When I was 12 years-old, I won 1st place in a cherry pie baking contest at my school that was sponsored by Northern Illinois Gas Company. I went on to a second bake-off to compete against the winners from other schools in the Chicago area. In that contest my pie won 4th Place – my essay won 1st.

I baked a pie just about every day the weeks prior to each contest. I’m thankful my parents allowed me to do that because I’m sure it was difficult for them to afford the ingredients. But that practice actually was an investment in mastering the skill of pie baking. Making the crust in particular can be intimidating for even adult bakers. Learning how to do that at a young age has allowed me to whip up meat and fruit pies all my life.

I wanted to share that ability with my six-year-old granddaughter. Kaylee is my son-in-law Steve’s daughter from a previous marriage, and I treasure the time I have with her when she is in town. She is smart, compassionate, and delightful and one of my favorite young ladies.

We decided on baking the pies in individual pans, and I was especially happy she chose to make cherry. While we baked we discussed safe food handling, the importance of each ingredient, and of course, the steps in making the pies. We also talked about our daily thoughts and concerns.

Kaylee is a quick learner and did an excellent job of measuring, cooking the filling, rolling out the dough, and sealing the pies.

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The end result was perfect. Kaylee’s pies were as beautiful as they were delicious.

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It’s never too early to introduce children to cooking and baking. The benefits are many. Young chefs learn to appreciate the time and money involved in food preparation. They are more eager to try foods they prepare. They also learn not be intimidated to cook later in life.

Best of all, we gain priceless time with them to exchange ideas and what weighs heavy on our minds. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation Kaylee and I shared while baking. It’s a memory we both appreciate.

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Cherry Pie

Pastry:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard or vegetable fat (Crisco)
4 tablespoons Ice water

Filling:
2 cans red tart cherries
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350.

I. Drain cherries. Combine juice from one can, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook till thick and clear. Remove pan from burner. Add butter, almond extract, and cherries. Cool.

II. Mix flour and salt. Cut in the fat until the size of peas. Sprinkle ice water onto the flour mixture. Carefully add a little more water if needed. Gently form the dough into a ball. Cut the ball in half. Roll out one half of the dough about 1 inch larger than the inverted pie pan for the bottom crust. Prick the crust and lay it in the pie pan.

Pour the filling into the pie pan.

Roll out the top crust. Slit in the center. Dampen the edges of the bottom crust. Lay the top crust over the pie and seal.

Bake pie in 450 oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350. Bake about 30 more minutes.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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