I hope you're not sick of apples yet because I have to share at least one more recipe. It's taking me a long time to get through the 16 pounds of apples I bought back in October! Luckily, they last for quite a while in the fridge so I haven't felt pressure to bake with apples every weekend. Once cranberries started appearing in the store about a month ago I began stocking up on those too. There's a 3-pound bag in my freezer now and I plan to pick up at least one more to get me through the holiday season and the long stretch between then and next year. Cranberries freeze beautifully and it's such a treat to be able to bake with them year round.
My stash of apples and cranberries came in handy when I stumbled upon this recipe for cranberry-apple pie in the holiday baking issue of Cook's Illustrated. I needed a dessert to share at our Thanksgiving celebration with Shane's family, so I had the perfect opportunity to try it out. I rarely make tried and true recipes when I bring dishes to parties or get-togethers. It would probably save me a lot of stress and worry if I went with a dish I'd made before that I knew would turn out great, but I'm really averse to repeating recipes (particularly desserts) when there are so many out there I want to try. New pie recipes make me especially nervous, as I've made more than my fair share of what I like to call soup pie - you know, the ones that you cut into only to find a huge puddle of juices and a soggy crust on the bottom? I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best with this one. It was still cooling on the rack in the car on the way down to Shane's parents' house so I had no idea what I'd find when I sliced into it.
This pie is interesting in that the apple and cranberry fillings aren't combined; instead, they're layered in the crust one on top of the other. The recipe indicated that the reason behind the separation was to keep the tart cranberries from overwhelming the more subtle apple flavor. I also thought it looked pretty to keep the bright red cranberries distinct from the pale yellow apples. Both fillings can be made ahead of time, which actually makes assembly pretty easy, as you could also make the pie dough in advance. My crust didn't brown as much as I'd have liked in the oven, but the filling was, thankfully, perfect when I cut the first slice. The cranberry filling is definitely on the tart side, but for me it was a nice counterpoint to the sweet apples and buttery crust. Precooking the cranberries helps avoid a soggy bottom crust in the pie by ensuring they don't release a lot of liquid while the pie bakes. Were I to make the pie again, the only thing I'd do differently is to cook the apples for the filling just a bit less - I wish they'd had slightly more texture in the pie. The combination of flavors makes this a great fall dessert, but also one that would be just as welcome at Christmas as on Thanksgiving, I think :)
from Cook's Illustrated
2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 1/2 pounds sweet apples (6-7 medium), peeled, cored & cut into 1/4" thick slices
your favorite double crust pie dough (there's a nice tutorial here)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar in the raw
To make the cranberry filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries have completely broken down and the juices have thickened to a jam-like consistency, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the water, and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
To make the apple filling: In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and cornstarch. Add the apples and toss to coat thoroughly. Microwave the apple mixture on high power for 10-14 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes with a rubber spatula, until the liquid is thick and glossy and the apples have started to turn translucent around the edges. Let the apple filling cool to room temperature. (Note: both fillings can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated.)
While the fillings are cooling, preheat oven to 425 F. Place a rack in the lowest position and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Roll one disk of dough into a 12-inch round on a floured surface. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the dough. Spread the cooled cranberry filling in the bottom of the dough-lined pie plate. Place the cooled apple filling on top of the cranberry layer, mounding it slightly in the center. Roll out the second disk of dough to a 12-inch round on a floured surface. Transfer it to the top of the pie plate. Use kitchen shears to cut through both layers of pie dough, leaving about 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself so that the edge of the fold is flush with the outer rim of the pie plate. Use your fingers to create a fluted edge or use the tines of a fork to seal the dough. Brush the top and edges of the pie with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with the sugar in the raw. Use a sharp paring knife to cut slits in the top crust.
Bake the pie on the preheated baking sheet until the top is light golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and continue to bake until the crust is deep golden brown, about 25-30 minutes longer. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for at least 2 hours before serving.