I consider cranberries to be the ultimate winter fruit, the edible counterpart of the seasonally ubiquitous holly berry. Cranberries are harvested in the fall, and are part of the evergreen family, cousins to the other plant we welcome into our homes at this time of year.
I like them for their bright red festive color and especially for their tartness, which make them a dream to bake with and an ideal fruit for pairing with others--apples, pears, pomegranates, or summer berries you've stockpiled in the freezer.
Cranberry pie in all of its forms is one of my favorites, but this Cranberry Chess Pie from The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie may just top them all. It's sour and sweet, fruity and creamy, with a smooth buttery consistency peppered with flecks of tart berry. It's perfection. I usually only eat just a sliver of the pies I bake, but with this one I could not stop. In it I may just have found the answer to that ever-so-difficult "what's your favorite pie" question. Make it for Christmas, make if for Thanksgiving 2014, freeze some cranberries and make it all year.
Cranberry Chess PieAdapted from The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie
Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Zest of 1 orange
3 large eggs
7 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornmeal
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon vanilla paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and butter. Zest the orange into the bowl and cream together the ingredients until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, and salt. In a separate small bowl or pitcher, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla paste.
4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just until combined. With the stand mixer set to low, add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix to combine. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Add the rest of the buttermilk mixture, mixing to combine, and then the final third of the dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate any unmixed ingredients and gently fold in the cranberries. Pour the batter into the prepared pie shell, smoothing the filling with a rubber spatula.
6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees half-way through. The pie is done when the top is golden brown and slightly puffed. Cool to room temperature. Serve pie at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Grapefruit Chess Pie
Lemon Chess Pie