M. Andrew Gordon

Cranberry Pie, part 2

In Desserts, Pies, Uncategorized on November 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Last year I made an all cranberry pie that I thought was spectacular.  The reviews, however, were mixed.  Mostly they were split into one of two camps: those who reveled in the bracing tartness of the cranberry and those that just felt the tartness was too overbearing.  Although I firmly fell in the former camp, I do see the perspective of the too-tart crowd.  Cranberries are an exceptional little fruit for their exceedingly tart flavor with only a slight hint at the sweetness they offer at the back of the mouth.  That’s what I like about them – they’re just a little different, they’re not super-sweet and they damned sure taste like New England to me.

I was going to revisit this pie for the all-cranberry dinner party I was cooking.  For a dinner where cranberries would be featured in every dish, it seemed fitting to finish it off with a big celebration of cranberry in the form of a pie.  But I wanted to dress it up.  Originally I had made it as a two crust pie.  For the 2010 edition, I would top it with a towering layer of meringue.

Meringue is an interesting thing, one of those fantastic science experiments disguised as delicious culinary technique.  Broken down into its simplest form, it is beaten egg whites with a sugar syrup and whipped to a marshmallow like consistency.  There are different types of meringues, from the aforementioned marshmallow like toppings to many pies to the puffy and crispy cookie-like treats.  For the meringue topping for the pie, an Italian meringue is called for which means hot sugar syrup is drizzled into the egg whites and beaten until glossy.

By topping the pie with the meringue, it deftly balances the real tart fruit in a way that even a really good whipped cream doesn’t.  I am an unabashed fan of whipped cream as an accompaniment to pie but here, I was very happy with the results of the meringue.  As for the other side of the pie, I have been trying my way through different variations of pie crust, using all-butter, butter-and-lard, and even all-lard recipes.  Some call for different ratios of flour to fat and I still don’t know that I have settled on anything as definitive yet.  For this pie, I used a recipe for Flaky Pie Crust from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.

Cranberry Meringue Pie – serves 8-10

For the crust

Use the Flaky Pie Crust recipe in the link above or your favorite pie crust.  You’ll want to prick the crust all over with a fork and then line with buttered parchment paper.  Line the paper with foil and place 4-5 cups of beans or pie weights in the foil and bake at 425F for ten minutes.  Carefully remove the foil and parchment paper and bake the shell at 350F for an additional 15 minutes.  Let the crust cool before filling.

For the filling and meringue

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 5 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sweetened-dried cranberries
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Combine honey and spices in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until honey becomes thin and spices are incorporated.  In a large bowl, combine both types of cranberries.
  2. Pour honey over cranberries and stir to mix well.  Pour cranberries into prebaked pie crust.  Bake pie for 55 minutes.  Let cool on rack.
  3. In standing mixer, whip egg whites until soft peaks form.  In small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and salt and bring to a boil and cook for about five minutes without stirring.  With machine running, pour in hot syrup in a slow stream and whip for five minutes or until the meringue is smooth and glossy.  Top the cranberries with the meringue and tease the meringue with the back of a spoon to create peaks.  Broil under high for 30 seconds or until the meringue starts to brown.

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