Cranberry Chess Pie

(c) Nancy Newcomer - Back in the Kitchen www.nancynewcomer.com, Cranberry Chess

by Nancy Newcomer

Thanksgiving this year turned out to be a pie baking frenzy. Always on the lookout for new ideas and fabulous desserts, I grabbed one of my favorite “picture books” off the shelf, Williams-Sonoma’s Pie & Tart, circa 2003. Since I was baking all the pies this year, I wanted try something new for our family. Attracted by the photo in the book and the sound of the recipe, I went with the Cranberry Chess Pie. The only change I made to the recipe is I reduced the orange zest to just a 1/2 teaspoon-a personal choice of mine. The pie was fabulous and a home run with the cranberry lovers in the house. I must confess, 3 days later, I made an attempt to adapt the recipe into “my own” with white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, reducing the sugar, & tweeking a few other ingredients. Even though some of my family liked it, I personally thought it was a flop. Why mess with perfection? This recipe is hit and even though we had it for Thanksgiving, I will be making it again on Christmas. The pie LOOKS like Christmas :).  The tart cranberries add “flavor pleasure” in contrast to typical sugar bomb desserts at Christmas. Plus, she’s a beauty and everyone will fall in love with her. Enjoy!

Cranberry Chess Pie (via Williams Sonoma’s Pie & Tart )
Ingredients
• 1 & 1/3 cups Granulated Sugar
• 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, melted
• 1/8 teaspoon Salt
• 3 large Eggs
• 1/4 cup Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
• 1/3 cup Buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon Cider Vinegar
• 2 teaspoons Finely Grated Orange Zest
• 2 cups Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, coarsely chopped
• 1 pie shell, partially baked****see notes beneath pie crust recipe

Directions
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, melted butter and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Stir in the flour, then the buttermilk, vinegar and orange zest, mixing well, then stirring in the cranberries. Scrape the mixture into a partially-baked pie shell.

Bake the pie until the top is lightly golden brown and domed, and the filling is firm, approximately 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Pie Crust Recipe

Ingredients & Directions

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. very cold water

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.

To make the dough in a stand mixer, fit the mixer with the flat beater, and stir together the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture. Mix on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix on low speed just until the dough pulls together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. (Although many dough recipes call for chilling the dough at this point, this dough should be rolled out immediately for the best results.) Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Makes enough dough for one 9-inch single-crust pie or one 10-inch galette.

  1. Begin by placing an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of your oven.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Remove a properly chilled pie crust or pastry shell (properly=chilled for at least 30 minutes) from your refrigerator or freezer and line it with a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil that is large enough to overhang the sides of your shell’s crust, patting the paper or foil into the bottom and up the sides of the dough. A crust or shell that has been properly chilled will reduce the risk of shrinkage during baking.
  4. Cover the lined bottom of the pie crust (or pastry shell) with a layer of pie weights or uncooked, short-grain rice. This additional weight will help prevent the crust from bubbling and shrinking during baking.
  5. Bake the lined and weighted crust (or shell) in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, then check the dough for doneness.
  6. To check the dough for doneness, lift the edge of the paper or foil lining. If the dough appears wet, continue baking and re-checking every 5 minutes. When the dough reaches a pale gold color and no longer appears wet, it has been properly, partially baked and should be removed from the oven to cool on a wire rack. Total baking time will be approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on the accuracy of your oven’s temperature.
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