Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourth of July, Red and White: Cherry Pie

When I think about the Fourth of July, I can't help but reflect on the U.S. flag and the soldiers who have died to keep our nation free and united. Its common for red, white and blue decorations and foods to pop up during Independence Day picnics. Its less common to consider why those colors were chosen to represent our nation. While a lot of rumors roll about our flag, the official decisions about the U.S. flag were that it have 13 stripes. (One stripe for each of the colonies which joined the union to fight in the Revolutionary War.) Further the original flag was to have a union of all the colonies in the form of white stars in a blue field symbolizing a new constellation. As the Great Seal of the U.S. was designed they tied flag themes into the seal, including the red and white stripes of the colonies and the union of the white stars on a blue field. White was stated to represent purity and innocence; blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice; and red represents hardiness and valor.

That's a lot to ask of three colors. Its a lot to consider that these patriots had such high ideals of what they wanted our nation to become. I wonder what they would think to see some of the trifles we quarrel over and if there would be issues we take as "normal" that they would find a higher priority in changing. Thinking about it all doesn't make me want to make some huge promise to myself that I could never complete. It doesn't make me say...Let's all stop poverty, injustice, etc...I can't do that. Its a bigger issue than me. We don't live in a perfect world but we can all help in some form of service to our neighborhood, community, local schools, etc. Seeing their high ideals makes me feel more driven to find ways to help in my community in a more focused way. Maybe that seems small...but its something. I've actually spent some time looking into ways to help out in my surrounding community over the last few weeks. Thinking about these things reminds me that there's an area garden that supports a children's home in my area that needs people to just come and pick vegetables. I can go and pick vegetables. Its not an every day thing, but its a need that happens to be something I can do. I love gardening. If you're in Winston-Salem and want to go picking veggies at the Children's Home, let me know.

Red and white: hardiness and valor, purity and innocence.

Red and white: cherry pie.





Yes, this is the same train of thought. After all, working hard and helping out other people produces an appetite. Also, we're in the midst of celebrating our country's birthday. Its a happy thing! I don't know about you but for me, most truly celebratory occasions call for some sort of dessert...and I love pie.

I'd be torn to say what my favorite pie is. Of the fruit pies though, cherry is a hands down favorite. One great thing about this cherry pie is that its simple! A second great thing is that it doesn't call for pie filling...ugh. Instead you make your own filling with cherries, sugar, and flour! Its truly excellent and the first pie I ever made, starting sometime in late middle or early high school.

After the issues I had making the peach pie (mainly falling face forward into concrete and scraping one arm and beating up my right hand), I felt really strongly that I wanted the top of my pie crust to look good. No excuses, just pretty lattice. I looked over some tips that smitten kitchen had referenced in a recent post. I liked the idea of laying the strips down and folding them back to weave. After all, my process was just self taught weaving so it was worth a shot. As an added bonus for the Fourth of July, the weave reminds me a bit of the stripes on our flag. Its not the same but there's something classic about it that I really like.

I started with making a double recipe of the one crust pie crust I posted previously. For convenience sake, I'm reposting it here too.

Pie Crust (1 crust)

Ingredients:

1 c. flour
½ tsp salt
3 rounded Tbsp Crisco (shortening)
3 Tbsp ice water

How To:

Measure flour and salt into a large bowl. Blend shortening into flour and salt with a pastry blender or fork until it reaches the consistency of heavy cornmeal. Add water 1 tablespoonful at a time, tossing wet and dry ingredients together with blender until all the flour is moistened. Turn out on floured board. Roll into a circle 1/8 to ¼ inch thick and large enough to allow 1 to 1 ½ inches hanging over the edge of the pie tin. Fold up and back to make an upright rim and flute with fingers. Sprinkle dough lightly with flour. Place another tin the same size over the crust. Bake 12 minutes at 450 F until browned at the bottom. Remove upper tin and allow inside of crust to brown.

This crust can be rolled thinly and make enough for 2 crusts. Some days, though, I'm better off making a double recipe. This was a double recipe sort of day. (Actually, it was more than that but for this pie, it was a double recipe.)

I rolled out the main dough and laid it in the bottom of the pie crust. Then I pinched small bits and made a ring of triangular nubs all around the top of the pie.



Next I added the filling!

Cherry Pie Filling ( adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook...relatively old edition)

(Note: Over time, Better Homes and Gardens has modified the recipe to even include tapioca! No thanks! This oldie is great and requires nothing odd.)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. plain flour
3 c. pitted sour cherries
dash of salt

How To:

Combine all together in a bowl. Pour into prepared crust. (Yes, that's it.)



Finally, I rolled the rest of the dough out and began the lattice. I laid the longest strips first and folded them back against themselves so that only about a quarter of each strip was touching the pie topping. Then I filled in the rest of the space with shorter and shorter strips. Each time, I folded the end of the strip back and connected it to the main crust. Then I folded the strip against itself such that only about a quarter of the strip touched the pie. I alternated over, under for the strips, working from my left to right with braiding the lattice.



As I did a row, I extended the strips until gradually, none of the strips were folded back. I did a small fold at the end of each strip to connect it to the rest of the pie!



Once done, I dotted the pie with a couple tablespoons of butter.



The pie was baked at 400 F for 55 minutes. By this point it looked and smelled fabulous...but there's one final step. Waiting. I know. How can you wait when this aroma of amazing pie sits before you? I must insist though, if you wait an hour, the pie will have time to set up and will be much easier to serve. Plus, you'll avoid the burnt tongue!



Result:

The best cherry pie. Seriously. The crust was tasty and the cherries to sugar ratio made it sweet and tart and juicy...Hang on. I gotta wipe up the drool from the keyboard....Just kidding. This is definitely my favorite rendition of cherry pie. Be sure to let it cool at least an hour before serving to give the insides time to set up. Its good either way but much easier to serve when its not fresh from the oven.

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