Saturday, February 18, 2012

Presidential Pie

This Monday is President's Day. I know this because that's what the mattress commercials tell me, and nothing makes me think, "yeah, I guess I DO need a mattress at 40% off!" like a holiday to celebrate our nation's leaders.

And because it is the American thing to do, I've made a pie in honor of this sacred day.

I know what you're thinking: oh, she's going to make a blueberry pie and dot it with red berries and whipped cream because it'll be all red, white and blue. Or: oh, she's going to make a cherry pie because George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and could not tell a lie.

Amateurs. I would never be so obvious! (and those are really good ideas for the 4th of July pie. please remind me of that sometime around June 30th.)

A history lesson, if you will:

Zachary Taylor, America's 12th president, was a man's man. Known as Old Rough n' Ready (an early precursor to his later nickname, New Pop n' Fresh), Taylor served in the military during a bunch of those wars you learned about in grade school that used dates like 1812 and vaguely racist Indian names. He was also from Louisville, KY, a town where you can drink copious amounts of bourbon and then sober up the next morning with a plate of Bourbon Ball French Toast. During his presidency, for which he was the second-to-last person to successfully run under the Whig party, Taylor hung new curtains and organized the Department of the Interior, told the inhabitants of that area they were calling California to apply for statehood, and established a policy that forbade both the US and Great Britain to control any canals being built in Nicaragua. Known as the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, it is thought to be Taylor's most lasting foreign policy move. Sadly, Teddy Roosevelt superseded that policy 51 years later in a fit of manifest destiny with the equally well-known Hay-Pauncefote Treaty.

Zachary Taylor, though a true stalwart in the oval office, had an unfortunately weak digestive system. After the Washington Monument groundbreaking ceremony on July 4, 1850, he sought refuge from the swampy DC summer heat by consuming cold milk and cherries - too many, that is. He quickly came down with a horrid stomach ache, which turned into cholera and ultimately, death. He had been in office only 16 months. [Disclaimer: I hastily threw this summary together after quickly reading the Zachary Taylor wikipedia page.]

All this is to say - here's my great recipe for Cherry Pie!

Crust - I doubled my usual recipe and added sugar to compensate for the tartness of the cherries
2 cups flour
2/3 cups Crisco shortening
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Iced water for mixing

2 pounds pitted cherries - I used Dole frozen cherries because it's February and I live in New York
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon, allspice (combine to taste)
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 egg for egg wash

Bowl of frozen cherries

Cinnamon/Allspice/Salt, Cornstarch, Sugar, Vanilla

Slivered Almonds

How to
Prepare the dough as normal; cut in half and form into two balls, wrap and refrigerate each ball for at least 30 minutes.

If using frozen cherries, defrost them in a large bowl. If using fresh, rinse and dry the cherries.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, allspice and vanilla to the cherries, mixing thoroughly until all the cherries are evenly coated. It won't look too pretty.

Roll out one of the balls of dough and neatly place in the bottom of your pie tin. Pour the cherries into the tin, sprinkle with the almond slivers, dot with butter, and brush the exposed edges with egg wash.

If you're pressed for time, you can add the top crust as you normally would, covering the pie and sealing the edges. I chose to attempt a lattice crust, or that woven-crust-look that all the pretty pies get to wear.

Here's how that happens: Roll the second ball of dough as normal. With a pastry cutter, cut an equal amount of strips, each about 3/4" wide.

Ok so my strips aren't equal in width. It was my first attempt at this. Don't judge.

Lay half the strips vertically on top of the pie. Peel back every other strip, (the "even numbered strips") lay the first horizontal strip, then replace the vertical strips. Repeat this process, switching between the even and odd strips until you've laid all the horizontal strips.

Step 3.1 of Lattice Pie Crust

Seal together the edges of both crusts by rolling them underneath the outer edge. Brush the top crust with the egg wash.

Unbaked cherry pie

Bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Be careful though - the juices from the cherries WILL run over the edges of the crust. Thanks to the suggestion of my roommate (who frankly is getting quite tired of my cooking experiments exploding all over our NOT self-cleaning oven...sorry, Amanda), I covered a cookie sheet with tin foil and put the pie on top of that for baking; this way all the juices ran onto the foil and made for a pretty easy cleanup. 

Cherry Pie

Also -  I'd like to take this most presidential of holidays to shamelessly plug a great project. If you or anyone you know is part of a theater company and still figuring out the remainder of your 2012 season, or if you're a teacher and looking for a fun way to teach your class about this election year check out 44 Plays for 44 Presidents - it's an exciting mash-up of short theatrical pieces performed all over the country that culminates in one giant ball of theater fun on Election Night. Do it for your children. Do it for your country. Do it for Zachary Taylor.

Presidential Cherry Pie

For this recipe I sought the advice of the Queen of Baking, Martha Stewart. Thanks M!

She's my cherry pie/Cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise
One more picture? Oh, ok.

Tastes so good, make a grown man cry/Sweet cherry pie

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