If you hold up your right hand, palm facing you, it's the quick reference guide to locations in Wisconsin. Follow the bottom of your thumb to the middle of your palm and that's where I live. Chicago is down at your wrist. And the thumb? Well that's Door County. The peninsula juts out and separates Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Green Bay (go Pack!) is at the bottom of your thumb followed by Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Sister Bay with Gills Rock at the tip. My parents and grandparents grew up in the Green Bay area and spent lot of time in Door County. As kids we spent at least one week there each summer camping in Peninsula State Park. A gem of the Wisconsin State Park system. Every family has their favorite spots. We spent days on the lake side swimming in cold Lake Michigan at a tiny county park.
Door County is famous for several things. Just to name a few... 1. Beautiful beaches and sunsets 2. Scandinavian Restaurants and Culture 3. Fish Boils 4. Cherry Orchards 5. And last but not least, Cherry Pie
It's safe to say that 99.9% of Door County restaurants have a cherry dessert on their menu. Most have a cherry pie served warm with ice cream.
Orchards sell freshly picked cherries and many have pick-your-own. Shortly after we were married, Gary and I visited Door County. I couldn't wait to show him Sand Bay Town Park, the goats on top of Al Johnson's Swedish restaurant, take the ferry to Washington Island, and pick cherries. It's easy I told him. We just get buckets, reach up in the trees and fill our buckets with the tart, bright red fruit. Our trip was great and the cherries were abundant. We quickly picked a few buckets and brought them home for family and a few pies.
The last few years have been tough on the cherry crop. Early thaws followed by sudden snow and storms have made the harvests small to non-existent. This year is a great year. The long spring brought many blossoms. The trees are full of cherries! Last week our friend made a trip to the peninsula and brought home a bucket of cherries.
For those of you close enough to get in on cherry season, here's a pie recipe. For those too far away, pick up a bag of frozen cherries and join the fun. Even if you've never make a pie. Let's do this!
First, you'll most likely need to pit the cherries. If you have a cherry pitter, you're in business. If not, a hairpin or paperclip will work. Slide the rounded end into the top of the cherry and pull of the pits. Pit the cherries over the cherry bowl so you save some of the cherry juice.
I know what you're thinking. The pie sounds great, but a crust? I'm including an all butter crust recipe for your called Pate Brisee. If you're not quite ready for that, it's a-ok to purchase a refrigerated crust. The crust will happen one day.
If you're making the Pâte Brisée, you'll cut the butter together add the wet ingredients into the well and chop the dough together. Here's the dough lined up, just before it gets smeared on the counter to combine.
Then using a technique called Frisee, the crust is smeared between the heal of your hand the work surface to layer the flour and butter. The butter will melt in the oven and push the layers of flour apart, creating a flaky, tender crust.
I added a few blueberries to the cherries to make the crust a bit fuller. Here's the fruit just before it went into the pie crust.
To print this recipe, click HERE
Pâte Brisée (Sweet Pastry Dough)
Makes one 10 inch tart crust (double recipe for 2 pie crusts)
200 g flour
100 g butter, cold
20 g sugar
4 g salt
1 TBSP water, cold
vanilla - a dash if desired
Using a knife or bench scraper, cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces. On your work surface, make a pile with the butter and flour. Cut the flour and butter together until you have pea sized pieces. Work quickly so the butter does not get soft or warm. Gather the butter/flour mixture and make a circle with a well in the center. It will look like a flat wide volcano, with a three to four inch open space in the center. The chefs called this a fountain. Into the center add the water, egg, sugar and salt. With your fingers, swish these ingredients together until you feel that the salt and sugar are dissolved. Using the pastry/bench scraper, cut the liquid into the flour and butter. This is when you’ll find out if your countertop is level! The mixture will be shaggy and streaks and bits of butter.
Line the dough up in a long row (left to right) in front of you. The line will be about two inches thick, an inch high, and about twelve inches wide. Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough straight ahead across your work surface taking about 1/3 of the line of dough each pass. Work left to right ... or right to left. Once all the dough has been smeared, gather it back into the line and smear again. You’ll make about two to three passes. There will still be a few streaks of butter in the dough. Flatten the dough into a disk about 6 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper, if you plan to use the same day. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for twenty to thirty minutes.
Here's a tip: The French term for smearing the dough is fraiser (freh-zey). Rather than mixing the dough, it creates layers of butter and flour. When the butter heats, it melts and becomes steam which pushes the layers of flour apart creating a nice flaking crust. Keeping the ingredients cold and chopping rather than mixing will keep the dough light and flaky. Over working the dough will develop the gluten making the dough tough and elastic. Resting the dough will make it much easier to roll.
Door Country Cherry Pie
4 cups pitted tart cherries
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp granulated sugar to sprinkling on the crust
1 batch double crust pie dough - your choice
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
After the cherries are pitted, drain off most of the juice, and add the cornstarch, sugar, salt and extract. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Roll the bottom pie crust and place in the bottom of the pie plate. I would recommend a 9" pie plate, not too deep.
Place the cherries and most of the juice in the crust.
Roll the top crust and drape over cherries. Trim the top crust about 1/2 inch past the edge of the pan. Turn it under the bottom crust and with your index finger and thumb of one hand, press and pinch the crust around the other index finger. Make five or six inch slits on the top of the crust.
Brush the crust with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Place the pie on a parchment paper or silicone mat lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F, and bake until juices bubble out the top slits, about 30 minute more. If the crust starts to become too brown, tent the pie with foil or just make strips of foil to protect the edges from becoming too dark. Cool completely. It's best to serve a pie the day after it's made so the juices can thicken. You'll have a much prettier piece of pie.
Let me know your favorite Door County memories!
If you're heading to Door County, here are some of my favorite spots.
The Whistling Swan - A beautiful Inn and Restaurant.
The White Gull Inn - Another great place to sleep and eat.
For libations, try JJ's La Puerto (Door, get in?!), Bayside Tavern, of the C&C Supper Bowl
The best smoked fish in Door County is at Charlie's Smokehouse, Gills Rock
The only place I've ever picked cherries is at The Cherry Hut
For a fun day trip, head to Washington Island. Just a ferry ride away.
For more on Door County...
Be safe and be kind. Happy Travels!