High Altitude Baking: A perfect holiday pie
This pie just shouts “HOLIDAYS!” Cranberries, apples and mincemeat – tastes we associate strongly with Thanksgiving and Christmas – share the spotlight in this dessert. It’s one of my all-time favorites this time of year… lovely colors, easy to make and delicious.
The three main ingredients are delightfully compatible. The sweetness of the apples balances the tart cranberries and the mincemeat adds flavors and textures that increase the overall success of the filling. Simply – it works.
If you’re unfamiliar with mincemeat, it’s a mixture of apples, dried fruit, orange, sugar and spices. Originally, it contained minced suet and/or beef (hence, the name). It’s available, premade, in the baking section of most grocery stores.
Like most fruit pies, it’s best served warm. I top it with hard sauce for the adults in the group and ice cream for those who don’t want alcohol.
If you can’t find fresh cranberries, you can use frozen ones, just increase the flour to two and a half tablespoons.
Cranberry, Apple, Mincemeat Pie
Make in a 9 inch pie pan, preferably glass
Your favorite two-crust pie dough
1/2 (one half) cup of granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1-1/2 (one and a half) tablespoons of flour
2 (two) cups of fresh cranberries
2 (two) medium-large Golden Delicious apples
2 (two) cups of jarred commercial mincemeat
1 (one) tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 (one) egg yolk
5 (five) tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 (one) cup of confectioner’s sugar
1-2 (one to two) tablespoons of brandy
Step One: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease the pie pan and set it aside.
Step Two: Roll half of the pie dough into a circle 11-12 inches in diameter and use it to line the pie pan. Place the lined pan in the refrigerator. Roll the second half of the dough, which will serve as the top of the pie, into a slightly smaller circle, slide it on to a cookie sheet, cover it and place it in the refrigerator.
Step Three: Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the half cup of granulated sugar and the flour together until the flour is no longer visible. Coarsely chop one cup of the cranberries (Because they roll around on a cutting board, I do this by pulsing them in a food processor) and put them, and the whole cranberries, into the bowl with the sugar-flour mixture. Peel and core the Golden Delicious apples, chop them into half-inch size pieces, and add them to the bowl. Measure the mincemeat and add it to the bowl. Gently stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined and uniformly moistened.
Step Four: Remove the dough-lined pie pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling into it, leveling it as you go. You may not use all of the filling; pie pans differ in their capacities. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and scatter them all over the pie filling. Take the top crust out of the refrigerator and, if necessary, let it rest until it warms enough that it won’t crack when bent. Wet the rim of the bottom crust so it will adhere well with the top. Place the top crust over the filling, bring the bottom crust over it and press the two together until sealed. Trim, if necessary, and flute the edges. Using a sharp knife, cut several vents in the top crust so that steam can escape as the pie bakes. Make a glaze by adding a teaspoon of water or milk to the egg yolk and whisking until they’re combined. Brush this lightly all over the top crust. If the glaze pools, use a paper towel to remove some it. Sprinkle some granulated sugar over the glaze.
Step Five: Place the pie on a cookie sheet to catch any drips and put in the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes longer, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden. If the crust is golden before the filling has finished baking, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top crust until the pie is done. Remove the pie to a rack to cool. The pie filling sets completely and the pie cuts most easily after some time in the refrigerator. So, if you have time, refrigerate it, remove it from the ‘fridge, cut it, and re-warm the pieces before serving. Accompany with hard sauce or vanilla ice cream.
Step Six: Optional hard sauce: Combine the butter, confectioner’s sugar and the brandy in a food processor and pulse until combined and smooth. Store in the refrigerator for a week. The hard sauce should be served warm but not liquid; you want it to melt over the pie. So, remove it from the refrigerator and warm slightly in the microwave (don’t let it melt) before scooping a tablespoon or two over the warm pie.
The pie recipe is a variation of one in Pie, Pie, Pie.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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