Saturday, November 24, 2012

Layered Cranberry Apple Pie Recipe

Layered Cranberry Apple Pie

When I decided to make a cranberry/apple pie for this year's Thanksgiving dinner,  I found a bunch of recipes online. But none of them really hit home with me.  Also, I'm sorry Martha Stewart, but after reading the recipe notes on Cook's Illustrated, I decided that just tossing the cranberries in with the apples didn't sound right.  

As Cook's points out, an apple pie is a balance between sweet and tart, crisp and tender.  If you add cranberries into the mix, not only does that upset the balance, but the juice the berries release while cooking can make for a soggy crust.  

I was so busy making this up by taste as I went along I -- oops -- forgot to take photos, so, although Tracey, who blogs as Tracey's Culinary Adventures, used a different recipe, her pie looks pretty much like mine so I'm using her photos. 

Here's the recipe I came up with, which Sweetie swears is the best pie ever:

2 pie crusts (I'll share my no-fail crust recipe at the end of the post.)

For the cranberry layer, which should be made first:


2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt.
1 Tablespoon cornstarch (you may not need this, but I wasn't taking any chances because I didn't have time to make a second one if the berries didn't set up.)

Bring to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  
Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally and pressing the berries against the side of the pan to break them down.  (I used a flat wooden spoon.)   They're done when you can drag the spoon across the bottom of the pan and the berries don't fill in the clear trail.

Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. About 30 minutes, although mine sat longer because I hadn't peeled or sliced the apples yet.

Apple layer:


5-7 cups of peeled baking apples.  You want an apple that's both tart and sweet, but won't break down while baking. To get some difference in tastes and textures, I used 3 Granny Smiths, 2 Jonagolds (Jonathons in some places)  and 1 Braeburn. 

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
white of one egg, lightly beaten
finely grated orange zest

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, along with 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon orange zest.

Add apples, sliced about 1/4" thick, and lemon juice and mix them together until all slices are coated. (I started with another wooden spoon and ended up using my hands.)

Let sit for about ten minutes for the juices to come out of the apples. 

Brush the pie crust you've already put in the bottom of your pie pan with lightly beaten egg white and let dry to prevent a soggy crust.  

Spread cranberry mixture across the bottom of the crust.

Add apple slices, arranging so they build toward a dome in the center.  Don't worry if it seems like too many apples, they break down while baking. 

Top apples with cut-up pieces of cold butter.  

Lay top crust over the pie and seal/flute edges.  (There's a video at the end of the post if you need help with this.)

Brush with egg white and sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar 

Cut four diagonal slices in the dough.

Place pie pan on a pre-warmed baking sheet to protect against spill over and put on the middle rack in the pre-heated oven.

Now, normally, I'd start at 425 degrees for the first ten minutes, but -- oops -- we forgot to clean the oven after last week's roast chicken, so it began to smoke.  

I compromised by turning it down to 375 degrees, which stopped the smoking.  I covered the edges with a pie crust shield for the first 25 minutes.  You can use folded strips of aluminum foil, but they're more difficult to take off without tearing the crust.  After the first 25 minutes, I took the shield off, baked it for another 30 minutes, and it turned out such a pretty color (a bit darker than this picture), I think I'll stick with this way.

Let cool on a wire rack, then serve with a good vanilla bean ice cream.  (With all the calories in the pie, it makes no sense to go with a much less flavorful low fat ice cream.  This is all about yummy indulgence and not the time to scrimp!) 

As far as I'm concerned, pies are just as much about the crust. In fact, I've had more than one restaurant pie ruined by a thick, tasteless crust.  This one, adapted from Joy of Cooking, is no fail and I've been using it forever. Well, since Sweetie bought me my first edition of Joy of Cooking our first Christmas together when I was nineteen. 

I made 1/3 more dough than I usually make because I knew I was going to pile the apples high in the pan, and I'd rather have crust left over than not enough.  


Sift 3 cups of flour
Stir in 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter flavored Crisco  (or half Crisco and 1/2 cold butter, but all Crisco is flakier.) 

Gradually cut half the the Crisco into the flour and salt mixture.  I use two dinner knives, criss-crossing them.  When the flour's the grain of cornmeal, cut in the other half of the shortening. Again, I use my knives, finishing up with a few chops with a pastry blender, then working it lightly with my fingers until it's pea size. 

GRADUALLY, 1 Tablespoon at a time, stir in approximately 7 1/2 Tablespoons of ice water, lifting it into the dough with a fork.  You want to do this gradually, because you can always add more, but it's difficult to take away.  You want just enough water to hold the ingredients together. When you can gather it into a ball, STOP HANDLING IT!  

Wrap the dough in waxed paper and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough before rolling. Normally, I'd do half and half, but for this pie's height, I went  with1/3 for the bottom, 2/3 for the top.  (I did end up with extra dough, but again, more is better than not enough.)

Place the 1st ball on a sheet of waxed paper and smash it down with your hand. Then cover with another sheet of waxed paper.  This makes for an easy way to get the dough into your pan, plus, you don't have to add extra flour for rolling.  

Whether you use a rolling pin, a wine bottle, or a glass, always roll the dough from the center out in all directions. Don't go back and forth.  Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness or less. Don't worry if you have a few tears. You can patch them later.

When you have a circle a bit larger than your pie pan, turn it over and peel off the bottom waxed paper.  (The bottom piece usually ends up with more wrinkles and is a bit more difficult to work with.)  Then lift the remaining piece, flip the dough over and ease it into the pan, peeling off the paper once it's in the pan.  I've found it's best to tear it in strips.   Then firm it in place with your hands so there won't be air between the dough and the sides of the pan. 

Brush it with a light bit of egg white.  Don't prick the crust for berry pies.  

After you've added your berry/apple mixture, do the same to place the top crust over the apples. Cut off extra bits from the overhang dough to patch any holes.

Then it's important to pinch the bottom and top layers together.  (Cut off any excess before making your edge.) I use my thumb and forefinger; you can also use a fork. The important thing it to seal it well to release the steam so your filling won't bubble out.  

Brush with a dusting of egg white, sprinkle with sugar and don't forget to cut those slices in the top.  You can also make a lovely lattice top, but it's more difficult and I was making this late at night. Besides, this crust is super tasty, so the more the better. :)

Bon Appetit!



Rufus said...

JoAnn, this sounds absolutely yummy! I think I'll try this the next time I do an apple pie. Thanks for sharing the results of all your research.

Nubian said...

I made my own cranberry compote for Thanksgiving, this recipe sounds perfect for the left overs.

Meljprincess said...

One of the reasons I love Christmas. The delicious dessert recipes start showing up. This looks yummy, JoAnn.

JoAnn Ross said...

Rufus, I hope you enjoy it!

Nubian, what a great idea! I always make my own cranberry sauce when we have turkey; but we never have leftovers because we use it on sandwiches.

Mel, yep, diets pretty much fly out the window this time of yr!