By Amy Watsky

The classic s’more meets all-American pie in this fresh and creamy dessert
Photo BY AMY WATSKY

There’s nothing that screams summer more than s’mores. Pair that with some seasonal cherries, and you’ll have the perfect camp-style treat right in the comfort of your own home!

This light and creamy pie is perfect for summer nights, so why not try it for Fourth of July? Cherries go so well with chocolate and almonds — combined with a salty graham cracker crust and a gooey, caramelized marshmallow topping, it culminates into a mouthful of different textures and flavors; I like to call this “sweet umami.”

Pies sound daunting, but as long as you follow the steps, it’ll come together quite easily. Again, this guide can be as easy or as difficult as you’d like. This crust is great for beginners and takes just 10 minutes to prepare.

For those wanting to avoid the extra step of the meringue topping, store-bought marshmallows work as a great substitute and fit perfectly into the s’mores theme. If you have extra from the cherry filling, the leftovers work great as a jam or mixed into a savory red wine reduction in stews or grilled meats.

For those who want to make this vegan, simply replace the egg yolks with an extra few tablespoons of almond milk and some more cornstarch, and replace the butter and chocolate with their vegan substitutes. I chose to avoid heavy cream and whole milk, something typically used in custard pies, and substituted almond milk — a lighter, recently popularized pantry staple.

Some recommendations for sourcing ingredients:

Murray Family Farms sells an amazing variety of cherries at their stand at the Mar Vista, Venice Beach, Santa Monica or Culver City farmers markets. Hopf Chocolate, at the Mar Vista Farmers Market, sells handmade vegan chocolate, perfect for those who want to make this pie vegan. Their 80% dark chocolate almond sea salt bar would be a perfect topping.

Recipe Guide

For the Crust

• 1 package of Graham crackers

• A few pretzels, Lotus Biscoff cookies, or any type of crunchy cookie you have laying around

• 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds

• 6 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter

• ¼ teaspoon of salt

For the Filling

• Cherries, 1 cup pitted and halved

• Orange liqueurs (optional)

• 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

• 1/3 cup of slivered almonds

• 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (I like using the extra-dark kind)

• 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, separated

• ½ cup of almond milk

• 2 egg yolks (Keep the whites for the meringue, if making)

• ½ cup of sugar

• 2 ounces of melted baking dark chocolate

• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

• 1 teaspoon of almond extract (optional)

• ¼ teaspoon of salt

Toppings

• 2 egg whites for the meringue (from the eggs used in the filling)

• 1/3 cup of sugar

• 1 teaspoon of vanilla

• A pinch of cream of tartar (optional; it just helps with the process of egg whipping)

• 2 ounces of dark chocolate

• 10 cherries with the stems on

• A handful of almond slivers

• Marshmallows (For those not making the meringue topping)

• Mint (optional — adds a nice vibrant touch)

• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, blend together the Graham crackers, crunchy cookies, almond slivers, and salt until no chunks remain. For those who don’t have a food processor, place all of the ingredients in a plastic bag and smash it with a mallet or rolling pin until evenly crushed.

• While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the melted butter until the mixture starts to come together. You’ll know it’s ready when you can pinch the mixture and it sticks together easily. If it seems too dry, feel free to add an extra tablespoon of melted butter.

• For this recipe, I like to use a 10-inch metal tart pan with a removable bottom, but any pie or quiche pan will work. Grease the pan with some melted butter, and dump the crust mixture in. To form the crust, it’s best to start with the sides. Take a smooth-bottom cup and press the mixture up the sides of the pan, making sure the sides are even all the way around. Spread the remaining mixture evenly along the bottom. Before pressing in, place a generous layer of slivered almonds on top of the mixture. This will prevent the bottom crust from becoming soggy.

• Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. If using a tart pan with a removeable bottom, I recommend placing the pan on a baking sheet for easy transportation. Let it cool and harden on the counter while you make the filling and turn the oven down to 325.

• First, start with the cherries. Place them in a saucepan with the liqueur if using, and brown sugar over medium high heat until bubbling. After 5 to 10 minutes, they should release their juices and break down slightly. Combine one tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water, and pour it into the cherry mixture, stirring until thick. Set aside to cool.

• Whisk the eggs, sugar, and almond milk together in a glass bowl until combined. Add in the cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, vanilla, and almond extract if using. Slowly drizzle in the chocolate, whisking until just combined.

• Evenly spread the cherry filling onto the bottom of the crust. Gently pour the chocolate mixture over the cherries and bake it in the oven for 25 minutes. The pie is done once the center is set and jiggles slightly. Put it in the fridge for at least 4 to 6 hours.

• Before serving the pie, prepare your preferred toppings. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together, and dip the cherries in. Place on a plate lined with wax paper and put it in the fridge or freezer for 5 minutes.

• Boil a few inches of water in a medium saucepan. In a heat-proof bowl, combine the reserved egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar if using. Place over the simmering water and whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved.

• Take the bowl off the heat, and whip until it holds stiff peaks. For those who don’t want to do this, using marshmallows work just as well!

• To assemble the pie, start with the marshmallow/meringue portion first. If using meringue, either pipe it or dump it on the center of the chilled pie. If dumping, use a knife to create peaks. If using marshmallows, simply place as many as you’d like on top. Torch the meringue or marshmallows until golden brown. If you don’t have a torch, broil it in the oven until golden brown. Top with the chocolate-covered cherries, a handful of slivered almonds, and a grating of chocolate to serve.

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