When you're off sugar but a slice of pie is calling your name
I really wanted a piece of pie. Since I have avoided wheat by going gluten-free and have consumed less than one tablespoon of sugar every day for more than two years, pie -- any pie -- started looking pretty good.
A Thanksgiving pumpkin pie lit my pie-craving fuse, and a beautiful, homemade pecan pie late in December made my palate explode with the desire to have just one piece of pie.
While shopping, I discovered frozen gluten-free pie shells, which started me thinking. Even though it has few ingredients (usually three; flour, fat and water), good pie crust isn't that easy to make, which is the main reason I'd avoided trying to make gluten-free pie dough from scratch.
My local supermarket had put bottled, no-sugar-added tart pie cherries on sale, and since a cherry pie is a personal favorite, I decided to go for it, even though two bottles of tart cherries would run me almost $10.
I headed to the internet to look at cherry pie filling recipes. Sure, it would have been easier to use canned, commercial, no-sugar-added cherry pie filling. However, I don't use chemical sugar substitutes, like Splenda or NutraSweet, which meant no canned, artificially sweetened pie filling for me. My sugar substitute: organic stevia.
I found the best cherry pie filling recipe from Taste of Home magazine's website: tasteofhome.com/recipes/homemade-cherry-pie-filling.
The recipe used lemon juice and no almond extract. I dropped the lemon and added the extract. For me, a cherry pie doesn't taste quite right without the almond extract.
The person who submitted the recipe may have had a cherry tree just outside their kitchen door since the recipe called for four cups of pitted "fresh" tart cherries. That's when my supermarket on-sale cherries came in handy.
The recipe used water in which the "fresh" cherries needed to be cooked. I went one better and drained the bottled cherries and used all the unsweetened cherry liquid with some added water for my cherry pie filling, giving my pie a big flavor boost.
My last hurdle was the gluten-free crust. I wasn't sure how to get the frozen top crust out of its aluminum pan. I loosened the edges of the crust and flipped it over my cherry-filled pie crust.
Unfortunately, only part of the crust came out. The rest I picked out of the pan, piece-by-piece, and cobbled it together.
In the end, this worked well since most cherry pie crusts are a lattice, letting steam come off the filling, which my crust also did.
Finally, in case my pie leaked into my oven, I placed it on a pan. That turned out to be a smart move.
How was my pie? Impressive. The frozen crust came out flaky and golden brown. The filling is perfect, as good as any cherry pie filling I've ever tasted. The bonus: Without added sugar, I kissed 520 calories goodbye.
Just for fun, since I bought more on-sale tart cherries, I'm going to try to make a gluten-free crust from scratch. Stay tuned.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The frozen gluten-free pie crust for this no-sugar-added cherry pie was a little harder to work with but still tasted good.
- Courtesy of Don Mauer
No-Sugar-Added Cherry Pie
21 packets organic Stevia (equal to 2/3 cup granulated sugar)
2 (12-ounce) bottles (no-sugar-added) red tart cherries
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon almond extract
2 9-inch frozen gluten-free pie shells
Place the oven rack in the center position and begin heating the oven to 400 degrees.
While the oven heats: Drain cherry juice from the cherries into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add water to equal 1½ cups liquid. Add cherry juice and water mixture, cornstarch, salt and stevia to a 4- or 5-quart saucepan; whisking together until combined. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir in the drained cherries and cook, gently stirring, until the filling begins to thicken. Stir in the almond extract. Set aside.
Remove the frozen pie shells from the freezer and remove wrapping. Fill one of the shells with the filling. As carefully as possible loosen the remaining pie shell from its pan and flip it over onto the filling; pressing the shell's edges together all around.
Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips), place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and place the pie on a wire cooling rack. Cool completely.
Nutrition values per serving: 250 calories (36% from fat), 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrates (36 net carbs), 4 g sugars, 0 g fiber, 1.8 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 319 mg sodium.
Adapted from tasteofhome.com