Portrait of a recipe

Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan’s husband is a brilliant cook, so she rarely enters the kitchen. That is, except, to bake. Jennifer has a soft-spot for baking, having inherited a very special pie pastry recipe from her grandmother.  We didn’t press her to divulge her heirloom recipe and instead went straight to Jamie Oliver for inspiration for the pie crust, then scanned the web for a magnificent cherry filling, cherry being a favourite of Jennifer’s.

Jennifer also cooks salads, but we’ll leave that for another day.

  • 500g plain flour

  • 100g icing sugar

  • 250g quality butter cut into small cubes

  • Zest of one lemon

  • Two large free-range eggs, beaten

  • Splash of milk

  • 4.5 cups fresh pitted cherries (alternatively you can use 1.1kg frozen cherries, or four cups of tinned or jarred cherries)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • 1/8 tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1 tbsp thickened cream (optional, to mix with egg yolk for basting the pie)

  • Coarse sugar for dusting


Heat oven to 200C/400F.

Cherry filling

In a large bowl, stir sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon juice and the salt together then add cherries. Gently toss to combine. Set aside.


Sieve the flour from a height on to a clean work surface and sieve the icing sugar over the top. Using your hands and working quickly so the butter doesn’t melt onto your hands, work the cubes of butter into the flour and sugar by rubbing your thumbs against your fingers until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture.

Sarah’s notes: The trick is to cover the flour grains in little coats of butter fat to so that the flour becomes water resistant and doesn’t become soggy.Try adding about half the flour to the butter first to make a paste, then adding the rest of the flour to get good coverage. But remember to work quickly

Mix in lemon zest.

Add the eggs and milk to the mixture and gently work it together till you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly. Don’t work the pastry too much at this stage or it will become elastic and chewy, not crumbly and short. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

Constructing the pie

Remove pie dough from fridge and set one third aside for the the pie lid.

Flour surface of bench top and rolling pin.

Roll out pie base to a base thickness of 0.5cm (make sure you have the right-sized pie dish). Dust with flour as you go.

Roll the pastry onto the rolling pin and off into the pie tin, letting excess hang over the edge.

Tip in fruit filling and brush the edges with egg, or a mixture of egg and cream (this makes the pastry golden).

Roll out the remaining pastry to 0.5cm thick and place on top.

Brush it all over with egg mix and dust it with sugar.

Fold the pastry hanging over the edge back in and crimp and coat with egg mix.

Use knife to cut a cross into the middle of the pie.

Place on the bottom of the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until golden.

Image Credit: By jeffreyw (Mmm…cherry pie Uploaded by Fæ) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons