The filling was tart, sweet and luscious.  The crust was flaky, tender, and very flavorful.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about, people!

For the week of Jan. 30, I made an apple-cranberry pie.  I loaded up on Wisconsin cranberries around November when they were on sale, and shoved ’em in my freezer.  Sadly, the apples weren’t local, as I haven’t made it to the winter farmer’s market for a few weeks now. I’m hoping to get there this weekend.

Rose Levy Berenbaum's Rose Apple Cranberry Pie. Delicioso!

The recipe is from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible.  As soon as this book arrived in the mail, I curled up on my couch with my big red blanket and dug in! It’s not what I would call a page-turner, but if you’re a geeky baker like me, it’s a great read.  Berenbaum really plunges into the science of pie crust, and it may seem overkill at first, but at the end of the day, it’s helpful.  One example:  I will never use unbleached, all-purpose flour for my pie crusts again–the protein level is too high, which leads to more gluten formation, which leads to a tough crust.  So, I’ve stocked up on bleached, all-purpose flour while I hunt down pastry flour (which is different than cake flour).

The other thing I LOVE about this book is that it provides the volume and weight – in ounces and grams, no less!  It’s a complete and utter mystery to me why there are baking books still coming out that don’t provide weight measurements. The variability between my scoop of flour and your scoop of flour can be several ounces, and that alone can completely derail a recipe.  If you really want to improve your baking, go get yourself a scale. They’re not that expensive, and they’re convenient as hell. I use mine constantly.  I like this brand.

This particular recipe, “Rosy Apple Cranberry Pie” (ain’t that nice?) called for a cream cheese pie crust.  Making this crust according to Berenbaum’s instructions was a lengthy and time-consuming process.  As I was working my way through her recipe, I realized the keys to her process are chilling and rest.

If you want to give it a try, here’s a very shortened version of the recipe from the book (the recipe in the book is 3.5 pages!):

Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust – double crust

I’m giving you volume/weight measurements.

12 T/6 oz.  Unsalted butter, cold, cut into 3/4″ pcs.

2 c/10 oz.  Bleached all-purpose flour

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. baking powder

4.5 oz. (1.5 3-oz packages) cream cheese, cold

2 T ice water

1 T cider vinegar (I didn’t use this, because I thought it would taste weird. I just added an extra T of water)

Stick your cut up butter in the freezer.  Combine your flour, salt and baking powder, and stick the bowl in your fridge or freezer.   Wait 30 minutes.

Add cream cheese to flour mixture, and rub it in until it resembles coarse meal.

I did this step, but I’m going to skip it next time:  Transfer the cream cheese and flour mixture, and your frozen butter to a zip lock bag.  Expel the air, and with a rolling pin, flatten the butter pieces. Put the bag in the freezer for 10 minutes.

What I will do next time:  mix in the butter pieces with my fingers until I get the same thin flakes, then put the whole bowl back in the freezer.  I’ve done this before, and it works fine.  If you have naturally hot hands, this may not work for you. You’re finished if the butter starts to melt.  Well, not really, you can re-chill your bowl until the butter is cold again, then get back at it, but that’s a pain.  This is one time where having cold hands is definitely an advantage.  If you really want to skip the plastic bag step even though you have hot hands, use a pastry cutter.

This is a pastry cutter. I didn't know what the hell it was for a long time - longer than I'm willing to admit. After all, I didn't learn to bake at my grandma's elbow. So in case you're in my boat, here you go.

After the 10-minute chill, if your mixture is in a bag, transfer it back to the bowl.  (If it’s in the bowl, well, you can keep it in there.)  Add the ice water and vinegar if using.

At this point, she wants you to put it back into the plastic bag again in order to mix it together.  I didn’t do that.  I just mixed it right inside the bowl.  I’m a rebel like that.

I thought I was going to need more water, but I patiently and gently continued kneading the dough until it came together.  Berenbaum writes that it should “hold together in one piece and feel slightly stretchy when pulled.”

Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap, flatten each into a 5-inch or so disc and refrigerate for 45 minutes or up to a day.

When you’re ready to roll, take your dough out of the fridge, and let it rest for 10 minutes or so.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough into a 12 inch diameter circle. It should be 1/8 in. thick.   Rotate your dough a quarter turn after each roll of your pin to get a more even circle.  Roll the dough circle loosely around your rolling pin and transfer to your 9-in pie plate  (I use Pyrex).  Trim almost to the edge of the pan. Cover the pan with plastic, and back in the refrigerator for another chilled rest–at least 30 minutes.  I did this step and then made my filling.

Apple Cranberry filling

6 cups/1.5 lbs peeled sliced (1/4 inch) apples

1 T/.5 oz lemon juice (I used more – juice from half of a very juicy lemon)

3/4 cup/5.3 oz sugar

1/4 cup, packed/2 oz light brown sugar

1 t cinnamon

1/8 t salt

2.5 T/.75 oz cornstarch

4 t/.66 oz. unsalted butter

2 cups/7 oz. fresh cranberries

1/2 cup/2.5 oz. golden raisins (this is an optional ingredient, but I thought it was a really  nice addition.

Combine your apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon and salt, mix well, and let macerate for at least 30 minutes (no more than a couple of hours or the mixture will break down too much).

Transfer the mixture to a colander over a bowl, and transfer the juices to a small saucepan.   Add the butter, and reduce slowly in your saucepan until it’s syrupy and caramelized.  She says you should have about 1/4 cup, but I think I had a bit more.

Add cornstarch to apples, and mix well.  Then drizzle the syrup over the apples. The syrup will harden, but don’t worry about it, because it’s going to re-melt in your oven.  Add the cranberries and raisins, and dump this gorgeous mixture into your pie crust.

Roll out the top crust, wet the edges of the bottom crust, then transfer the top crust to cover the pie.  Crimp the border in whatever way you want.  A fork is probably the easiest, or you could flute it. Cover the pie with plastic, and stick it back in the fridge for a final rest.  About an hour will do it.

Finally, cut wide slits in the top crust, or cut a whole in the top crust with a mini-biscuit cutter or a piping tip.

Bake at the bottom of your 425 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.  The juices should be bubbling.

Voila!  You have a lovely pie to eat all by yourself or share with loved ones.

P.S.   No photos of the process, because I haven’t had my photo lesson yet (it’s coming soon!).  But really, I also didn’t take photos of the process, because 13 million other food bloggers have already documented the entire pie-making process, and have lovely photos (or in some case, vids) of what it should look like at each step.  So, if you really want a step-by-step photo tutorial, go here or here, or do a google search and find your own damn tutorial if you don’t like my suggestions. Hrumph!

P.P.S.  On deck for this week is this banana cream pie with salty bourbon caramel, courtesy of Bon Appetit.

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