I am an amateur foodie. I blame Ina Garten. I was just a boring old housewifey cook until the Christmas when Mom gave me my first Barefoot Contessa cookbook. And oh, boy, have things gone haywire since then! My cooking’s become a neverending quest to find the best, most flavorful recipe out there. I spend my afternoons in the bathtub reading cooking magazines, and have the whole layout of Williams-Sonoma memorized. Kitchen gadgets–I haz them.
In any event, I call myself an amateur because I’m no Top Chef. I don’t know the flavor of a cactus flower from a squash blossom…though I’d like to! But I do have decent skills in the kitchen, and I usually know what combination of foods is going to make a fantastic dish.
Which is how we come to Apple-Pear Cranberry pie.
It all started with an inability to read while distracted. One of my girlfriends mentioned that her husband (a hubby who bakes!) makes a killer Apple Cranberry pie, which I read as Apple-Pear. I asked for the recipe, and while I waited, I shopped for ingredients. I know the best apple pies I’ve ever made used a combination of tart and sweet apples, so I stocked up on a couple of pounds each of Granny Smiths and Cameos, and for pears I chose Boscs. Most pear baking calls for d’Anjous, but I made an apple-pear crisp once upon a time, and it used Boscs and I loved it.
Of course, when I got home, I realized that there wasn’t going to be any pear in Mike’s recipe, so the daunting search began. Were there any good recipes out there for an apple-pear-cran pie? How about just apple-pear? Apple-cran? Oy. I found several, but none of them sounded terribly impressive, and none addressed my main fear: would the pears turn to liquid mush, ruining my bottom crust? If so, how to defeat the problem? I knew I’d read a Cook’s Illustrated deep-dish apple pie recipe that sauteed the apples down a bit to prevent the ubiquitous caving of the filling. It took me ages to find it, and then I realized I’d made it before and wasn’t terribly impressed. The filling hadn’t caved, but the pie was somewhat flavorless and the apples too crisp.
In the end, I decided I’d just have to trust my instincts. I found a few fantastic tips along the way: the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook suggested upping the sugar when using cranberries, and I learned that a latticed top crust helps vent moisture from wet pies. When I got Mike’s recipe, I found that he was using both fresh cranberries and craisins, which sounded fantastic. Upon reading a CI recipe for Apple Cranberry Crisp, I learned that the craisins will soak up some of the moisture as well, which should help to alleviate the wetness problem.
And so I went forth. This recipe is a combination of elements from my friend’s husband’s recipe, America’s Test Kitchen’s, and Ina’s. I have to say, I tasted the filling before I dumped it in, and HOLY COW. I think this is gonna be one killer pie. I’ll report final results after dinner tonight. 🙂
Jen’s Apple Pear Cranberry Pie
2 pounds Granny Smith apples
1 pound Cameo or MacIntosh apples
1.5 pounds Bosc pears
1 cup fresh cranberries
3/4 cup Craisins
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground aallspice
1 egg and 1 Tbsp heavy cream for egg wash
Sugar for dusting
Start by preparing your favorite crust recipe. I used one of Smitten Kitchen’s, found here. I have to say, I’ve hated making pies over the last few years, because the stupid crust never cooperates. I decided I needed to go back to using a pastry blender rather than the food processor, and VOILA. Holy perfect crust, Batman! Visible pieces of butter=flaky crust, and even my re-rolled pie crust cookies are more like puff pastry than the dense, flavorless crust I usually end up with. I highly recommend this recipe!
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Yes, really. Don’t freak out.)
Peel the apples and pears and slice each into 16ths. I love the Williams-Sonoma apple slicer for this, but there’s no reason you can’t do it by hand.
Dump the apples, pears, cranberries, and Craisins into a large bowl. Add the zests, orange juice, sugar, flour, salt, and spices, and toss everything together. Let sit while you roll out your dough. (Tip: flour the crap out of your board. Like way, way more than you think is necessary. Do this, and your crust won’t stretch and then shrink back when it’s baked. You can brush the extra off the bottom when you transfer it to your pan.)
Place the dough in the bottom of your pie pan and dump in the filling. See?
Roll out the top crust, and make a few vents. I decided against a lattice crust, because I did want to keep enough moisture to make the filling a little puddingy. But just a little, so I cut holes in my crust using a very small biscuit cutter. Trim the crusts so they overlap your pan’s edge by about 1″, and then tuck both under a bit. Crimp the edge. Beat the egg and cream together with a fork and brush the entire top crust with it. Sprinkle with about 1 Tbsp sugar, and place on a baking sheet.
Pop the pie on its sheet in the 500-degree oven, and immediately drop the temp to 425. This will make the crust nice and crisp. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crust becomes lightly golden brown. Then drop the temp to 375. Continue to bake for 30-35 minutes, until the juices bubble and the crust is a deep golden brown. I found that mine started to brown too quickly, so I placed a sheet of foil over the top at around 35 minutes into baking.
Let pie cool a bit; serve warm or at room temperature.
See that crust? That, my friends, is flaky pastry perfection.
It smells amazing in here. I’ll let you know how it goes over tonight!
ETA: YUM. I have to admit that the inside was soupy, though. I have a few suggested remedies for that, so I may be able to avoid it next time. Also, though that crust was *amazing* when it was warm, after a few hours it became kinda chewy–even on top, where it wasn’t in contact with the soupiness. Maybe it’d be fine on a problem-free pie? I have other recipes I’ll try, and we’ll see. Biggest bonus: the pie smelled amazing. Like the best Christmas candle evar!