Euskal Pastelas

Basque Cherry Pies

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IT WAS LATE ON A RAINY SUNDAY MORNING AND SAN SEBASTIÁN’S BEST-DRESSED WERE WANDERING THE STREETS OF THE OLD QUARTER. PASTELERIA OTAEGUI WAS A DESTINATION FOR MANY. THE FRONT WINDOW OF THIS ELEGANT PASTRY SHOP WAS FILLED WITH ORDERED ROWS OF CAKES, TARTS AND LITTLE PIES. THERE WERE LITTLE FRUIT CAKES COOKED IN CYLINDERS AND WRAPPED IN PRINTED BAKING PAPER, SO EASILY FINISHED IN A FEW BITES; THERE WERE DELICIOUS TARTS WITH PASTRY THAT WAS SHORT ON THE CRUST, BUT WET AND FLAKY NEAR THE FILLING… HERE ARE SOME WONDERFUL LITTLE PIES WITH A VERY EASY-TO-MAKE PASTRY. THE DRIED CHERRIES FOR THE FILLING ARE NOW AVAILABLE IN THE CITY MARKETS, BUT PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE SOME FRUIT CONSERVE AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO MAKING THE FILLING IN THIS RECIPE.

Ingredients

  • 250 g (9 oz/ cups) dried cherries
  • 300 g (10½ oz/1⅓ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 350 g (12 oz/ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted, plus extra, to dust
  • 200 g (7 oz) unsalted butter, softened and chopped
  • 40 ml ( fl oz) dark rum

Method

Place the cherries in a small saucepan with 60 g ( oz/¼ cup) of the sugar, the brandy, lemon zest and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) water. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and cook slowly over low-medium heat for 45 minutes, or until a loose ‘jam’ forms. Remove from the heat and cool.

Meanwhile, lightly beat two of the eggs in a bowl. Add the flour, butter, rum and remaining sugar and stir until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a ball, dust with a little extra flour, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Roll the pastry into a large log on a well-floured surface. Slice into twelve rounds about 1 cm (½ inch) thick, then roll each round out until about 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick.

Grease and flour six 10 cm (4 inch) heavy-based pie tins. Use half the pastry rounds to line the tins, then spoon the cherry jam into the pastry shells. Cover with another round of pastry and press the sides to seal well.

Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush it over the pie tops. Using a small sharp knife, score the tops for decoration. Set the pie tins on a heavy-based baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.