(It’s a good idea to prepare this pie in stages; you can make the pastry dough, the crumble and the spiked cherries a day before you bake the pie. If you are short on time, try to let the cherries and bourbon sit for at least 2 hours.)
Pastry Dough (yields two 9” pie shells; you will only need one for this recipe)
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons sugar
1¼ teaspoon salt
8 oz. cold, (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup + an additional 2 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a bench scraper, cut in the butter until it forms coarse crumbs. Drizzle in the ¼ cup of cold water and use your fingertips to distribute the liquid. If the pastry is dry, add just enough additional water so the dough comes together. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Divide the dough in half, shape it into two discs and wrap each in plastic wrap. (You will only use one portion of the dough. Freeze one for another use.) Refrigerate one portion of dough for at least 2 hours or overnight before rolling out.
Roll out the dough into a circle about 12” in diameter and ⅛” thick. Ease it into a 9” pie plate, fold the edges under and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate while you prepare the crumble and filling.
Brown Butter Almond Crumble
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned and cooled (see below)
½ cup sliced almonds
In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, sugars, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally so it cooks evenly. The butter will get foamy, then turn toasty brown. (This takes about 6 minutes.) The butter will have a ‘nutty’ fragrance; remove the pan from the heat. Place a fine mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl; carefully pour the brown butter through the strainer. (Straining it removes the sediment that settles at the bottom.) Let the butter cool completely. Use a fork to combine the brown butter with the dry ingredients then add the almonds. The mixture should be crumbly. Cover the crumble with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the cherry filling.
2½ pounds of sweet cherries, rinsed, stems removed, pitted and halved (you should have about 6 cups)
¼ cup bourbon whiskey
1 vanilla bean, split in half, seeds scraped
In a large bowl, combine the bourbon with the scrapings from the vanilla bean. Add the pitted/halved cherries and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (They can be refrigerated overnight if you choose to bake the pie the following day.)
When ready to bake the pie, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cherry Filling (adapted from Kate Lebo)
6 cups of bourbon-spiked cherries (see above)
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
Retrieve the bowl of bourbon-spiked cherries from the refrigerator. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, tapioca flour, salt, nutmeg and orange zest. Sprinkle the sugar/tapioca mixture over the cherries. Add the orange juice and use a rubber spatula to combine the mixture thoroughly. Retrieve the pie shell from the refrigerator. Scrape the cherry filling into the pie shell and place it on the parchment lined baking sheet. Cover the pie with another sheet of parchment paper or a piece of aluminum foil. Place the baking sheet on the bottom rack of the pre-heated oven. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it on a heatproof surface. Using an oven mitt, remove the parchment paper (or aluminum foil) from the top of the pie. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Retrieve the almond crumble from the refrigerator, break it up using your fingers and sprinkle it over the cherries. (Some of it will sink a bit, not to worry.) Cover the pie completely with the crumble and return the pie to the middle rack of the oven. Bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until the juices bubble up through the crumble and around the edges. (If the crumble is turning too brown, cover it with parchment or foil after about 30 minutes.) Remove from the oven and let the pie cool completely on a rack before serving, about 3 hours. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
(Note: I prefer to bake the pie without the crumble to begin with so the crust sets and the cherries begin to soften. Adding the crumble later prevents it from turning too dark.)