Cranberry Raisin Pie
At first, I thought that I was a little late to the party, posting a cranberry recipe after Thanksgiving had passed. Then I realized that now may be the actual best time to post a cranberry recipe since after Thanksgiving there is usually a glut of cranberries on the market, and prices drop after the Thanksgiving. Well, at least in America.
I was fortunate because although you can find fresh cranberries in Paris around Thanksgiving (for les Américains, and with a little searching), they’re very costly. And even after the fête, they don’t discount them since the sellers don’t quite realize that the stress of having to find fresh cranberries is not longer an issue once Thanksgiving has passed. And most of us tend to forget about them. However I love cranberries and hoard them whenever I find them at a reasonable price.
Like last year, as a fluke, I was at a supermarket and saw baskets for only €1 each, about $1.25. (Marked down from €6 each, or — gulp — $9 a basket.) So I swooped down, and bought them all. And for the holidays this year, I had a freezerload of fresh cranberries at my disposal.
A few weeks ago, a reader contacted me, asking whatever happened to the cranberry-raisin pie recipe on my blog. I did a search and, indeed, the recipe was gone. When I moved the site to a real blogging platform around 2004, the old pages from my “blog” (which back then was simply a website that I updated as much I could, before I knew what a blog was), couldn’t be moved over. So like the proverbial dog eating someone’s homework, I could say that the internet ate it.
I searched around the Way Back Machine for posts on the earliest version of my site, to no avail. But finally found the recipe lurking in some dark corner of my computer, waiting to be re-released from an obscure file that, fortunately, I’d saved.
This recipe is from Marion Cunningham, who was responsible for revising and updating The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, an American classic that was too heavy to lug to France. The recipe is as easy as – well…pie. And while that’s a commonly used expression, this time I really mean it. There’s no slicing or peeling; you simply mix up some cranberries and raisins, enclose them in two sheets of pie pastry, and then bake it until the juices thicken. And then, ya got pie.
Once done, the filling has the tart, tangy taste of cranberries with little nuggets of sweet raisins, along with a hint of orange flavor, thanks to a generous splash of orange liqueur and zest. Unfortunately, I can’t show you what it’s like inside for two reasons.
One, is that the nightfall hits Paris around 5pm this time of the year, and we are plunged into darkness, which isn’t my fault. But the other reason, which is my fault, is that I brought this pie to a dinner party in Paris. Yes, it survived crossing town on a rush-hour métro. (And next time, I’m going to use one of these nifty cake and pie carriers a young woman is making in Paris, who gave me one at a recent booksigning – even though no one knows what “pie” is in Paris.)
But, silly me, I brought my camera to dinner and when dessert was ready to serve, it wasn’t the Champagne (‘Tis the season!) and Chablis kicking in, but it was me (ma faute), who forgot to click the battery into his camera before leaving home. (I was so concerned about the pie on the métro since I’ve had so many jostle-related accidents in the past.) So you don’t get a shot of the inside, but imagine an almost jam-like filling, thick and juicy.
Almost Obligatory is a scoop of ice cream alongside the pie. I served this one with cinnamon ice cream, although there’s no shame in pairing it with good ol’ vanilla ice cream. I do feel a bit of shame for forgetting my camera’s battery, but on the other hand, I saved an old post with a recipe from extinction. Plus I got to make one of my favorite holiday desserts of all time all over again. And best of all, at the party, one of my French friends, who had never had cranberry pie before, liked it so much that he had two generous slices and was eyeing the rest of the pie, secretly wanting a third. Thankfully, a friend brought me a jumbo bag of fresh cranberries last week to refresh my stash, so I’ll be able to make this pie next year. (Now that I’ve got the recipe, again.)
One 9-inch (23cm) pie, eight servings
I’ve been on the fence about rolling pastry on a lightly floured countertop versus between two sheets of parchment. Here, the parchment won out. If you choose to go that route, rather than rolling it out the traditional way, make sure the dough comes back to close to room temperature before rolling it out. I find it helps to unwrap the dough, then hold the disk so it’s perpendicular to the counter, and rap it on the counter, turning it as you go. That helps soften just the edges of the dough, and prevents them from cracking when you roll it out.
The orange liqueur is pretty important for the taste, but you could use Cognac or brandy. If you’re avoiding liquor, fresh orange juice would work in its place.
For the pie dough:
2 1/2 cups (350g) flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225g/8 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
6 to 8 tablespoons (90-125ml) ice water
For the filling:
- 2 cups (270g) raisins, dark or light, soaked for 2 hours in water
- 4 cups (440g) fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
- 1 cup (200g) sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 cup (60ml) orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec
- zest of one orange
For the egg wash:
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons milk
1. To make the pie dough, mix the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (The dough can also be made by hand, in a bowl, with a pastry blended or using your hands.) Add the chilled butter and mix the dough until the butter is broken up into small pieces, about the size of peas.
2. Add 6 tablespoons (90ml) of ice water and mix until the dough begins to come together. If necessary, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of water, if the dough needs it to come together. Turn the dough out on a work surface and give it a few turns with your hands. Divide the dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other, shape them into disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to two months.)
3. When you’re ready to assemble and bake the pie, preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
4. Make the filling by draining the raisins and squeezing them to get the excess liquid out. In a large bowl, mix them with the cranberries, sugar, flour, orange liqueur, and zest.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to slightly cooler than room temperature. Unwrap the smaller disk of dough, rap the edges on the countertop (as explained in the post), the roll it between two pieces of parchment paper until it’s a 12-inch (30cm) round. Fold the dough in half, then fold it again. Place it in a pie dish with the point in the center, and unfold it to line the bottom of the dish.
6. Transfer the cranberry filling into the bottom of the pie shell.
7. Roll the second disk of dough into a 14-inch (35cm) round between two sheets of parchment paper. Brush the edges of the dough in the pie dish with water, then transfer the sheet of pie dough, to cover the fruit in the pie. Tuck the edges of the top piece of dough under the rim of the bottom round of dough in the pie dish. Crimp the edges.
8. Make the egg wash by mixing the egg yolk with the milk and brush it over the top of the pie. Cut 6 vent holes in the top, place the pie on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet (to catch any drips), and bake the pie in the oven until the top is browned and the juices from the filling are thick and bubbly, about an hour. You can stick a knife in the center to check to make sure the cranberries are cooked, although you want to make sure the juices are thick. If the top of the pie browns too quickly, before the filling is cooked, drape a sheet of foil over the top to prevent it from getting too dark.
Serve with ice cream.