Fox Valley Cooks: Pizza with a cherry surprise
By Judy Buchenot For The Beacon-News June 26, 2013 4:16PM
Lynn Coughlin places pastry cutouts on top of her cherry pizza pie. | Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media
Cherry Pizza Pie
2 cups flour
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 to 6 tablespoons water
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 20-ounce cans cherry-pie filling or one batch homemade filling
1 teaspoon almond extract
Cut flour and shortening together until small crumbs form. Sprinkle water over mixture and stir with a fork until the dough holds together. Knead a few times on a floured surface. Roll out dough to about a 14-inch circle. Place on a 12-inch pizza pan and flute edges. Prick dough with a fork to keep it flat. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Roll out leftover dough and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Sprinkle with sugar and bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
To make filling, allow cream cheese to soften. Cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in nuts. Spread on crust and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until mixture is set. Allow to cool. If using canned filling, stir in 1 teaspoon almond extract. Spoon canned or homemade filling over the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until chilled and serve.
Updated: June 28, 2013 10:47AM
Life is more than a bowl of cherries for Lynn Coughlin. With two healthy cherry trees in the backyard of her Aurora home, Coughlin usually is dealing with buckets of cherries.
“We planted two cherry trees when we moved into our home about 30 years ago,” Coughlin recalls. “It was two or three years before we started getting cherries, but they have been steady since then.”
Coughlin, 62, wanted to have the fruit trees because she grew up in a family where there was plenty of homegrown produce. Her father had a garden plot in the family yard and at her grandfather’s farm.
“He grew strawberries, but I thought they would be too much work,” she said. “I haven’t fertilized or pruned these trees, and they still do well. I don’t even spray them anymore. Sometimes there are a few worms but not too many.”
The cherries are usually ready for picking around the Fourth of July. Coughlin uses her thumbnail to pit the cherries one by one. She rinses them and measures them into freezer bags. She usually puts about four cups into a bag since many of her recipes call for that amount.
“It is important to try to get all of the air out of the bag before freezing the cherries so less ice crystals form,” she notes.
The frozen cherries can be kept for a year or more. Coughlin always allows frozen cherries to thaw before using them in a recipe.
The cherries are sour, which are used mainly for cooking. “I use them in tarts, pies, fruit crumble and other desserts,” she said.
When a recipe calls for a can of cherry-pie filling as a topping, Coughlin makes her own with her cherries.
She mixes together 3/4 cup sugar and 4 tablespoons corn starch. She drains the cherries to get 3/4 cup juice, which she mixes into the sugar mixture. She cooks this on low until it becomes thick and clear. She then adds another 3/4 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of cherry gelatin and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. She then adds 4 cups of pitted cherries. At this point, the mixture can go into a pie shell and be baked. But if she wants to use the cherries as a topping for a dessert, she simmers the cherries in the sauce for about 30 minutes until it is thick. The mixture must be frequently stirred to prevent burning. After cooling, the mixture is thick like canned filling.
Sour pie cherries are available in the grocery store, and there are several farms in Michigan where people can pick their own cherries. Picking them can sometimes seem to be faster than pitting the cherries, Coughlin notes.
With an ample supply of cherries, Coughlin is always on the lookout for cherry recipes. One of her favorites is a cherry pizza pie.
This dessert with a nutty cream-cheese filling is baked in a 12-inch pizza pan. The dessert can be covered with whipped topping, but Coughlin prefers to simply place pastry dough cutouts on the cherries.
“The cutouts keep the saran wrap from sticking to the cherries when you cover it to put in the refrigerator,” she explains.
She shares the recipe, which uses two cans of cherry-pie filling or a four-cup batch of her homemade cherry pie filling described above. Other flavors of pie filling such as peach or apple also can be used for the recipe.
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