In my opinion, there is no more iconic Fourth of July dessert than a cherry pie. And, I would go out on a limb here and say that pies of any flavor (peach, blueberry, strawberry/rhubarb) are the most popular Fourth of July desserts, and the most American. Maybe this is because pies have a homespun quality, so different from a fancy cake or pastry. You make a crust with four humble ingredients: flour, butter, ice water and salt. Then you fill it with whatever is in season.
There is something about a pie cooling on a windowsill or a piece of pie with a scoop of ice cream that takes us back in time, evoking memories of our youth. Baseball games, picnics, hanging out at the local swimming pool, going to the beach, drive-in movies, barbecues, and evening treks to the ice cream shop. These were the summer activities from my childhood. And Fourth of July with a dinner of corn on the cob, potato salad, barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs and cherry pie, followed by a fireworks show was the ultimate in summer magic. Pies are nostalgic and have the power to take us back to that sweet place.
I remember my mother making the most delicious pies for the Fourth of July. Cherry pies in the summer and apple and pumpkin pies in the fall were her specialties. When she made them, it was always an occasion. She may have used canned pie filling when she couldn't get fresh fruit, but she never took the easy way out with her pie crust. It was always homemade, tender and delicious.
I used to be afraid of making pies because of the crust and for years I couldn't get it right. My mother's recipe was not from any book but in her head and even though she described it to me, giving me all the ingredients and instructions, I never could make it as good as hers. Years ago I found the answer -- the perfect pie crust that works every time and couldn't be easier. It is a recipe for Pate Brisee (pie crust) that I found in Martha Stewart's magazine about 15 years ago. Because you make it in the food processor, it takes just minutes to put together. Try this and you will never be insecure about pie crust again.
Martha Stewart's Perfect Pie Crust
2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter; process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8-10 seconds. Add the ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube of the food processor with the machine running, just until the dough holds together. Do not process the dough for more than 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic. Press the dough into a flattened circle, and wrap it in the plastic. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least two days. This amount will make two 8- to 10-inch crusts. Cut the dough in half and roll out one at a time for the bottom and top crusts.
Go here for the recipe for Twice-Baked Sour Cherry Pie (photo above)
Go here for a list of twenty pies to make this summer, any one of which would be perfect for your July 4th celebration.
Have a great holiday weekend!