank you so much for coming out to support me, listen with great interest, and ask thoughtful questions.
Sour Cherry Pie
(adapted from here)
Note: Green markets and health food stores have sour cherries while they are in season, for a very short period of time. You can find frozen sour cherries in many Eastern European stores in the U.S. – our local Russian market sells them. Feel free to use regular cherries or other fruit/berries. The best ratio between the dough and cherries is to have just enough dough to barely cover each cherry. The dough will rise during baking and the balance between the juicy, tart berries and the sweet dough will be perfect.
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup millet flour
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on top
zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
3-5 cups or more pitted fresh or frozen and partially thawed sour cherries – the more the better (substitute with regular cherries or other fruit/berries)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180C). Thoroughly grease an 8-10 inch cake pan or line with parchment paper. Combine the coconut milk and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the flours, baking powder and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar and lemon zest and rub together until fragrant. Add in eggs, coconut milk mixture and olive oil, and whisk to combine. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix to combine.
4. Gently fold in the cherries, reserving about 1/3 of them. Pour the batter into the cake pan, topping with the reserved cherries and sugar.
5. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before removing. Store refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.