Yesterday officially marked the end of our holiday season. Since my family is in Minnesota and Wisconsin, while Mike originally hails from Colorado, geography prevents us from doing the Christmas-Eve-with-your-family-Christmas-Day-with-mine compromise. This year we spend several days in Boulder over Christmas, and I hosted a belated Christmas lunch for my side of the family this weekend. Mike is rather traditional when it comes to Christmas cuisine (a Norman Rockwell-style turkey dinner features prominently in his family's celebration), so rather unexpectedly for a mostly-vegetarian and accomplice, we served ham for lunch. I also made a cabbage salad, the breadsticks from Beard on Bread (I made them very long and skinny and served them standing up in a large flower vase, like a carbohydrate bouquet), and a cheese tray featuring some of the delicious Wisconsin cheeses Mike's parents gifted us for Christmas.
But the real highlight for my sweets-loving family was dessert. Since we're well into January, I didn't want to make something that screamed "Christmas," so eggnog pound cake and candy cane cheesecake were out. However, this gorgeous cranberry pie struck the perfect festive balance. With a custard filling and toasted walnuts, it's somewhat reminiscent of pecan pie, but the tartness of the cranberries keeps it from veering into the toothaching sweetness most pecan pies tend towards, while maple syrup adds a welcome depth of flavor. The crust recipe I've provided is from my mom, a talented baker whose fabulous pies have set the standard against which I judge all pastry. You can substitute your favorite crust recipe if you like, but do make a homemade crust--this pie is just too wonderful for the mass-produced variety.
Adapted from the Cooking Light recipe by Ruth Cousineau
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/2 scant teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs, beaten lightly
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, halved
Prepare the crust:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease a 9-inch glass pie plate.
In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour and salt. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles wet sand.
Beat the remaining 1/4 cup flour with cold water in a small bowl. Pour into shortening mixture and mix until a soft dough forms. Form dough into a ball.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle approximately 11 inches in diameter. Transfer dough to prepared pie plate.
Trim away any excess crust, fold over edges, and flute.
Prick the bottom of the crust in several places with the tip of a sharp knife. Line bottom of crust with foil, and place pie weights or dried beans on top of foil.
Bake for 5 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights or beans and bake for an additional minute. Cool crust on a wire rack.Prepare the filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toast walnuts in a medium skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the maple syrup, corn syrup, melted butter, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl and beat until well-combined. Fold in the cranberries and toasted walnuts.
Pour filling into prepared crust and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie from oven and fold rectangles of foil over edges to shield crust.
Return pie to oven and bake until filling is just set, about 10 additional minutes. The pie may appear slightly puffy.
Cool on a wire rack. Pie will settle as it cools. Cover and store in refrigerator.