Tart Cherry Hand Pies


The note inside the package from American Spoon stopped me in my tracks.

“Hope these preserved cherries bring fond memories of your trip to Michigan’s Cherry Festival.”

The timing was perfect, actually. Not only is it National Cherry Month, but the chilly weather (even in California!) and non-stop work schedule made me long for a few days in Traverse City, Michigan, eating cherries and basking in ridiculously long summer days.

 My trip to this part of Michigan in 2010 goes down as one of my favorites ever taken. I heard from so many Michigan natives after that post, many of you from Traverse City, and I can shamelessly tell you that I am jealous of you. That’s right, I’m not afraid to admit it. Jealous of the sunshine during summer, the smiles and conviviality, the lake, and most importantly, those cherries.

Oh, those cherries.

My pantry has a permanent place for dried tart cherries as well as a few jars of preserves, but as luck would have it I was completely out of the preserves when my box from American Spoon arrived. I call this Perfect Timing.

Realizing we only had a few days left to celebrate Cherry Month, Adam whipped up a crust of butter, cream cheese and a little bit of brown sugar. Tucked inside the dough went American Spoon’s Fruit Perfect, they baked and cooled before a Vanilla Bean Glaze was brushed and drizzled on top. I photographed them, using every ounce of my being to hold back devouring them. I double checked my camera’s memory card, realized my shots were good to go, and ate a few without hesitation.

And then I ate more.

Oh Michigan, I really do miss you.

Tart Cherry Hand Pies

For The Dough
4 oz butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar

For The Egg Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

For The Glaze
1/2 cup powered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 vanilla bean, sliced and seeds scraped out

For The Filling
about 10 oz Fruit Perfect Sour Cherries from American Spoon

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cold butter and cream cheese until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to just a little over 1/8″ thick. Cut the dough with 4.5″ cookie or biscuit cutter.
Continue rolling the scraps until all the dough is used. Make sure to keep the dough covered once cut. This recipe will yield 12 dough circles.

To fill the pies, lightly brush the edges of the dough with egg wash, place about 1 teaspoon of Sour Cherries in the center. Fold dough over and press lightly to remove air. With a fork crimp the edges, dipping the fork in flour to prevent sticking. Once you have filled all the pies place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425˚.

Remove from refrigerator and brush with remaining egg wash and with a sharp knife cut two slices in the top to vent. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cherry filling is bubbling out. Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack. When the pies have cool, brush or drizzle glaze on.  Serve at room temperature.

By the way, have you seen the American Spoon catalog? They live in my permanent collection of beautiful printed catalogs and if you can get your hands on one I really urge you to do so. Breathtakingly beautiful they are.

A Day In The Life

I was recently reading one of my favorite blogs called Kitchen Corners from the lovely Damaris Santos Palmer, and yes, she’s as equally wonderful in person as you’d expect from reading her blog. Her recent A Day In The Life post captivated me and I wholeheartedly enjoyed seeing what her day was like.

When I give talks or have students at my workshop there are a few questions that always surface, and a very common one is “What is a typical day for you like?” My immediate response is “Depends on which day you’re talking about. Pick one: Blogger, Photographer, Troublemaker, Traveler.” Of course I know they want to know what being a photographer is like so I thought I’d take Demaris’ lead and create A Day In The Life for myself. To share with you. Because it’s remarkably normal. I mean, as normal as it can be.

Everyone freaks the fudge out when they find out I’m an early riser. As if something is wrong with me. Ok, now that I think about it they’re probably right, but then again you’re probably not the one dozing off at 8:48pm, are you? This is important to share because it has been a tenet of my career. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be awake and yes, early in life. It just is. Now fix me some coffee.

P.S. I don’t use an alarm clock.

It’s a sad day at the Pearson-Armendariz household if coffee isn’t made within 60 seconds of Wakey Wakey Times. After becoming addicted to the convenience of these machines while traveling through Europe, we’ve opted for Nespresso and DeLonghi machines both at home and at the studio. FULL DISCLAIMER: I am at about 84% adoration with these machines but they cannot ever replace actual beans and fresh grinding and brewing, whichever method you prefer. I realize this. No hate mail, please.

I do believe friends in New York and other parts of the world appreciate the fact that I’m up early answering emails and tending to my correspondence. I’ll spend an hour or so reading the news, responding to emails, and trudging through my RSS feeder which is packed to the gills with fashion, food, design, magazine, and photography sites. Afterwards I’ll head over to catch up on the news.

See that red sign? I like to pretend it says “Ice Cream Recipe By David Lebovitz.” Or “Extra Servings Of Korean Scallion Pancake” or “Assorted Donut Sampling”. Folks, the only way I can make myself exercise is by thinking of the dangling carrot (cooked in duck fat, natch) at the other end of the stick. It’s the only way I can stay in this business and not be 300 lbs. If I want to indulge I must burn. It’s that simple. There’s no other way around it. And for the record, all the fat fried deliciousness in the world is a treat, not a staple. That’s what fresh food and fruits and vegetables are for. Don’t get it twisted.


My dear friend Aida Mollenkamp appears on the television which is all the inspiration I need to exercise longer and harder. One day I can be a gorgeous thin white woman, too. I hope.

Nope, I’m still brown.

You would think a gaggle of clients at your studio hovering and nitpicking over their product would be the most stressful part of my day. You’d think wrong. Ladies and gentleman, you ain’t seen NOTHING YET…


Without fail, this chunky ball of lovin’ fur rises from her den, plops herself next to me and gives me a gaze that still chills me when I think about it. It’s all-encompassing, the weight of it alone can crush a human if not dealt with promptly. This is no exaggeration, either, you can feel her staring you down to your insides, ripping pieces of your flesh away until her painful stare causes you to stop what you’re doing and feed her, damnit!

