Longtime readers of this blog may remember last year's orgy of pies on the run-up to Pi Day (March 14th, or 3-14). This March at Casa Free-Ride, there's been less pie making, in large part due to the fact that I'm no longer on sabbatical (either from my job or from coaching soccer).
But the bake-off is on again, so I figured that I needed to feed you all one really good pie (or pie recipe, anyway).
This pie melds three flavors that play very well together: rich chocolate, tart cherries, and almonds. As a bonus, it puts those flavors together in a pie that is rich but not heavy, one that doesn't lean on eggs, or cream cheese, or butter, or milk.
I make this pie with a food processor, but if you don't have one, you can manage with a blender, a heavy rolling pin, and a knife and cutting board.
Almond cookies (approximately 8 ounces)
Melted margarine (approximately 6 ounces), or soy milk (4-6 Tablespoons)
12 ounces tofu*
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup amaretto (or 2 teaspoons almond extract)
Pitted cherries in light syrup (12 ounces when drained)
For the crust:
Pulse the almond cookies in the food processor to turn them into crumbs. (If you can't find almond cookies, you could probably pulse a combination of vanilla cookies and almonds. However, I think the almond cookie flavor is an essential component of the finished pie, so it might be worth hunting down some good almond cookies.)
Pour the crumbs into a pie pan (I used a 10 inch Pyrex pie pan). Mix with enough melted margarine or soy milk to give some crumb-to-crumb adhesion, and pat the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan.
Preheat your oven to 350 oF.
For the filling:
I use these Morello Cherries from Trader Joe's, but any good pitted cherries in light syrup (not super-tart pie cherries, and for the love of all that is good and chocolate-y not canned cherry pie filling) should work.
Drain the cherries. (I'll confess that I usually save the syrup, which I later mix with spiced rum and call a cocktail. No, I'm not proud.)
Fit the food processor with the blade attachment and put the cherries in -- but first, gently squeeze each one with thumb and forefinger to identify any that still retain pits. (We haven't had a batch of mechanically pitted cherries yet that didn't have at least one pit left behind.) Remove any wayward pits, then pulse the cherries a few times until they are coarsely chopped (not pureed).
Transfer the chopped cherries to a bowl and set aside.
Next, melt the semisweet chocolate chips. I melted ours in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave (50% power for about 5 minutes, stirring them at the halfway mark).
Drain the tofu and put it in a food processor (fitted with the standard blade again -- no need to rinse it out after the cherry chopping). Process until it's a smooth puree. Add the brown sugar and amaretto (or almond extract) and process until blended.
Pour in the melted chocolate and process until the mixture is uniform.
Fold in the chopped cherries with a rubber spatula. Then transfer the filling to the crust. (If you have more filling than fits in the pie crust, transfer it to ramekins to bake alongside the pie -- you'll pull them out of the oven sooner, though, since they'll cook more quickly.)
Bake the pie 40-50 minutes, or until the middle is turning the corner from liquid to firming up.
Cool the pie completely. Chill before serving, but bring out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving, else the cold will blunt the interplay of the flavors.
* What kind of tofu to use is a matter of taste. If you want a pie that is silky smooth, opt for silken tofu (which is sold in aseptic packages). If you want something with a texture reminiscent of a ricotta pie, opt for a firm tofu. We split the difference between the extremes with a soft (but not silken) tofu.