Now, here's a timely recipe to try out my One Pie Dough to Rule Them All recipe I gave you last night. Try it before the fleeting cherry season is over. Do try, even if you're one of those who couldn't stand the generic, gloopy cherry pie - I'm looking at you Matt. Because this recipe, this ain't your usual, generic cherry pie. It might even be the best cherry pie you'll ever tasted. You try it and tell me.
The secret to this pie is the spices. When I was tinkering with my cherry pie recipe, I thought adding some spices to it would be fun. So I went to my spice rack and found a blend that I made for my French spiced bread, Pain d'Epices. It's got the usual cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, but also with a generous amount of ginger powder, giving it an interesting, unusual character. It turned out beautifully in the first cherry pie I baked for the season. Now I won't ever bake my cherry pie without it again.
Is it hubris to call this a perfect pie dough recipe? Well, it is perfect. And do you know what's perfect about it? You can do it too. Yes, YOU. I don't care what kind of sordid, tragic past you've had with other pie dough recipes. You can forget it all and start anew with this one. It will become your One Pie Dough to Rule Them All: pies, tarts, galettes, pop-tarts, you name it. It will be the easiest and most forgiving dough you've ever handled. It will be flaky and tender, yet somehow possess the strength of character not to crumble under pressure like other wimpy doughs. Your slice of pie or galette will stay beautifully in tact to serve, only to surrender into tender, flaky, buttery, delicious crumbs as you bite into it.
Forget all the pernickety details everyone tells you about how to make a pie dough. You won't need to keep all the ingredients at precisely five degrees below zero. You need not coddle it like a new born kitten. You'll put on your fiercest dominatrix attitude and you shall beat this dough into submission. And, yes, it will like it too.
No, there's no secret ingredient: no vinegar, no shot of vodka (but for, perhaps, a celebratory one at the end). There's nothing here out of the ordinary. There will be three ingredients: salted butter (yes you read that right, SALTED butter), plain all-purpose flour, and a little bit of water. That's it. The recipe is so easy, do it twice and you'll remember it by heart. You'll do it in the summer. You'll do it in the winter. You'll do it for something sweet. You'll do it for something savory. Heck, you'll do it just for the fun of it.
Here's an easy, delicious and totally adorable dessert to do this weekend, fromage blanc cheesecake, baked into cute little jars. You can make it even more lovely by topping with roasted fruits, in this case I use tangy sweet nectarines scented with lemon verbena. Nothing stops you from making this your own by using a combination of fruits, herbs, and even nuts of your choice. What makes this cheesecake truly special, besides its oh-my-god-this-is-adorableness quality, is the luscious texture, like caressing you with satin, and the fact that you can make it by pretty much dumping all the ingredients in your food processor.
This is also a recipe that exemplifies my thieving ways as a cook. I lift ideas, recipes, presentation tricks and others from cook books, kind friends, talented chefs I know, and restaurants I love, to mix, match, and generally muck with them until I come up with something I can roughly call my own. I'm a polite thief, mind you, I always give credit to those I borrow from. For this one, the fromage blanc cheesecake recipe is adapted from the one given to me by my friend Mark Denham, whose new restaurant Bishop cannot open fast enough for me. (Later this year he said.) The idea to serve it in a jar is shamelessly cribbed from another friend, the Manresa pastry chef Deanie Hickox. Deanie has been doing a cheesecake-in-a-jar dessert for ages. I adore the idea, but her recipe requires things that are not widely available for home cooks, so I adapted Mark's instead.
So there, that's how this recipe came to be. It might just be the summer dessert for me this year. It can be made well in advance, and used as a blank canvas to play up a variety of poached/roasted/stewed fruits. You can even top with store-bought preserves directly from the jar. Fresh berries, perhaps macerated briefly with a bit of sugar, lemon juice, and/or liquor would do very well too. Also good with this, my strawberries in hibiscus and vanilla syrup.