mile-high apple cranberry pie

December 1, 2014

mile-high apple cranberry pie

"I don't know which to prefer,
the beauty of inflections 
or the beauty of innuendos.
The blackbird whistling 
or just after." 
         ~ Wallace Stevens, from "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" 
Happy December, everyone. For several weeks now, one of my oak trees has served as a stark meeting nook for a pair of ravens. They form various ink blot patterns against a milk grey, late-autumn sky and crooked branches. As a lover of all things Poe, I have always been fascinated with ravens; their errant, melodic *caws* are a welcome addition to the morning symphony of coffee grinding and soft spoken NPR news.

Heart fluttering holiday chaos + slippery (white-knuckled!) driving aside, I'm slightly enamored with the chivalrous month of December. Its ephemeral light makes it difficult to squeeze in food photos, but unlike January and February, I don't mind the time constraint. I'll sigh at the 4:30 pm sun & occasionally rap two fingers nervously against my lips whilst rearranging plates and napkins, but that's the extent of Decemberling angst. By mid-winter I'm a fidgeting, disheveled basket case. If they're still around, maybe the obsidian feathered visitors will keep my mind focused and clear - even during winter's bleakest streak. My whimsical half, the part who relished fabled stories and grew up watching Faerie Tale Theatre, is convinced they are Odin's Huginn and Muninn. Maybe Loki isn't too far behind...

mile-high apple cranberry pie | une gamine dans la cuisine
mile-high apple cranberry pie | une gamine dans la cuisine

This pie was my contribution to Thanksgiving brunch. Under normal circumstances, I will allow myself to indulge (once a year) in a slice of deliriously corn syrup-laced pecan pie; honestly, I will never say no to a sticky, overtly sweet wedge of pecan pie. Sadly this year was pecan + syrup free - fortunately this statuesque apple deity was a luscious substitute. 

With roughly four pounds of apple wedges + 12 ounces of cranberries packed between two all-butter crusts, this lofty pie could have a cameo in The Tale of Tom Kitten. The fresh cranberries are cooked with brown sugar & a splash of orange juice until they develop a chunky jam-like consistency. I kept things simple with the apples; tossing in a few tablespoons of sweet Vietnamese cinnamon, brown sugar, and almond extract. When the acerbic cranberries were folded into the apples I wanted to grab a fork and forget about the pie crust (and Thanksgiving dessert).

Please feel free to use your favourite kind of apples. I know there are special "baking" apples, but I've always had splendid results with whatever I happen to have on hand. My personal favouites, for baking & snacking, are honeycrisp and Pink Lady apples. xoxo

Also, an elephantine congratulations to Tom Hiddleston (another rivulet of the whimsical me) for his win at the London Evening Standard Theater Awards! 

apple cranberry pie
makes one 9-inch pie

for the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 Tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
1 cup (that's 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes {Note: I cut the butter into cubes and let it freeze overnight in a covered bowl.}
6 - 8 Tablespoons cold half & half cream (or whole milk)

for the filling
12 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) fresh cranberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons orange juice
4 1/2 pounds apples {i used a mix of honeycrisp, pink lady and granny smith)
1/2 cup tightly packed, light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon {note: I love cinnamon. Feel free to use less if you think it's too much.)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

for making the crust happy & golden
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Prepare the crust: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, granulated sugar & espresso powder (if using). Add the cold butter cubes and mix until evenly coated.

Place everything into the bowl of a large food processor. Using several short bursts, pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal (it will look very dry). Transfer mixture back to large mixing bowl and place the bowl into freezer. Freeze for about 30 minutes.

