Last Sunday, my mom and I attended a Mother’s Day cabaret at my church. It was put on by four amazing musicians – our senior minister’s son Andrew (who has just released a CD), two of our church soloists, Brenna and Mark, and another friend, Calla.
They sang a wonderful variety of music, from gospel (“Chariot’s Comin’ ”) to opera (“O Mio Babbino Caro”) and jazz (“Fly Me to the Moon”). The whole program was wonderful, but the highlight for me was “Anything You Can Do, I Can do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun.
I first saw this musical with my family when I was a teenager, in the Huron Country Playhouse. Plays were performed in a barn, with no air-conditioning, and it was always a hot night. The gaps between the boards let in the humid air off Lake Huron. But once the show started we forgot the surroundings and were drawn into the story. All these years later, I remember the standout feature of the show being the competitive relationship between Annie Oakley and Frank Butler:
“Anything you can do, I can do better;
I can do anything better than you.”
Last Sunday, Brenna and Mark did a wonderful job with their alternating one-upmanship in this song:
“I can jump a hurdle – I can wear a girdle.
I can knit a sweater – I can fill it better.
I can do most anything.
Can you bake a pie? – No – Neither can I.”
Alas, I am like Annie Oakley and Frank Butler in this one respect: I can’t really bake a pie.
So that was my challenge for this week. To complete those song lyrics with an emphatic “Yes! I can bake a pie!” And only a cherry pie would do.
The most daunting part was supposed to be making the pastry. That’s what usually intimidates me about pies. But that part was actually a success – the pastry was easy to work with and rolled out nicely. The issues came with everything else.
The first problem: there was obviously too much juice in the recipe. I didn’t add all the liquid, and the pie still overflowed onto the cookie sheet underneath it in the oven. Next time I’d add no more than 2/3 cup of cherry juice, and maybe less.
The second problem was the lattice. The recipe told me to assemble the lattice elsewhere, then move it as a whole onto the top of the pie. I had my doubts, but followed the directions exactly. As I feared, the lattice drooped partway through the exchange, landing in a tangled heap on top of the pie. I untangled the cherry-soaked threads and lay them back in the best semblance of array I could muster.
And the third problem was the cooking time, but this was a problem of my own making. As usual, I was trying to do 15 things at once. Unfortunately, #14 was out of the house. I set the timer at my best guess, put my oldest daughter in charge, and went out to a school meeting. She pulled the pie out of the oven exactly when I asked (and subsequently scrubbed the cookie sheet) but by that time the pastry was much too dark.
So – anything I can do, you can probably do better?
Not entirely. Despite these problems (and the fourth, which was photographing the pie so the blackened crust didn’t completely dominate), it was delicious.
So, anything I can do, I WILL do better. Next time!
The Best Cherry Pie
(adapted from Cuisine magazine)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
10 – 12 Tbsp ice water
6 cups frozen cherries, thawed
2/3 cup cherry juice, reserved from cherries
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup half and half
3 Tbsp cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar and kosher salt in a large bowl. Cut in unsalted butter and shortening with a pastry blender, until they are the size of peanuts. Stir in ice water 3 – 4 Tbsp at a time (dough shouldn’t be sticky). Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes before using.
On lightly floured surface, roll half the dough into a 12” circle about 1/8” thick. Transfer to a 9” pie plate.
For filling, combine thawed cherries, juice, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, almond extract and salt. Fill the chilled pie shell.
Weave the remaining dough into a decorative lattice on top of the pie. Lightly brush the lattice with half and half; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake pie on a baking sheet (to catch overflow) for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 20 – 30 more minutes, until filing is thickened and bubbly. (Cover with foil if it’s browning too quickly.) Cool before serving.