I was out of town visiting the new in-laws for Thanksgiving, so I wasn’t able to join in on all the delicious-looking food posting these past few days. But the tweaks I made to my standard apple cranberry walnut pie were such a hit, I couldn’t resist sharing, even though it’s a little late. Cranberries are one of my favorite fall-winter flavors, and being from New York, I feel like you can never have too many apples in your life. Put them both together with a dash of walnut, and you get a pie that has enough mileage to last you through Christmas.
In past years, I’ve made this pie with a traditional double crust with the walnuts inside the middle of the pie. After the wildly successful crumb crust strawberry rhubarb I made earlier this year with a toasted hazelnut garnish, I decided to switch things up and make an apple cranberry filling with crumb topping and toasted walnuts on top. You can do it either way, but let me tell you that the double crust has nothing on the crunchy goodness of a sweet crumb topping. Yum. Here’s how you do it:
9-inch pie crust (You can make it yourself or buy the premade stuff in the dairy case if you’re in a hurry. After my grandmother died, I found out that her always-tastes-better-than-anybody-else’s recipe turned out to be the recipe from the Pillsbury flour sack, which was a disappointing secret to learn.)
4 medium to large apples*
3/4 cup cranberries
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup(ish) sugar, more or less depending on how sweet of an apple you use
1/4 cup flour
1 TB lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of ginger
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp old fashioned oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
6 tbsp chilled unsalted butter
toasted crushed/chopped walnuts**
Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is getting nice and hot, peel, core, and slice the apples into relatively thick slices – an inch thick or so. Place the slices in a large bowl.
Add the cranberries to the apples. Now, I really like to use fresh cranberries, but I have rarely been able to find them any time other than the week before Thanksgiving. When I can’t get fresh ones, I’ll buy a bag of dried cranberries and soak them in water for several hours or overnight. Then, you just drain them well and rinse them off before using them. I find that re-hydrating dried cranberries makes for a less soggy pie than trying to use the frozen ones. But, whenever possible, grab a bag of the Ocean Spray. Those bites give a wonderfully tart burst of flavor.
Add sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and ginger to the bowl. Make sure that the apples are nice and coated with it; you may want to mix it all up with your hands. I find the apple slices are less likely to break that way than with a wooden spoon. Let the mixture set for around 15 minutes to release the juices, making sure you stir it occasionally to keep everything well coated so the apples don’t brown or dry out.
Prepare the pie dough in the bottom of a pie pan, and flute the edges. My aunt likes to use a fork, but I prefer to have a little extra dough to press up between my thumbs and make a taller crust. It’s up to you how much crust you like.
Pour the fruit mixture into the pie crust, making sure you get all the excess juices in there, too. Now it’s time to make the crumb topping. In a small bowl, combine the oats, flour, and brown sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, and mix it all together with the other stuff. Cut in butter (the colder the better!) using a pastry cutter until it looks like a coarse meal. I inevitably have to use my fingers toward the end. Press the crumb topping down on top of the apple cranberry mixture.
Bake*** in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until nice and golden brown on top and the apples are tender. (It’s hard to know when the apples are tender without having access to them, but there will probably be some juices bubbling up around the edges. It’s probably a good idea to set the pie pan on a baking sheet to save the bottom of your oven.)
About five minutes before the pie looks done, take it out of the oven, sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top, pressing them in to the crumb topping if they fall off, and put the pie back in the oven to finish up. Doing it this way rather than just putting the walnuts on top at the end helps them set better, rather than falling all over the place when you go to slice it later.
I looooove this pie. I will never go back to the double crust version. After typing this up, I almost want to make another one RIGHT NOW!
*I know you’re “supposed” to use a tart apple when baking pie and such, but I can’t resist the lure of the honeycrisp. I’ve found that using a sweeter apple works out just fine, but you have to remember to add less sugar to compensate.
**Before I started baking a lot, the idea of toasting my own nuts sounded absurd. But all you have to do is grease a baking sheet, set the oven to about 350 degrees, and put the nuts in for around 8-10 minutes. It’s that easy, and it makes the flavor just a little more… something. Do it, and you’ll never use unroasted nuts again.
***You’ll probably want to cover up your crust edges so they don’t burn. I do it right from the start when I first put the pie in, so I’m not scrambling to stop them from burning later on, and burning my hand on a hot pan in the process. My dad has this method for putting strips over the crusts that I’ve never been able to master. Instead, I cut two pieces of aluminum foil, then fold the edges together and open the sheets back up so I have a nice, wide, square piece of foil. Then, I set the whole pie pan in the center of the foil square and bring the sides up over the outside of the pan. Then, you fold them in so they cover just the crusts, leaving the middle of the pie exposed. Like this. It seems like a lot of foil, but you can also use it to cover your pies later, so it’s not a waste!
Apples and Cranberries image by bakerina on Flickr