How to make a cherry pie without an oven… in Japan

Guestpost by Carolyn on Jul 25th

Recently I got it in my head that it would be pretty dang neat if I could make a cherry pie and give it to a friend as a birthday present. However, there was one slight problem with this grand idea: my apartment, like many Japanese apartments, doesn't have an oven. My kitchen consists of a sink and two burners. That's it. I don't even have a counter.

So, how does a girl make a cherry pie when she doesn't have an oven? After scouring (which I have used on several occasions when I wanted to cook something and didn't have the recipe on hand), I finally found a cherry pie recipe that didn't require an oven. Instead, you cook the filling over the stove and pour it into the pie crust.

  • Recipe for vanilla wafer crust can be found here
  • Recipe for the cherry pie can be found here

I did run into another snag as I was going over the ingredients needed for the recipe. Let's see if you can spot the problem.

Here are the necessary ingredients:

  • 1 (9 inch) prepared vanilla wafer crust
  • 1 (.25 ounce/7g) package unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) cold water
  • 4 cups (580g) pitted cherries
  • 1 cup (200g) white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (15g) cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons (20ml) lemon juice
  • 3 drops red food coloring

Did you spot where my snag was? If you didn't, I'll give you a hint: it starts with a "p" and ends with "-repared vanilla wafer crust."

My fix: buy small packages of different brands of cookies and determine which one had the most similar consistency and taste of vanilla wafers. It was much more enjoyable, especially since I got to eat all of the cookies that wouldn't have worked out for the crust!

First came making the crust. The ingredients I needed were:

  • 1 1/2 cups (270g) vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1/3 cup (75g) butter

The only directions the recipe gave were as follows: "Combine wafer crumbs and butter or margarine together thoroughly. Press into 9 inch pie plate. Chill until set."

My first order of business was to create my cookie crumbs. I didn't want a crumb explosion in my kitchen, so I sealed a few cookies in a Ziploc bag at a time and then took a rolling pin to the bag. The cookies crumbled extremely well, and it was oddly relaxing to roll them into oblivion. Overall I used 25 cookies, which gave me two cups of crumbs.

The butter I purchased came in individually wrapped pieces, because the sticks of butter were all sold out when I went grocery shopping. This worked out pretty well, because I was able to better control the ratio of butter to cookie crumbs. I left them out at room temperature so they softened a bit and then kneaded the pieces one at a time into the cookie crumbs. I ended up using less butter than what the recipe called for, which probably worked in my favor since the crust was getting pretty buttery by the end of the process. Thank goodness for the extra half cup of cookie crumbs!

Pressing the crust into the plate didn't take much, though it took me a little while to make sure that I wasn't making the bottom too thin. I stuck the finished crust in the fridge so it would set, and then began on my filling.

Step 1:
In a small bowl, soften gelatin in cold water. Set aside.

Step 2:

Pit all of the cherries. It didn't take too much effort to slice them around the pit and twist the halves so they'd come apart, but it definitely took a bit of time. As I was slicing the cherries, I put the first two cups straight into my saucepan and set the rest aside in a bowl.

Step 3:

In a medium saucepan, mash half the cherries with the sugar. Stir in cornstarch, lemon juice, and food coloring. Cook over medium heat, stirring until thick and transparent. Remove from heat. Add gelatin, and stir briskly.

Step 4:

Slice remaining cherries into the crust, and pour gelatin mixture over cherries. Chill at least four hours before serving.

I decided to do this step as the filling was cooking in order to save on time. I didn't want all of the remaining cherries to be the same size, so as the filling in the saucepan was cooking I cut some into quarters, others into eighths, and left some as halves. Once that was finished, all I could do was wait until the other half of the filling was cooking.

Step 5:

Finally, the filling never did get transparent, but once it reached a thick consistency and seemed to stay that way I took the filling off the heat and stirred in the gelatin as directed. I broke the softened gelatin into chunks and quickly dropped them on the filling before stirring it in. I wanted to make sure that the gelatin was distributed evenly.

I waited about a minute before pouring the cooked filling over the sliced cherries. Then I stepped back and admired my finished product.

I let the pie cool a little while before covering it and putting it in the fridge. My one remaining worry was how it would taste, because I never was able to sample the filling and make sure that tasted okay for fear of burning myself. My worries were unfounded, because it tasted wonderful.

And there you have it! My secret adventure, which was making a no-bake cherry pie. I have to say that it was pretty successful overall. I look forward to making it again!

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About Carolyn

Carolyn, originally from Wisconsin, hopped state lines into Minnesota after high school to attend Carleton College. She graduated in 2011 with a BA in Asian Studies, with a focus in Sociology and Anthropology. She now lives and works in Koga City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan teaching English, at six elementary schools. Her favorite food is peanut butter, so she will always be grateful to see that in care packages! You can follow her adventures through her blog.