I LOVE pie. I love THIS pie. But I HATE pastry. Not the pie crust, but making it. Which is why so often I turn to Pillsbury which takes a skill that I’m truly and utterly deficient in (pastry) and makes it a breeze. Why oh why do I tempt fate and tell myself — “I can make my own pie crust.” That’s just asking for trouble, right? But that’s what I did for this Sweet-Tart Apple Pie.
My initial optimism sprouted from a “foolproof method” found in The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook. The recipe was actually called Foolproof Pie Dough. I really thought this was going to be a game changer for me. I mean, it’s America’s Test Kitchen, right?!! Foolproof – HA!
This made the softest dough I’d ever worked with. So soft that I couldn’t pry it off my counter and eventually had to press pieces of it into the pie plate. So soft that I couldn’t make a nice lattice top or use those fun little autumn leaf cutouts I’d purchased just for the occasion. Grrrr…
However, the filling from this monumental tome came together without issue. The combination of two kinds of apples, granny smith which retain their shape during cooking and McIntosh, which soften and break down enough to lend a luxurious mouth feel to the filling, were spot on. Restraint on the spices made the fruit flavors in this pie shine through.
But there was that crust. After multiple attempts to make it festive and decorative, I used my own tried and true method to get the top crust onto the pie in one piece. I placed the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. I laid a second piece of plastic over the top and rolled it out to about 1/4″ thick. I remove the top plastic and gently used the bottom plastic to lightly fold the dough in half. I pulled back the plastic and folded the dough once more — lightly– into a quarter. I gingerly lifted it, placed it atop one quarter of the pie and unfolded the dough — where it promptly sank and cracked over the apples.
Brushing it with egg wash at least gives it a shine and a spoonful of sugar adds a sparkly texture. Does that count as decoration? It was also too soft to create a decorative border — so the tines of a fork came in handy to seal the edges.
And this is my ugly pie. Or should I call it freeform? Despite my ravings and cursings (oh, yes — a whole lot of 4-letter expletives), the crust TASTED wonderful. It was flaky and buttery and sincerely delicious. It just looked like hell.
The interior was tangy, sweet and luscious. A real winner. I highly recommend this Sweet-Tart Apple Cranberry Pie taste-wise. I can also vouch for the crust being tender, flaky & flavorful but if your plan is to decorate and froufrou your pastry – either make your own tried and true recipe or stick to Pillsbury.
Sweet Tart Apple Cranberry Pie
This flavor of this Apple Cranberry Pie is pure apple and tart cranberry, not overly spiced allowing the fruit to shine. You can make this crust which is a copy of the one from America's Test Kitchen (I personally found it too soft and unmanageable) or use your own favorite crust or even store-bought for greater ease.
For Pie Pastry:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons) very cold, cut into 1/4" pieces and chilled
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or crisco very cold, cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup ice water
- 1/4 cup vodka chilled
- 2 rounds pie pastry
- 4 large Macintosh apples peeled, seeded, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
- 3 large Granny Smith apples peeled, seeded, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1 egg lightly beaten
For Pie Dough (note - this makes a very soft dough)
In a food processor add 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine. Scatter the butter and shortening over the flour and process until uneven chunks form and no floury bits remain. (About 10-15 seconds).
Scrape down the dough and redistribute evenly in the bowl of the food processor. Sprinkle in the remaining flour and pulse 4-6 times or until it's broken up into pieces and is evenly distributed around the bowl. Transfer to a medium sized bowl and add in the ice water and vodka. Use a stiff spatula to mix the liquids into the dough. Work it until the dough sticks together.
Divide the dough into two even pieces. Shape them into round, flat discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the coldest part of your refrigerator for 1 hour.
For The Pie:
Lay a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on a work surface. Dust liberally with flour. Flour your rolling pin. Set one disc of chilled pie dough into the center of the work surface and roll it out into a 12 inch round - lifting the edges of the dough every so often to dust with more flour to prevent sticking.
Lift the parchment paper and transfer onto a large cutting board. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Do the same with the second disc of dough and refrigerate in the same manner.
Adjust the oven rack to the bottom position in the oven and preheat to 500°.
When dough is sufficiently cold, carefully transfer one pastry from the parchment paper into a 9" pie pan. Trim the excess that hangs over the sides with a sharp knife and press the dough into the bottom and sides. Return to the refrigerator.
Zest the lemon.
In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Whisk to combine.
Add the apples and cranberries to the bowl and squeeze the juice from the lemon over the fruit. Toss to thoroughly combine. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the fruit into the pie crust. You don't want to add excess liquid to the pie, so accumulated juices should be discarded.
Gently transfer the second pastry and drape it over the apple filling. Crimp the edges with your fingers or use the tines of a fork to give it a rustic look. Cut a few slits in the top of the crust for steam to escape.
Brush the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
Place a piece of parchment on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills. Place the pie in the center of the parchment.
Reduce the oven to 425°. Bake until crust is golden, about 25 minutes.
Rotate the pie 180° in the oven and REDUCE THE HEAT to 325°. Bake for an additional 35-45 minutes. Check halfway through and if the crust is getting too brown, lay a piece of aluminum foil over it to stop the browning.
Cool the pie on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature -- about 4 hours. Serve.
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