Remove bowl from the freezer and sprinkle about 3 Tablespoons of the cream (or whole milk) on top of the mixture. Use a wooded spoon, a rubber spatula (or your hands) to gently work the cream into the dough. Keep adding cream, 1/2 Tablespoonful at a time, and mixing, until the dough starts to form a ball (you might not need all 8 Tablespoons). Don't add too much cream - the dough should be cohesive and slightly wet but not sticky. Gather the dough into a ball and divide it in half; one half should be *slightly* larger, this will be your top crust. Flatten each piece of dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. {Note: Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for three days.}

Remove small disk of dough from fridge. On a well-floured surface, using a well-floured rolling pin, roll the disk into a 12-inch circle that's about 1/4-inch thick. Gently place the circle of dough into a 9-inch pie plate - make sure it's centered; if you try to stretch the dough at this point it will shrink back in the oven. Trim the overhang to about 1/2-inch. Place pie plate on a flat cookie sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the top crust.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the second disk of dough into a 12-13 inch circle; place on parchment paper-lined sheet till ready to use.

Prepare filling: in a medium-size saucepan, bring cranberries, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and orange juice to a simmer. Turn heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, cook until cranberries "pop" and soften and mixture takes on a thick, jam-like consistency (about 8-10 minutes). Remove pan from heat and allow cranberries to cool whilst you prepare apples.

Peel, core and slice apples into 1-inch thick wedges.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove both crusts from fridge.

Place sliced apples into a very large mixing bowl. Add cooked cranberries, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and almond extract. Use a large wooden spoon or spatula to stir everything together until well combined.

Scrape filling into the dough lined pie plate, forming a dome in the pie's center. Carefully place second dough circle on top of filling (try to center it over the apples). Pinch or fold upper crust onto bottom crust and use your fingers or a fork to create decorative edge. Use a pairing knife to cut about five 2-inch long vents in upper crust.

Brush crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 60-75 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. If the edges are browning too quickly, cover them with a loose foil tent or pie protector. {Note: some juice oozed out of the pie and onto my oven - if your pie looks like it will do the same, place the pie onto a thin cookie sheet and continue baking.} Remove pie from oven and immediately place onto a cooling rack: cool completely before enjoying.


  1. I love pecan pies as well but I would not say no to this apple one :D

  2. My goodness! I have never before been a fan of apple pie, but I find myself wishing I had a slice of that one!

    1. Thanks, Rachel! I used to find apple pies dull and too Everywhere. But there's definitely a cosy factor to spiced apples and buttery crusts. :)

  3. This is one gorgeous pie, Valerie! I was watching the Avengers movie yesterday and thought of you.

    1. My plan is working; maybe if the whole food blogging word associates Tom with me... ;-)

  4. What a stunning pie! Love your styling for these photos too.!

  5. What a gorgeous pie. I want to grab a fork and dig into it too. And I love the blackbird poem!

    1. It's definitely a fork-worthy pie. Thanks, Beth. :)

  6. I love oak trees and ravens!

    This pie looks amazing! A perfect combo.

    Great presentation and shots.



  7. It's funny, as I was just reciting that poem the other day, whilst dreaming about blackbirds against lavender skies. Anyway, this pie is stunning, really. I'd gladly take this over pecan any day, despite my affair with nuts & pies & other hibernal flavors. Lovely post, as always!

    1. Thank you, Meghan! There's truly something sacred...almost mystic about ravens and blackbirds. I'm honored they have found sanctuary in my yard. :)

  8. What a gorgeous pie. How can you not lament the lack of light? I'm glad you were able to contribute to thanksgiving. I had all intentions of making a boule but got stuck at work and ended up with just a bottle of booze. To make up for it I've got two doughs rising in the fridge now to give to friends and fam. Gorgeous photos as usual.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! Booze trumps everything, most of the time. :D

  9. Wow! That is one handsome pie. We love "talking" to our local ravens; they make the best sounds, and they're so smart too.

  10. Your pie looks all kinds of wonderful. Love every picture, too. Perfect!

  11. You clever thing, you. Love the sweetness of the apples cut with the tart cranberry. It sounds just perfect.

  12. This pie is absolutely INCREDIBLE, Valerie!!! So luscious, and I am head-over-heels in love with these stunning photos. This pie could not be more festive and perfect for the season. So beautiful!


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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