Tart Serbian-Style Cherry Pie (Pita sa visnjama) 12.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Jul 2, 2014

This recipe for rolled cherry pastry is translated from another language. Once you become comfortable working with filo, this midsummer dessert can be assembled in less time than it takes to make a cherry pie from scratch.

Sour cherries are in farmers markets now, but you can use jarred Montmorency cherries available at Middle Eastern markets and at Trader Joe's. The jarred fruit must be drained; the juice can be reserved for stirring into sparkling water or club soda. Even though the jars might be labeled "pitted" sour cherries, check to make sure all pits have been removed.

Like traditional American cherry pie, pita sa visnajama can be served a la mode, with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. But that's not the custom in the Balkans.

Make Ahead: The pastry can be baked a day in advance, wrapped in aluminum foil and refrigerated.

Servings: 12 - 16
  • 48 ounces (5 to 6 cups) fresh pitted sour cherries; may substitute two 48-ounce jars pitted sour cherries, drained; see headnote)
  • Generous 1 tablespoon powdered tapioca pudding
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 pound thin filo dough, preferably Apollo brand
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup mild/light olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and warm
  • 1/2 cup regular or low-fat sour cream
  • Dried unsweetened cranberries, currants or raisins (optional)
  • Water (optional)


Place the pitted cherries in a non-staining mixing bowl; use your fingers to double-check for pits. Add the tapioca, lemon zest and tablespoon of confectioners' sugar; stir to incorporate thoroughly. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, during which time the fruit's juices will thicken.

Meanwhile, unroll the sheets of filo dough. Immediately cover them with a clean, slightly damp dish towel. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees.

Combine the vegetable oil, olive oil and butter in a liquid measuring cup. Drizzle a little of the oils/butter mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet, then warm the sheet in the oven for 2 or 3 minutes. Position the baking sheet with a wide side facing you, placing it between the bowl of fruit and the stack of filo dough.

Layer two sheets of the filo dough on the baking sheet so the bottom one becomes coated with the oils/butter. Quickly flip them over, then layer on two more sheets. Drizzle the top sheet of filo dough with a bit of the oils/butter mixture.

Leaving a 1-inch margin at the edge, spread 1/4 of the sour cream in a 1-inch-wide swath along the edge of the filo closest to you, then spread one-quarter of the cherry mixture in a parallel line an inch away from the sour cream. For variety, or if you run short on cherries, sprinkle the fruit with some dried cranberries, currants or raisins.

Pick up the corners of filo dough closest to you as you gently make one fold/roll away from you. Brush the top of the roll with a little of the oils/butter mixture, then keep folding in and rolling until you reach the far end of the dough. If the dough cracks, use a little water or some of the oils/buttter mixture to paste it back together.

Repeat the process to create three more filled filo rolls, using the remaining sour cream and cherry mixture, reserving enough of the oils/butter mixture for a final brushing. Unused sheets of filo dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Arrange the filled filo rolls on the greased baking sheet, spaced evenly apart.

Use the remaining oils/butter mixture (rewarm as needed) to brush the tops of each roll. Bake for 15 minutes on the lower oven rack, then transfer to the upper middle rack, turning the baking sheet front to back; bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisped on the edges.

Cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Use a thin spatula to release the bottoms as needed. Working with one cherry roll at a time, transfer to a cutting board.

At this point, the rolls can be wrapped in aluminum foil and refrigerated for a day. Unwrap, place on a greased baking sheet and reheat in a 300-degree oven until warmed through.

To serve, slice each cherry roll on the diagonal into three or 4 equal pieces and arrange on a serving tray. Use a fine-mesh strainer to sift confectioners' sugar over the top of each piece.

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Recipe Source

From Washington freelance writer Joan McQueeney Mitric.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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E-mail questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.