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Cherry Streusel & A Trip to Berlin

The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of those defining historical moments of our lifetime and Berlin has always been on my list of cities to visit.  There were aspects of Berlin that surprised me (forgive me, some of these observations may be obvious).  The city is, relatively speaking, new.  Because Berlin was largely destroyed in World War II and then divided for thirty plus years, it is still being rebuilt and much of it is fairly modern.  There are cranes cluttering the skyline and old stands next to new throughout.  The Berlin Wall isn't as I imagined - a wall carefully and neatly dividing a city, like the duct tape line you might have drawn in the room you shared with a sibling.  Instead, the wall snaked throughout the city, pressing up against buildings and homes, blocking windows and dividing families.  You can visit part of the wall that was transformed into the East End Gallery and covered in artwork.  I don't know if Berliners perceive this as touristy, but it was one of our favorite parts of the city... not necessarily the artwork, but seeing the wall in person and thinking about living behind it.  

I loved that, like many places in Europe, everyone rides a bike to get around.  We joined right in and it was the best way to see as much of the city as possible in a short period of time.  There is graffiti everywhere, but it was more art than vandalism.  We didn't really eat traditional German food other than currywurst, which is really more of a Berlin thing than a German thing.  We did eat well while there.  The highlights included a phenomenal Thai dinner at Mao Thai, Korean food at YamYam, delicious pastries at Barcomi's, falafel at Dada, and, my personal favorite, Kado - an entire store devoted to black licorice.  Poor Rob waited patiently as I carefully selected a number of different types of licorice and had an in depth conversation with the owner about salty vs. sweet black licorice.  If only I'd bought more...

While we sampled a wide range of foods in Berlin, we didn't actually have streusel.  But... it is German and this month's Food & Wine magazine included a recipe for stone fruit streusel that I couldn't wait to try.  Usually when I make a crumble or streusel topping, I improvise by mixing sugar and butter and a bit of flour and whatever else I think might work at that moment.  It never tastes bad, but I've never quite achieved the perfect ratio of ingredients.  With this, you get a touch of butter, sugar, and almond in each bite, which I think perfectly complements the cherry filling.  I was also just reminded that I do have a favorite crumble recipe (for when I follow a recipe rather than improvise) and that is this Plum Crumble Recipe (a.k.a. "Plum Crack").  

Cherry Pie with Almond Streusel
Adapted from Food & Wine
Active Time = 45 minutes 
Total Time = 3 hours 15 minutes
Serving = 1 9-inch pie 

A few notes... First, I updated this recipe to include my favorite pie dough recipe, which comes from Cook's Illustrated.  If you'd prefer to use the original, you can find it here.  I am devoted to my Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust recipe and refuse to stray.  You could also use a store-bought crust, of course.  Please note that I updated the quantities below to only yield enough dough for 1 9-inch crush.  Second, the original recipe called for a mix of stone fruit - essentially, whatever looks best at your farmer's market.  For me, the cherries were it so I didn't mix fruits, but I am sure this would be delicious with any stone fruit you find (e.g., peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots).

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/8 cup cold vodka
1/8 cup cold water

1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons slivered almonds
6 tablespoons rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon*
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 1/4 pounds assorted stone fruits cherries, pitted
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cornstarch
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving 

*Note that Rob felt strongly that cinnamon did not belong in a streusel on top of just cherries.  If you don't think cinnamon compliments cherries, omit the cinnamon.  I can see his point, although I thought the streusel was great... and I definitely think cinnamon is the perfect complement to other stone fruit so if you are mixing fruits, I'd leave it in. 

1.  Make the Dough - Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.  Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).  Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.  Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses.  Empty mixture into medium bowl.  Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.  Let dough soften at room temperature prior to rolling.

2. Make the Streusel - In a bowl, combine the brown sugar with the flour, almonds, oats, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and with a pastry cutter or your hands, cut or rub the butter into the mixture evenly.  Refrigerate the streusel.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 14-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  Fold the dough in half and transfer it to a 9-inch glass pie plate.  Unfold the dough and gently press it into the plate.  Trim the overhanging dough to 1/2 inch and fold it under itself; crimp decoratively.  Freeze the pie crust for 10 minutes.

4.  Make the Filling - In a large bowl, toss the pitted cherries with the sugar and lemon juice and let stand for 5 minutes to let the sugar dissolve.  Stir in the cornstarch.  Scrape the cherries into the pie shell in an even layer.  Scatter the streusel evenly on top of the fruit.

5. Bake the cherry pie in the lower third of the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit starts to bubble around the sides.  Check the pie after 20 minutes to see if the crust is burning or darkening too quickly  - I had to cover my crust with tinfoil after 20 minutes.  Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

MAKE AHEAD The pie is best served the same day that it’s made, but it can be refrigerated overnight.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Reader Comments (6)

A black licorice store sounds like heaven! So glad to hear you guys had such a great trip, I really hope to get over there myself sooner rather than later!

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

Jackie, it was heaven. I have been kicking myself for not bringing back more... Europeans seem to appreciate black licorice so much more than Americans!

June 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterDarcy Eden

Darcy, I am so envious of your recent trip! I made a 45 minute drive to Alexandria — so charming — and I felt like a new person. I need to get out of the land of Target-Walmart-Chili's-Applebee's more often.

Also, the streusel looks amazing. And I love Rob's input. He sounds like Ben — brutally honest, which I love. Also, this post is reminding me that I still need to make your plum crumble but maybe with some other stone fruit since plums are not at the markets yet?

And congrats on the house! Can you post a little more about that please?!

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterali

Ali, it was great to get away. Sometimes you just need an adventure!

Thank you so much for the reminder about the plum crumble. I had forgotten about how much I LOVE that dessert and now I know what I'll make for guests on Saturday night. I think it would be delicious with peaches in particular....

The house! I'll definitely post more about it but we don't move until July 8th so I might wait... the best surprise discover so far? There is a HUGE peach tree filled with fruit on the side of the house. Heaven!

June 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterDarcy Eden

A PEACH TREE?!?!?!?! OMGeeeeeeeeeeee. That is incredible Darcy. I would have bought the property just for that tree. I can't wait to hear all about your new house - so exciting!

Your Berlin pictures are amazing. Interesting to know that Berlin has so much ethnic food, or at least a lot more than Zürich. We are buried under Swiss food and the only good ethnic is Italian, and I'm not even sure that counts as ethnic. Hmpf. Zach and I are seriously considering a trip to Berlin early this fall and I'll definitely be in touch if we do decide to go.

This post has also inspired me to start using my bike more...sometimes I get nervous about riding on the street, but really it's a great way to get around. Note to self : buy cute woven baskets for the front and back for all my farmers market goodies! :)

June 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertalley

Oh, Talley, I am glad you share in my excitement. I can't WAIT for the peaches to be ripe... provided that doesn't happen before July 2nd when our tenants move out and the house is mine. I'll be SO SAD if the peaches are gone by the time we move in.

As for Berlin, I'd love to share my thoughts if/when you go. We had a great time and the bike riding was so, so fun. I love that in Europe people just assume there is a cyclist nearby because there are so many of them. Perhaps it is a false sense of safety, but it just feels safer to ride than in the U.S. Get yourself a basket, my dear! I, too, am in the market for a basket (and a cruiser/around town bike)... I think you've inspired my next post!

Can't wait to hear about New Haven.

June 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterDarcy Eden

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