“Twin Peaks” and a Damn Good (Vegan) Cherry Pie
“Diane, if you ever get up this way, that cherry pie is worth a stop.”
The second installment in “Media Consumption,” a series of essays and recipes that take culinary inspiration from our favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books
You can walk backwards from countless great TV shows and end up hitting Twin Peaks — from Pretty Little Liars to Veronica Mars to Top of the Lake, such is the aesthetic and thematic influence of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s show. And today, that influence is also culinary. While I was very much alive when Twin Peaks aired on television in 1990, I was by no means the target audience for it — I was more absorbed by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Fantasia, and my time would come many years later.
And now I adore this show. Twin Peaks was and remains a revelation of a series: endearing yet terrifying, soapy yet cinematic, surreal yet procedural. The character who stands where these points meet is FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, who comes to the town to investigate a shocking murder. Portrayed by Kyle McLachlan, Cooper is a curious cat — sleek-haired and handsome, convinced his dreams are evidence, unfailingly positive yet reservedly polite, enigmatic — and just very, very different. His optimism and enthusiasm is particularly unfettered when he talks about food, and he’s at his most joyous in regards to the region’s pies. Such is his love of cherry pie in particular that it has become emblematic of the show itself along with other recurring motifs like black coffee, owls, and red curtains.
If you’ve never watched this show, I envy you! I remember when I first encountered its heightened, noir-ish dialogue, oddly loveable characters and gorgeous visual style, and it gave me that same feeling as when you hear heavy rain on the roof, comforting yet thrilling simultaneously. Incidentally, this show pairs particularly well with rain on the roof, a big blanket, and a clear schedule.
I am as enthusiastic about Twin Peaks as Dale Cooper is about pie, and am currently amidst yet another rewatch. Many people have been driven to make cherry pie because of Twin Peaks, including myself back in 2011 — in fact, that was the first and only time I’d ever tried cherry pie. Until now.
I was inspired by Twin Peaks once more, this time to make a great vegan cherry pie that Dale Cooper would be proud of. Don’t get me wrong, Cooper was also notably fond of bacon and doughnuts, but I think his overall willingness to accept people for who they are means he’d appreciate this pie just as much as one from a local diner. Moreover, I thought this pie was delicious, an opinion which hopefully holds as much weight as that of a fictional character.
I’ve never attempted homemade vegan pastry before but I was bolstered by reading Sarah Ridgeway’s story here on Tenderly about this very subject. My recipe uses coconut oil and is made super quickly in a food processor. In order to make the pastry special — as much a feature as the filling it contained — I added a little orange juice and zest, cinnamon, ground almonds and vanilla. This makes a crisp, short pastry that melts in the mouth and supports the filling without going soggy.
I made this pie twice, once with cherries from a jar and once with fresh cherries. The fresh cherry pie had stronger flavour and much better texture, but using the jar of cherries was a lot easier and cheaper, so you work with what is accessible to you. The second time inexplicably went a bit disastrously: the gas ran out on the stove while I was simmering the cherries, I cut my finger on the food processor, I got flour on the cat, and the pastry just wouldn’t behave — I ended up having to re-roll and press it into place so many times I thought I’d never get it into the oven. I’m so glad I persisted though, because the pie turned out delicious. I’m sharing this to reassure you that even in the face of recipe-related adversity you can breathe deep and keep going — but if you want to jump ahead and use your own preferred bought pie pastry I absolutely won’t hold it against you.
A Damn Good Vegan Cherry Pie
- Three cups pitted fresh cherries
- ½ cup sugar
- Two tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon almond essence
- ¼ teaspoon citric acid (optional, but really gives the syrup a kick)
- Two tablespoons cornstarch
- Three tablespoons ground almonds
- 3/4 cup refined coconut oil (as in, coconut oil that has had the coconut flavour removed)
- Two cups plain flour
- One teaspoon baking powder
- Three tablespoons ground almonds
- Three tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- One tablespoon orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Three tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
- Place the cherries, sugar, orange juice and water into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over a low heat. Allow to simmer for two minutes, stirring as you go, then remove from the heat and stir in the almond essence and citric acid. At this point you can transfer the cherries and their syrup to an airtight container and refrigerate until you need them, or just proceed to the next step if you’re on a roll.
- Set your oven to 350F, and place a baking tray on the middle shelf to heat up with it — this will help cook pastry base better. Mix the remaining filling ingredients together with 3 tablespoons of the cherry syrup in a small bowl and set aside.
- To get started on the pastry, scoop the coconut oil into small pieces (or roughly chop it, if it’s quite solid) and place in a bowl with the flour. Pop the bowl into the freezer for about 20 minutes or up to an hour
- Tip the cold coconut oil and flour into a food processor bowl along with the baking powder, ground almonds, cinnamon, orange zest and salt. Process on a high speed till the mixture looks sandy, then continue to process while pouring in the orange juice. The mixture should start to form large clumps that hold their shape when you press them between your thumb and finger. You may need to add a little more liquid — if so, use cold water and add just a teaspoon at a time.
- Get two sheets of baking paper and a rolling pin, and tip half the pastry dough onto one of the sheets. Press the dough into a solid round lump, then place the second sheet of paper on top and roll it out to a rough circle that’s a little bigger than your pie dish. Peel off the top layer of baking paper and upend the pastry onto the pie dish, carefully removing the remaining layer of baking paper. Don’t worry if it rips or sticks — just press it into place.
- Repeat with the remaining pastry, pressing it into shape rolling it out into a large circle.
- Spread the syrup and ground almond mixture over the inside of the pastry base and arrange the drained cherries on top. Carefully drape the top sheet of pastry over the cherries and pinch or press down with a fork around the edges. Pierce a couple of holes in the centre with a fork or sharp knife.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes. I recommend covering with a sheet of tinfoil halfway through to prevent the edges from browning too much.
- Remove the cooked pie from the oven and allow to sit for about fifteen minutes before slicing up and serving.
- If you can’t get fresh fruit, you can use jarred cherries in syrup instead and proceed from step 2.
- If you don’t have a food processor, that’s okay! It’ll just take a bit of extra work and patience. Chill your coconut oil till it’s solid, then finely chop it and freeze along with the flour as per the recipe. Use your fingers to rub the cold coconut oil and flour together and then stir in the remaining ingredients, lightly kneading and pressing the dough till it comes together.
- This recipe is meant to use one orange altogether, for the juice and zest required for the filling and pastry. If your orange isn’t particularly juicy and you don’t have enough, make up the remainder with cold water. You could also consider using lemons instead.
- The remaining cherry syrup can be mixed with sparkling water, added to cocktails, used for poaching stone fruit, whatever you like!
- I found the easiest way to remove the stones from the cherries was to use the loop at the end of a small wire whisk, pushing it in and twisting around seemed to work well at extracting the stones with minimal loss of fruit.