july festivities

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July celebration. We had a great time having a BBQ with friends and watching fireworks, the highlight being giving sparklers to the little ones in our group. Usually we host the family for the 4th, but this time we met a few days early for some swimming, grilling, and hanging out. Here are some good ideas for summer entertaining that we have enjoyed.

On the menu: Hot Dog Bar with Iced Tea and Cherry Pie

We subscribe to Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine and love the great ideas and simple recipes. This time we tried her hot dog bar which offered 5 different kinds of dogs: Frank and Beans, Hawaiian Dog, Reuben Dog, Mexican Charred-Corn Dog, and Banh Mi Dog. We offered 3 of the 5, and my husband took the orders.

In the fun of the pool trip with these fine folks and then quickly chowing down on some great hot dogs, I completely forgot to snap some pictures of the feast.

However, I stumbled upon this great post (and recipes) on the very same Hot Dog Bar, so I recommend you check it out! They posted amazing pictures too.

In our estimation, the Frank and Beans and the Hawaiian were keepers. The Mexican Charred-Corn showed a lot of promise but we agreed the lime mayo could have been zestier.

There was also the ever-flowing spring of Iced Tea available to keep my southern father-in-law (a.k.a. Papa) hydrated, see recipe here.

And then…dessert: my favorite item to any menu of course. I have tried different items in years past, like homemade ice cream with berries and an amazing Pavlova similar to this one (I highly recommend you try it!).

But this year we went with a homemade cherry pie; a perfect addition to any summertime get-together.

Homemade pie can be a bit intimidating for some, but in my opinion, its a tried and true dessert that most people enjoy. Ingredients can even be prepared beforehand so it can be stuck in the oven during dinner and afterwards everyone can partake of the warm fruit and flaky crust goodness smothered in some fresh whipped cream.

I’ve tried to make a few different pie crust recipes (and sampled many a pie), and nothing comes close to The Joy of Cooking’s simple recipe. The regular recipe calls for vegetable shortening and butter, and this turns out great, but since I’m going the all natural route I stuck to just butter and I couldn’t tell the difference (if you want to stay true to the recipe, it calls for 1 cup butter and 1/4 cup shortening).

Ingredients

Cherry Filling – You could use any fruit filling if you’re not a cherry pie fan!

  • 5 cups pitted cherries (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (My cherries were really sweet; this is all that was needed. The recipe calls for up to 1 1/4 cups for sour cherries or 3/4 cup for Bing cherries)
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 T butter, cut into small slices

For one 9 or 10 inch double crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 t salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter (1 1/4 cup)

flour, sea salt, butter

Confession: As salt-aholics we have 5 different salts in our pantry (my husband is mainly to blame for this). I picked the fancy French Sea Salt.

Directions

Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Slice the butter into small squares with a knife. Make sure the butter is very cold (sometimes I put it in the freezer for a few minutes).

Cut the butter into the flour mixture. I smash each square of butter between my fingers until it is flat and mixed with a bit of flour; it is supposed to get to the consistency of corn meal and the butter chunks are about pea-sized. I try to go through this step quickly so the butter is not warmed by my hands and the dough is not over-handled.

Sprinkle the dough with 6-8 tablespoons of ice water.

Blend the water gently into the dough until it just holds together. I grab the dough at the bottom of the bowl and fold it over the top which has the moisture and press down until a disk is formed.

If more ice water is needed so the dough sticks together, add it one tablespoon at a time.

Ready!

Divide the dough in half, shape each into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Then chill in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight). The colder the dough is, the easier it is to roll out without sticking. Meanwhile, I prepared the filling.

Stir sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice into the cherries. Let stand at least 15 minutes.

When your dough is chilled, its time to preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll it out with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick, and at least 3 inches larger than your pie pan.

Mine turned into a huge oval but it still worked out fine! PS. If you need to patch pieces of the dough back together, just dip your finger in water to smooth and seal the edges.

Gently slide your dough over your pie pan, center and press the sides down. Trim the edges of your dough so there is a 3/4 inch overhang. Pour in the fruit filling (it will need to be baked soon; if it sits the crust may become soggy). Add the small slices of butter to your filling.

crust, dough

Roll out the top crust using the same method, but make sure the rolled dough is at least one inch larger than the filled pie pan. Brush the outer edge of the bottom crust with water, then place the top round. Firmly pinch the top and bottom edges together to seal so that the filling doesn’t bubble and leak. You can crimp edges with a fork or just use your fingers.

Make some slits in the top for steam to be released, then its ready for the oven.

Bake at the high temperature for about 30 minutes, then turn down the oven to about 350 degrees for an additional 30 minutes. Check the crust, looking for a nice golden-brown color. If the top crust starts to brown but you don’t think its done cooking, cover with a sheet of foil. Once done, let cool for about 30 minutes.

Finally, enjoy a la mode with vanilla ice cream or top with whipped cream.

Eat half of the pie with your relatives, then have some for breakfast the next day 🙂 Then after lunch dessert, then after dinner dessert.

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