And she won’t stop until you do. Nothing can stop her. Nothing.

Well, except a bowl of dog food.

Peace is restored in the home after she eats, and she’s back to being My Sweet Little Girl. We take a few minutes to cuddle because nothing makes me happier than animals.

Breakfast is always something quick and easy. Some almond butter, ricecakes and a few tangerines and I’m all set. Around this time the other animals eat too, clearly not as demanding as Moxie.

And it’s off to work! I absolutely adore my Pelican case and it goes everywhere with me. I’ve done the soft camera bag thing before but this hard case is much easier to deal with. Plus it’s doubled as a seat or desktop in crowded airports.

More coffee.

Today’s special guest, the California Avocado Commission, is one of my oldest and most favoritestistist clients. No, really. I love them. And over the years it’s allowed me to meet some amazing local growers, too. I love working with them because a) I love California and b) I love avocados. It’s a perfect fit. Anyway, these are props for the shoot that have been selected during a pre-production meeting a few days before the shoot. We are ready to hit the ground running!

I actually iron my clothes at the studio before anyone arrives.That’s right, I look a hot wrinkled mess as I leave but I come home pressed-n-perfect.

Today I’m working with the lovely Cindie Flannigan of Food Fanatics. They are my go-to stylists when it comes to avocados. And that other Food Stylist I happen to be married to? He becomes my brilliant and talented Prop Stylist. Everyone works together and I couldn’t be a happier man.

Today I’m running two sets: one natural light and the other strobed for product shots. I really do believe food looks best naturally lit, and when you’re working with a product like California avocados it’s best to let them do their thang. I don’t need a million snoots and mirrors to bring out their best features. But when it comes time for single shots that will be clipped out and placed somewhere else, I’ll use a strobe to control the light as much as possible, giving the product a crisp, sharp outline. Oh, that’s Adam in the foreground snapping a shot of props for reference.

WHAT? There was a little hat on the prop table? How? When? Why? And more importantly, WHY AM I NOT WEARING IT? Whew. Much better now. Cue the Tin Pan Alley classics, please! Show at noon.


As per my contract (and etiquette, of course) I can’t share any final images until the client says so and they have appeared on the street. You’ll have to use your imagination here but let’s just say it was a beautiful, perfectly ripe, creamy California avocado.

Now on the other set, I’m focusing and composing.

When you photograph real food you get to “taste” it after you’ve got the shot. And what’s more delicious than mashed avocados on toast? My coat is going to be so shiny!

Cindie styles and I point! Then Cindie puts food on my head. Just another day.

While the clients regroup, my team and I take an RGB. No, that’s not RGB as in “Red Green-Blue” but Ryan Gosling Break. I believe every person should take these breaks because no man can ever look as excellent as he does at the airport. You bettah recognize.

Contrary to popular belief I do not drink while working. The prop stylist called for a glass of white wine in the background, I’m only helping out. But just you wait.

I make copies of the job several times a day, on several different drives, too. I believe redundant backups are important. One stays at the studio, one comes home, and 2 are shipped off-site. One even goes into outer space. Just kidding. I mean, about outer space.

Every client gets personalized attention. And what else does each client get? A dance from yours truly. Here I re-enact “I Don’t Want My Pizza Burning” dance from what is quite possibly the strangest clip on Youtube.

We’re still on the short end of daylight, and when you use natural light your options are cut short. But that doesn’t mean you can stop working, not at all! The last few shots required some additional light. I didn’t want to move my strobe set and decided on using an LED video light to illuminate my set. You can use any light source you want as long as you understand its properties and how to harness it the way you want. In this case the soft light was bounced off of foamcore onto my set, giving me soft light just like daylight. It wasn’t as bright as I wanted so I re-adjusted my ISO, filled in some shadows with more foamcore and kept shooting.

We’re done shooting for the day and make our way back home. “Someone” has a shopping and prop problem, no? In all fairness these are all things for the next shoot. It’s not unusual to schedule jobs back to back and getting stuff online really does save time.

It’s time to feed the wild beasts again. This is Cholula, named after the hotsauce, ready to attack my face. (I’m kidding, she’s one of the sweetest and most sensitive dogs I’ve ever met and if you know her you’ll agree.)

Dogs are fed, now it’s our turn. We head over to a local restaurant for sushi, edamame, and a glass of wine. However, our server says “We’re running low on wine glasses, can I bring it to you in a rocks glass?” I answer yes because I thought I didn’t care and I always try to be a nice patron. But then the more I thought about it I realized “WAIT: if you’re running low get more, and why must I be your rationed guest?” Oh, me and my first world problems, I tell you.

I usually edit images after a shoot, but the client needs to review all the images and make their selections before I begin to finalize the project. That means I get to curl up with the ipad (that sounds so wrong) and read the latest Donna Hay magazine and finish Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States by Andrew Coe. I loved this book.

I’m in bed now, watching a bit of TV before getting some end-of-day licks from one very hyper dog named Bindi. I’ve tried to resist her aggressive displays of affection, but with this dog it’s next to impossible. I just let her do her thing before falling asleep but really, I can’t think of anything better, can you?

I’m asleep and deep in Dreamland. I’d like to tell you it’s a space where dreams come true and wacky stuff happens, but you’ve just spent a day with me and probably think it can’t get any sillier. I agree.

P.S. I want to thank my clients for being open to letting me share. I shoot a variety of projects with big clients that you will never hear about because I believe in discretion. I do not need to share every single thing I do!

P.S.S. I love you, Aida.