Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

Oh, where have you been, Charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife, she’s the joy of my whole life
But she’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother
Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she bake a cherry pie, Charming Billy?
She can bake a cherry pie, quick as a cat can wink her eye
But she’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother
Or so goes the song…
I do love cherry pie. As a young adolescent, I used to make one every week, using canned pie filling (it was the sixties—everything came out of a can) and pastry made with Tenderflake lard. Since then, I’ve discovered the joys of pastry made with butter and fruit pie fillings thickened with instant tapioca or a combination of flour and cornstarch. Pies we have aplenty in our house! They’re so much fun to make and especially to decorate with pastry cut-outs. So when I came across Elegant Pie: Transform Your Favorite Piies into Works of Art by Karin Pfeiff-Boschek, I had to give some of those beauties a try.
The first one I made was The Beauty of Fruit, with a cherry filling topped with thin slices of Granny Smith apples and black plums. The instructions are very clear, and the pie is not difficult to make. Her pastry recipe is superb; very cooperative. We parted company on the cherry pie filling, however, as I was a bit startled at the amount of sugar called for. I turned to King Arthur’s Flour for further guidance and ended up crafting my own filling, partially cooking and fully cooling it before it became the base for the apples and plums.
The leafcutter I used wasn’t quite up to the task. Besides being a bit small, it’s meant for fondant, so the indentations are shallower than I would have liked for this application. I tend to make more pies in the fall, and my pie leafcutters are back in Canada. Pastry leafcutters are available here and here from Amazon.
It turned out well and didn’t last very long! We had friends over for lobster rolls and salads on the beach, then came back to the house for a cup of tea and some pie. Yum!
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Cherry, Apple and Plum Pie

This elegant pie is as delicious as it is beautiful. A flaky butter crust enrobes cherry pie filling with a spiral of Granny Smith apple slices, crowned with a topping of pastry leaves.


  • Yield: makes one 11" pie. 1x



For the pastry (makes two 11” pie crusts)

  • 225 g or 8 oz unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes, kept cold
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
  • 350 g or 2 ½ c all-purpose flour (use one made from hard spring wheat, 12% protein, such as Gold Medal or King Arthur
  • 1 tsp fine-grained sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg

For the pie filling

  • 1125 to 1350 g (56 c) sour cherries, packed in water or frozen
  • 150 g or ¾ c granulated sugar
  • 43 g or ¼ c instant tapioca
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 24 Granny Smith apples
  • 68 large black or red plums


Make the pastry

  1. Break the egg into a 2 c measuring cup and whisk. Add the vinegar and enough cold water to make 135 ml or 4 1/2 oz of liquid. Whisk until well combined. Place in the fridge.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until lumps of butter are pea-sized. With the machine running, quickly add the egg mixture through the chute. Let run for a few seconds until the machine makes a heavy rumbling noise. Turn off immediately; do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough into a large, cold bowl. Carefully press into a large ball, closing cracks and forcing out air. Cut the ball in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Prepare the fruit fillings

  1. In a medium pan, combine the drained cherries and 2/3 c of the water in which they were soaking, along with the sugar and tapioca. Heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens (5 minutes). Place the pan in the sink partially filled with iced water and allow the cherry mixture to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Add the squeezed lemon half and enough water to cover thin slices of two Granny Smith apples. Core the apples and slice very thinly and evenly, depositing the slices in the lemon water. Set aside. Pit and thinly slice four large black plums, putting the slices onto a plate. Set aside.

Assemble the pie

  1. On a lightly floured board, roll out one of the balls of pastry to 1/8″ thickness. Fit it into an 11″ tart tin with a removable bottom. Roughly trim the pastry to 1″ beyond the rim of the tart shell. Tuck the excess between the pastry and the tart tin to make an even outer crust. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and transfer to the fridge. (The parchment paper will make clean-up a lot easier).
  2. Roll out the second ball of pastry and cut out approximately 50 leaves, placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate.
  3. Fill the pastry-lined tart shell with the cooled cherry pie filling and smooth the top. Arrange alternate slices of apple and plum around the perimeter of the shell. Place leaves around the outside edge of the pie and in concentric circles in the centre, starting at the edge of the apple and plum slices and working your way in. Place the pie in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  5. Beat an egg with a few drops of water. Apply egg wash to the leaves using a small artist’s paintbrush. Bake the pie until the filling is bubbling and the leaves are golden brown. If browning too quickly, loosely cover the pastry with foil.
  6. Let the pie cool completely before slicing and serving.
  • Author: Helen Kain