recipe review: cranberry apple pie

IMG_7703And so pie month continues at chez Miss Fats.  In order to motivate her baking and force her to tackle the classic and simple pies she fears most, Miss Fats participated in the recipe testing for Food 52’s latest “Best Thanksgiving Pie” contest.  As a tester, you simply execute the recipe per instructions are provide a 100 word review for the site.  Each pie ideally has three volunteers who provide feedback on the taste, instructions and over all experience.  However 100 words is damn short, and Miss Fats is pretty sure no sweet treat can be accurately summed up in such a short space (eating and food description demand [illicit] excess).

So she’s sharing a fuller review of the pie recipe here for you all, complete with modifications and tips for the baking process.  Miss Fats wound up selecting the Cranberry Apple Pie for testing.  This was primarily for aesthetic reasons (hey, Miss Fats is a visual person, and firmly believes in the power of good food porn), but she also had some extra cranberries on hand and liked the simplicity of this pie’s filling: no crazy spices or techniques: just fruit hanging out with more fruit.  Additionally, the crust recipe seemed standard enough: the usual all butter recipe with a little lemon zest to complement the tart fruit.  Simple.  Done.  She even had all the ingredients on hand.

Unfortunately, Miss Fats hit problems early on.  She meticulously following instructions to test the rhetoric and measurements of the recipe.  However, as the mound of flour piled up, it was incredibly clear to Miss Fats that there’s no way 1/3 cup ice water would be sufficient.  She went ahead, adding the specified amount, praying that by some pie miracle it would come together (she actually believed this given her amateur pie status–so naive).  However, she instead encountered the exact reason she hates making pie:  She felt as though she was scrambling against time as the butter warmed and threatened to create a gummy, dense crust, but the incredibly crumbly, dry dough just would not come together and instead created a mess.  She quickly sprinkled an additional 1/3 cup water over top, working it into the dough with a rubber spatula.  Though the dough began to form, she was facing her most annoying enemy: fucking butter/flour crumbs at the bottom of the bowl (she hates that shit).   Finally ditching the spatula, she went for a last sprinkle of ice water and went elbows deep, pulling together the uneven dough and cursing flour out lout (literally).  Scrambling to get that butter business into the fridge as soon as possible, she used the plastic wrap to assemble the hunks and hoped that if we all just calmed down a bit (dough included), it would come together in time.

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After eating (critical) and some quiet time, Miss Fats returned to the pathetic butter disks, assuming they’d developed into impossible masses of gluten and dry hunks of powder resembling the old container of Play-Dough she has lying around.  She prepared herself for some serious elbow grease and frustration tears during the rolling process, throwing the disks down onto her floured countertop, prepped to let disaster ensue.  However to her surprise, the dough proved surprisingly pliable and only cracked a bit at the edges where she clearly had failed to mix properly.  Carefully turning and working the disk outward, she rolled out a fairly thick twelve-inch crust and transferred it to her pie pan.  She was calming down.  It would be ok.

The filling was incredibly simple, both in technique and ingredients.  Miss Fats was surprised (and slightly disappointed) to see how few apples the recipe called for (only 5??).  However she executed them to a t, and loaded her prepared pan with the spiced fruit mixture.  Layering her second crust, she did her best to make the edges as pretty as possible (not easy for Miss Fats), which essentially resulted in some bloated, sausage-like crimping that would undoubtably end up underdone.  On with the egg wash and a sprinkling of raw sugar, and into the oven for an hour.  Smooth sailing from then on out.

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In the end, the pie was fine.  She was pleasantly pleased by the filling, which had a sharp, tart flavor and a really nice balance of textures between the slightly softer, sweeter pink ladies, and grannies that still had a bit of a bite.  The cranberries themselves, sprinkled bursts of tartness throughout and created a pleasing marbling effect.  Her number one complaint?  Not enough.  She could have seriously used more of that filling action. The crust-fruit ration was way off. Hell, from now on she’ll probably just go for that portion of the recipe sans crust, throw in the oven to get caramelized and soft, and then go topping a cold, creaming scoop of vanilla ice cream with all that apple-cranberry business.  With a drizzle of salted caramel.  Obviously.  Despite the beautifully browned, surprisingly, non-chewy texture, she frankly, found the crust bland.  And too thick. (Well, that’s probably more of Miss Fats fault; but also there should not have been three cups of flour in that recipe.)  The lemon zest was a nice touch, but it could have seriously used more salt (Miss Fats would up it to about 1 tsp) and a bit of sugar given the tartness of the filling.  Oh well.  The important part is that Miss Fats was not beaten by this baking beast.  She’s a bit bruised (well, more like scolding herself for being a whiney little child about pie crust), but she’ll take away some serious experience from this pie.  Fruit pie has yet to be conquered, but she’s well on her way to proficiency.

Up next?  Pure crack.