November 19, 2010

My First Try at Pie: Apple-Cranberry Pie

I finally did something I've been meaning to do for awhile, but had held back from actually doing until now:  I baked a pie for the first time.

That may not seem like a big deal to many of our readers, but I've always found pies pretty daunting.  Really, I used to find baking in general daunting, but I've gotten over that to a large extent, as demonstrated by the cookies, biscuits and other such things I've been baking of late.  Pies, though... well, I've continued to find them intimidating.  Maybe this is because I've had some really bad pies over the years, and seen even worse ones.  Pie always struck me as something that can easily go wrong.

Another factor in my hesitating to tackle pies until now is that Juli's father is an exceptional baker, and very well-renowned for his pies.  He is, quite honestly, a tough act to follow when it comes to making pie.  I've had him show me some of his techniques, but he's a very different sort of cook than I am - very intuitive, doesn't really measure anything out, tosses in a pinch of this and a little bit of that.   Even though I took notes, his tutorial finished with me feeling a bit lost, and that feeling has only increased with time.  When I look over the notes I took, I get this creeping suspicion that either I forgot to write something down, or he forgot to tell me something crucial.  It's not really rational, but that hasn't kept me from shying away from pies.

Recently, though, I saw a picture of an outstanding-looking pie on the Cook's Illustrated website:  an Apple-Cranberry Pie, featured in their current Thanksgiving Guide, and that simply looked too darn good to not give it a try.   It was a plus for me that the directions for their recipes are quite precise... I may not be ready to let my intuition guide me through a pie like Juli's father, but I can follow a recipe, so I figured this would give me a fairly good shot of succeeding at my first try at pie, which might give me the confidence to try my hand at her father's techniques.

The pie crust dough was certainly... different.  Sticky.  The directions warned this would be the case, though, so I was ready for that.  It caused me a bit of problem when it came to rolling out the dough, because even though I thoroughly floured the work surface, the dough kept sticking.  Finally I got the idea to put down waxed paper, sprinkle that with flour, roll the dough out on the waxed paper, then lift the waxed paper and flip the dough over into the pie plate.  I was able to peel the waxed paper off without too much trouble.

The fillings came together easily.  The directions for the cranberries were pretty much like how I've prepared cranberries lots of times, while the apples - which were pre-cooked in the microwave - came together quickly.   Once they had cooled, all I had to do was to add them - first a cranberry layer, then apples atop that - and add the top crust.  That all went off without a hitch. 

The pie baked for the better part of an hour, the first part on high temperature, then lower temperature to finish it up.  After removing it from the oven, it went on a cooling rack for a couple hours.  I was, frankly, anxious to see how it turned out.

I think it turned out great.   The crust was nice and flaky and held together quite well.  Juli found the cranberries a bit tart for her taste, but I am more fond of tart flavors than she is.  I found it wonderful.  That said, I knew I wouldn't want to finish off a whole pie for myself, so I decided to take it to a work potluck, along with some spaghetti and meatballs.  Both were quite a hit, and one of my coworkers told me it was one of the best pies he'd ever tasted.

I'm happy with how my first pie turned out, and am planning to tackle another one sooner rather than later.  Juli has requested a cherry pie, so I'll have to give that some thought.  I figure if my next couple pies work out as well as this one did, I'll be ready to try out some of of Juli's dad's tricks of the trade.


  1. Congratulations! Your crust looks great - a purchased crust will never be the same again.

  2. Oh, absolutely. If I am going to make a pie, from now on I'm not likely to settle for a purchased crust.

    And thank you for the congratulations!