Monday, July 2, 2012

Fourth of July Pie

In the lead-up to Independence Day, thousands of readers around the globe have asked me to explain what Americans are really like. My answer? Americans are similar to Canadians, but with better suntans, lower dairy prices, and larger homes. 

Typical American home

Typical Canadian home

Americans generally align themselves with one of two political symbols - the elephant, or the mule. The elephant never forgets, and the mule stubbornly bears its burden. But Independence Day isn’t just about Hillary Clinton.
Armed with only a Glock dual recoil handgun, a purse-sized Beretta, a night-sight Bushmaster M4 Patrolman, and six credit cards, Americans seek the essentials of life any damned place they want. Generous to a fault, they employ Vietnamese manicurists, Mexican gardeners, and South Asian taxi drivers, many of whom rightly or wrongly claim to have been doctors, lawyers, and engineers in their countries of origin. 
America and Canada’s geographic coupling is a marriage of convenience. When America demands Canada’s natural resources, Canada’s Prime Minister rolls over and wags his tail. Yip! Yip! Lapdogs are so annoying. Some Canadians would like to swap Newfoundland for Florida, but no one south of the border pays any attention. As compensation, Canada’s Prime Minister recently spent nearly 30 million taxpayer dollars to remind Canadians how they stuck it to the Americans in the War of 1812. That’ll teach those Yankees!
Americans rarely understand Canadians. Who better to clear up such misconceptions than someone who bridges both cultures? 

As a fan of all things Murcan, I plan to dress up on the Fourth. Um … maybe not like that. My cape is at the dry cleaners. Ever onward with today’s all-American recipe! This Martha-Stewart-inspired Fourth of July Pie is easy to prepare, mainly because all you need do is make a crust and pour in a couple of canned pie fillings. The double-crust pastry recipe comes from the good people at Smucker Foods, manufacturers of Crisco.
I wanted to make a large, deep pie. Using a double-crust pastry recipe allowed my pie a nicely fluted edge, with ample pastry left over to cut out stars and stripes. What I like about this pie is that you can size it however you like - from the big one I made, to individual-sized pies. Simply use extra-small star cutters and cut smaller stripes for the smaller pies, saving the leftover pastry for another day.
Before we get to my Fourth of July Pie, here are a few words from another holiday baker. If coarse language offends you, move along to the recipe.

Fourth of July Pie:

To Prepare Double-Crust Pastry:
2-⅔ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. chilled vegetable shortening
6-to-10 tbsp. ice water

Combine flour and salt in medium mixing bowl. Cut chilled shortening into ½-in. cubes., cutting into flour mixture using a pastry blender in an up-and-down chopping motion until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces remaining.
Sprinkle 4 or 5 tbsp. ice water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and draw flour from bottom of bowl to the top, distributing moisture evenly into flour. Press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork. Add more water by the tablespoon, mixing with fork after each addition, until dough is just moist enough to hold together when compressed. 
(Test dough for proper moistness by squeezing a marble-sized ball of dough in your hand. If it holds together firmly, do not add any additional water. If dough crumbles, add more water by the tablespoonful, until dough is moist enough to form a smooth ball when pressed together.) 
Shape dough into ball. Divide dough in two for double crust or double deep-dish crust, making one ball slightly larger than the other. Flatten balls into ½-in.-thick round disks. For ease in rolling, wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days (I have found you can omit this step with perfectly made dough). 

Roll larger ball of dough (intended for bottom crust) from center outward, applying steady pressure on lightly floured work surface (I use a Tupperware pastry sheet, with a pastry cloth over my rolling pin. Doing both promotes ease of rolling and minimizes the amount of flour needed on pin and work surface, reducing the chance that pastry will become tough). Roll bottom-crust pastry into a circle 2 in. wider than pie plate. Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling around rolling pin,  centering pin over pie plate, and unrolling to ease dough into pie plate. 

For this particular pie, I trimmed the pastry edge with a ½-in. overhang over the top of the pie plate, folding the overhang over itself to double its strength. I fluted the edge high, and pricked the crust’s bottom and sides at least 50 times with a fork (you do not need to prick pies that will be filled before baking with or without a top crust). Flute the top and bottom edges together for pies with a top crust. Place pricked, fluted pie shell in freezer 15-to-20 min. Cut stars and stripes from remaining pastry; chill until needed.

This pie needs pre-baking: I cannot improve upon the instructions the Crisco site gives on the two methods recommended for proceeding to this next step, once the crust has been pricked. I’ve used both methods and found both work equally well.
Pre-baking without weights: Bake pricked pie dough in lower third of oven 10-to-12 min. at 425 deg. F., or until crust is golden brown. 
Pre-baking with weights: Chill or freeze 30 min. Line pricked pie dough snugly with foil or parchment paper. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 20 min. at 375 deg. F. Remove foil and weights. Reduce oven to 350 deg. F., baking 5-to-10 min. longer, or until crust is golden brown. Cool before filling. The exact portions of this pie will vary with the size of your pie plate/s.
To Prepare Pie Filling and Decoration:
One 18-oz. (540 mL) can blueberry pie filling
Fresh blueberries, as required
One or two 18-oz. (540 mL) can/s cherry pie filling
Fresh, pitted cherries, as required
Extra pastry from which to cut stars and stripes
Preheat oven to 450 deg. F. Mentally measure top left quarter of pie (or pies, if making individual-size servings). Fill area from 9 oclock to 12 oclock with canned blueberry filling mixed with fresh blueberries. Fill remaining three-quarters of pie from 12 oclock to 9 oclock with canned cherry filling mixed with pitted fresh cherries. Randomly scatter unbaked pastry stars over blueberry quadrant of pie. Lay pastry stripes over cherry section. Lightly crimp foil over fluted edge of crust to prevent over-browning. Return to oven 5 min., or until stars and stripes are golden brown. Chill several hours or overnight, covering pie with foil to prevent shrinkage of fruit from pastry.
Note: To view step-by-step pie-making photos, see the Index for How to Make Perfect Pastry (Single Crust) posted June 14, 2012. 

Create an attractively fluted crust

Press with knuckle, pinch with thumb and index finger

Pricked and fluted, the crust will now chill in the freezer

Cut as many stars as desired

Let a ruler guide your pastry cutter for each stripe

Pit fresh cherries

Combine with canned cherries. Repeat 
with fresh and canned blueberries

Add a dash of Americana

Enjoy your Fourth of July Pie!

In retrospect, I would add more stars and make more and thinner stripes. As with life, cooking is often a work in progress.

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