HE'S COME A LONG WAY, BABY!
Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been, Charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife, she's the joy of my whole life
But she's a young thing and cannot leave her mother
Can she bake a cherry pie,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she bake a cherry pie,
She can bake a cherry pie,
Quick's a cat can wink her eye.
She's a young thing,
And cannot leave her mother.
Gee whiz, was it that simple back then in the search for a good wife? I must admit, though, that being able to, well, maybe not bake a cherry pie but at least cook well was a criterion for my choosing a husband. I mean, gee whiz, for someone who loves to eat, loves food as much as I do not to marry a man who can cook would just be mad! And I remember every time a girlfriend, all batty eyelashes and fluttery hand movements, said to me “Wow, Jamie, you are so lucky to have married a man that can cook! I wish mine did!” Well, women, luck had nothing to do with it. Smarts is what it took. And cook he does, turning out one fabulous meal after the next. Seems so natural, doesn’t it?
Well, remember the days when men were relegated to the BBQ or the pancake griddle? Summer afternoons out in the backyard, grill all fired up, tossing on the burgers and hot dogs. Beer in one hand, tongs in the other, standing there in his Bermuda shorts and t-shirt, socks pulled up to his knees? Or for guests, the man of the house dressed in all of his 1960s glory, mirroring every other guy in his burgundy-hued banlon polo shirt and polyester slacks, ice cubes clattering in glasses as the women bring out the bowls of coleslaw and potato salad from the kitchen as steaks are turned over the flame.
That was outside. Inside the house, dad was the waffle man, breakfast for supper was his specialty, the Aunt Jemima syrup on the table, hungry kids waiting their turn, forks already in hand. But in our household, unlike most 1960s fathers, it was also dad who baked. Ah, the joy and ease of boxed cake mixes and Jello pudding, Bundt cakes and tub of Cool Whip always in the freezer. Back then it was something special, a real must in every modern 60s kitchen, the Mod Squad meets the Space Age. And when frosting came in a can wow was that the cherry on the cake!
And pies. Remember when mom or dad reached into the freezer and pulled out a ready-made pie shell, grabbed a can of pumpkin or blueberry pie filling from the pantry shelf and voilà! a pie was born. Grab that Cool Whip and top a thick slab of pie with a huge man-sized dollop of non-dairy whipped topping and any special dinner, holiday, Thanksgiving celebration was made.
But no longer. In my home, the man cooks, and how! Terrine and mussels and lobster and daube and tagine and the list goes on. But bake he does not. So when he craves something special he turns to me. Facing the end of summer fruit and berry season, our favorite, images of homemade Cherry Pie, American style, dance before his eyes. “Please, can you bake me a cherry pie?” Well, certainly, darling man. After all, you allowed me one week to spend my days giggling with Clare, watching silly videos on the computer, being girls while you waited patiently on the sofa, book in hand, until you could reclaim me for your own. You drove me around the countryside visiting wineries, organizing tastings and buying sprees. You spent your vacation taking me to restaurants and moving the furniture around the house as I pleased, strolling with me hand-in-hand along the Erdre River, cheering me up when I needed it and making me laugh even if I didn’t. Anything, my love, and a Cherry Pie it is.
CHERRY PIE WITH LATTICE CRUST
Double recipe of MY SWEET PASTRY PIE CRUST using the following quantities :
2 ½ cups (315 g) flour
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
14 Tbs (200 g) unsalted butter, cubed
2 eggs, beaten
For step-by-step instructions with photos see here or here.
Blend flour and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until there are no more lumps of butter and it all resembles sand.
Using a fork, blend in the beaten eggs. Keep working at it, stirring until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and start to cling together.
Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with the ball of your hand, smear the dough out and away from you in hard, short pushes. This will completely blend the butter into the dough.
Scrape the dough together, reflour the work surface and very quickly knead the dough until it is smooth and lovely.
Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to firm up in the refrigerator the time it takes to prepare the cherry filling.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Butter and lightly flour a pie plate.
About 6 cups (approximately 1.2 kg) fresh cherries, pitted
1 cup sugar
3 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs Kirsch + 1 Tbs water if needed
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if desired
Once the cherries are pitted, place them in a large bowl. Add the sugar and toss with the cherries.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir the cornstarch with the Kirsch, adding water and the juice from the cherries until the cornstarch is wet and blended into a smooth, thick liquid.
Pour this liquid over sweetened cherries and stir or toss until the cherries are coated with the mixture.
Take the dough from the fridge and cut off a little more than half of the dough. Push into a round ball, place on a floured surface and roll out to fit your pie plate, coming up the sides with a slight overhang. Carefully lift and press into the plate to fit. Prick all over with a fork and trim the overhanging dough, leaving about ¼ to ½ inch.
Fill the crust with the cherries.
Roll out the remaining dough into a circle just larger than the pie plate. Using a knife, pastry cutter or pizza slicer, slice the dough into strips, as thick or thin as you like.
Starting in the center with the longest strips, place in one direction over the cherries, again making sure there is a bit of overhang. Carefully make your lattice by gently lifting alternate strips and sliding others perpendicularly. Repeat, as shown, until the pie is covered in a latticework or pie dough.
Pinch the edges all around, trim back to the outside edge of the pie plate, then crimp to seal.
Carefully dab the dough with milk or egg wash if you like and pop in the oven.
Bake at 425°F (220°C) for 10 to 15 minutes until the top barely begins to brown, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and continue baking for another 30 minutes when the crust will be golden brown and the juices bubbling.
Allow to cool.
Serve, of course, with whipped cream or ice cream. Or Cool Whip.