(14.5 ounce) cans TART cherries (about 4 cups)**
cup quick-cooking tapioca
teaspoon almond extract
teaspoon vanilla extract
tablespoons salted butter, cut into chunks
For the top
milk, for brushing the crust
tablespoon coarse sugar
For the filling:
Drain the cherries well. Add them to a medium size bowl and stir in sugar, salt, tapioca, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Let sit 15 minutes while you make the crust.
For the crust:
Measure out 1/4 cup water into a glass measuring cup and stick it in the freezer.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.
Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut in the butter and shortening. Cut until it looks like coarse crumbs with pea-size pieces of butter. Don't overdo it!
In a small bowl beat one egg. Pour out half (into the sink or into another container, or heck, into a frying pan. You can also save it to brush the crust later). You can just eyeball it.
Add the half beaten egg to the cold water that you put in the freezer. Beat it together, then add it to the shortening mixture. Stir until it is just coming together, then use floured hands to knead it once or twice (only to make it come together). Divide the dough in half. Put half in the fridge.
Generously sprinkle flour onto a sheet of parchment paper or pastry cloth. Roll the dough into a circle with a rolling pin, using as much flour as you need so that it doesn't stick. It should be about 13-14 inches across. Invert the parchment paper onto a 9-inch pie pan and gently peel off the paper. (Or roll the dough onto a rolling pin and unroll into the pan.) Arrange the pie crust and gently tuck the overhanging dough underneath the edges to create a crust. Pinch or crimp the edges with your thumbs or a fork.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. (We will lower the temperature later.)
Add the cherry filling to the pie crust. Cut 2 tablespoons of butter into chunks and sprinkle it over the top of the filling. Stick the pie in the fridge while you make the top crust.
Use a a rolling pin to roll the second half of the pie dough into a (roughly) 12 inch circle. Make sure your surface is well floured!
Use a sharp knife to make 5 swirly stripes on the right side of your circle. Look at the photos; the stripes take up about 3/4 of the pie, so measure out how long you want the longest one in the middle to be and make them all that same length. Mine were 6 inches. (You can either trim them or tuck them under your crust; I don't believe in trimming pie crusts so I tucked.)
Arrange the stripes onto the pie, starting with the center stripe and moving out. Tuck into the crust.
Use a small star-shaped cookie cutter to make stars out of the rest of the dough (you may not use all of it.) Place the stars in the middle of the pie first and move outward from there. It doesn't need to be perfect guys. Your friends will be impressed no matter what at this point. :)
Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of the crust with milk. OR you can brush the crust with the leftover half-egg from the dough.
Sprinkle the pie with coarse sugar.
Create a crust shield by getting a square piece of aluminum foil about the size of your pie. Fold it in half, then in half again (quarters). Use scissors to cut the not-folded edges into a rounded edge. Then cut out the middle. (see photos). Unfold it and you should have a circle of foil with a hole in the middle. Place the foil over the crust of your pie and crimp it down over the edges.
Place your pie in the oven; make sure to put it on a baking sheet in case it overflows.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for another 30-35 minutes (a total of about 50 minutes). The pie is done when the top and edges are golden brown. I never removed the foil.
Remove the pie from the oven and let cool for about 1-3 hours before slicing. Usually after one hour a fruit pie is still liquid-y, but this one does pretty well at being sliced warm (thank you, tapioca!). You can speed this up by sticking it in the fridge or freezer.
*You can use all shortening, or any combination of shortening and butter that you like. This is the combo I like.
**You can buy the Oregon brand tart cherries (14.5 oz) at most nice grocery stores (in the canned fruit section). But Morello cherries are even better; you can find them in 12 ounce jars at Trader Joe's. Use 3 jars and drain well. I've never tried it, but I've read you can also use thawed and drained frozen tart cherries. (Just make sure you don't use sweet cherries)