When I was a child, I often heard the story about how young George, trying out his new hatchet, chopped down a cherry tree. When his father came along later and saw the damaged tree, he asked his son if he knew who the culprit was, the story goes, and George answered: “I cannot tell a lie, Pa. I did cut it with my hatchet.”
Growing up in Illinois, we always had Feb. 12 off from school for Lincoln’s birthday (sadly, not associated with any type of pie) and Feb. 22 off for Washington’s birthday, which was always celebrated with cherry pie. One time when I was about 12 my father took me out to lunch at a fancy restaurant in Chicago’s Wrigley Building on Washington’s birthday. I don’t remember what we ate for main course, only that it was a very special treat — and that, naturally, we had cherry pie for dessert.
Anyway, this Saturday, three days after George’s birthday, I was too lazy to make a real pie (and in any case I didn’t have enough quite enough pie cherries in my freezer for a big pie) so I decided to just wing it and create my own cookie-cutter topped cherry concoction. I made a pie dough (using about 3/4 cup flour, 3 tablespoons of butter, a little salt and some ice water), rolled it out and cut it with my cookie cutter.
I mixed the thawed pie cherries with a couple spoonfuls of flour, some sugar (I had to guess how much, but it turned out just right) and a little orange peel, and put the cherry mixture in a pie pan, then placed the flower-shaped pieces of dough atop and sprinkled them with a little demerara sugar.
After about 35 minutes, the cherries were bubbling and the pie dough was golden. I took this bottom-less pie out of the oven and let it cool down just a bit while I made a pot of Italian decaffeinated coffee and took out some rarely used fancy dessert plates.
In honor of George (albeit a little after his birthday) we enjoyed our cherry pie and coffee — and the dreary day became a cheery one.
Oh, by the way, it turns out the story about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree is false, a fabrication of George Washington’s biographer. Nevertheless, as Maira Kalman writes in her fabulous blog about George (which I was happy to revisit today) he was likely a moral man — and also quite likely, partial to cherry pie.