Friday 3 December 2021

Cranberry Apple Pie


I 💓 cranberries! So much so that I keep them in my freezer year 'round. At Christmas-time, they hold special appeal to me because their tart, acidic flavour provides a pleasant counterpoint to the richness and sweetness of so many holiday treats.

It was just that tartness that inspired me to add cranberry apple pie to my Christmas menu. A thin slice of pie makes a fine ending to a Christmas night feast. A not-so-thin slice of pie paired with a cup of coffee is my very favourite Boxing Day breakfast.

It took me a few tries to get this recipe to turn out like I wanted. The ingredients are deceptively simple but the amount of moisture in the fruit can vary a lot. The first time I made it there was so much liquid from the fruit that it dissolved the bottom crust of the pie entirely.  It still tasted good, but it wasn't at all the result I wanted.

Because it was my intention to have a filling that remained set when the pie was both hot and cold, I ended up using quick-cooking tapioca (Minit Tapioca) to thicken it. It sets up more firmly than cornstarch or flour and doesn't have the caviar-like texture of regular tapioca. 

I usually put the fruit in my pie shells uncooked before baking but - because it allows me to adjust the amount of tapioca later if needed - I cook the filling ahead of time for this one.  If the filling doesn't set up firmly once it's cooled, I can stir in some more tapioca before putting it in the crust.

To make a 9-inch pie, you'll need:

  • Pastry for a 2-crust, deep dish pie. You can find my recipe here.
  • 4 cups of cranberries
  • 4 cups of apple that's been cut wedges, then into pieces a little larger than the cranberries
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons quick cooking tapioca (plus more if needed later)
  • A little bit of milk for brushing on the crust
  • Additional sugar for sprinkling over the crust

To prepare the filling: 

Combine the cranberries, apples, sugar, and tapioca in a non-reactive pan. Stir them together and let them sit for a while, until the sugar draws out some of the juice from the fruit.

Once there's a little juice in the bottom of the pan, cook the filling over low heat, stirring it now and then, until it boils and thickens.  

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the filling to cool to room temperature.  You can refrigerate it at this point if you want to, and finish the pie the next day.

To assemble the pie: 

Divide the pastry dough in half.  Return half of it to the fridge. Gently form the other half into a thick disk and place it onto a sheet of waxed paper at least 12 inches square. Cover the dough with another sheet of paper and, working from the center outwards towards the edge, roll the pastry to an even thickness,large enough to reach or exceed the width of the waxed paper.

Gently loosen the top sheet of waxed paper from the dough. Put the loosened paper back over the pastry, flip the rolled dough over, and gently remove the other (now top) sheet of waxed paper.  

Transfer the pastry to a deep dish 9-inch pie plate.  (I use the waxed paper to help me lift the pastry without breaking it.) Gently press the pastry into shape until it conforms to the shape of the pie plate.

If the pastry tears, gently pull off a piece from an outside edge where it overhangs the side of the pie plate. Use your fingertip to apply a little bit of water around the edges of the tear and then place the pulled pastry piece on top, pressing gently to bind it to the crust. 

Trim the pastry neatly around the top edge of the pie plate.

Cover the pastry with a sheet of aluminum foil, pressing it into place, to conform to the contour of the pie shell.  Pour a layer of pastry weights or dried beans into the foil.

Bake the pastry in the pie plate at 425F for 10 minutes, with the foil and pie weights in place.  Remove the pie weights and foil liner, then bake it for 3 or 4 minutes more. Let it cool to room temperature.

While the bottom crust is cooling, roll out the top crust between sheets of waxed paper as instructed above.

Spoon the cooked pie filling into the cooled bottom crust. Cover it with the top crust.

Crimp the edge of the top crust or press it in place with the tines of a fork. Brush the top crust with milk, sprinkle sugar over the milk, and cut a vent into the uncooked pastry.  (I like to cut the vent in a Christmas tree shape or in the shape of a heart.)

Return the pie to the 425F oven, bake it for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake it for about an hour more.  

The pastry should be lightly browned.  If the edges are getting too dark, remove the pie from the oven, cover the edges with foil, then return it to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time.

Serve the pie either warm or at room temperature. I like mine just as it is, plain and slightly tart tasting, but if you want to sweeten it up a bit you can serve it with iced cream or whipped cream. 

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