This is THE single most delicious pie that you will ever put into your mouth. No kidding. The first time I made it, Eric wouldn’t let me tell anyone around here about it – because he didn’t want me to give away even one piece of it. (And to perfectly honest, I didn’t want to share it either.) This is the kind of dessert that you find yourself taking a small bite of and then savoring the experience for about five minutes before taking another. It’s that good.
The recipe comes from Four & Twenty Blackbirds bakery in New York City, which is run by sisters Melissa and Emily. It might seem a little complicated or labor intense at first glance, but it’s really not. For example, I grated the apple using a regular old cheese-grater (using the large holes to make sure the apple pieces wouldn’t get overwhelmed by the cranberries).
And you can make some substitutions if you don’t have ALL the ingredients or you don’t like the taste of them. The original recipe calls for spiced rum, but I substituted port and was very pleased with the result. One thing you definitely CAN’T substitute is the fresh sage. There’s nothing quite like the taste of it and it really makes this pie.
Finally – confession time here – even though I’ve included the sisters’ piecrust recipe, I used a pre-made, store-bought crust. I've discovered the kind that comes rolled up is very nearly as good as any you can make yourself. And for most recipes, nobody is any the wiser. (You’ve got to cut those corners wherever you can get away with it, right?)
Hopefully your household will enjoy this as much as mine did and it’ll become a regular guest on the dinner table.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ Cranberry Sage Pie
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t salt
1 T sugar
1/2 lb (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 c water with ice
1/8 c cider vinegar
1 T fresh sage, coarsely chopped
1/8 c plus 1/2 c white sugar
4 c whole cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed) – *I used one bag of fresh and it was more than enough. And here’s a tip for selecting perfectly ripe cranberries: They should be almost completely red (unripe ones are white) and bounce. If they don’t bounce they’re overripe.
1 c dried cranberries – *If you want to add a little extra something with no effort at all, use the flavored kind, like orange or pomegranate Craisins
1 large baking apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled and grated
1 T vanilla extract – *Don’t even THINK of skimping here! Use real extract not vanilla ‘flavored’ extract
3 T spiced rum (optional) - *I used some inexpensive port that I keep in the house for cooking and it was a wonderful addition
2 eggs, divided - *Here’s a helpful hint anytime a recipe calls for eggs: let the eggs get to room temperature before you use them. It makes them way easier to work with or incorporate into a mixture.
1 / 2 c packed brown sugar - *I used light, but if you want a pie with just a little bit more body, use dark. The extra molasses in it adds a little heft to the filling.
1/4 t salt – *I always use kosher or non-iodized salt in all my cooking. I believe it makes a huge difference in the finished product. I don’t even know why they STILL iodize salt. Lord knows we get more than enough of it in our diets elsewhere.
4 T arrowroot (or 1/4 c cornstarch, sifted) – *Just use the cornstarch. And unless yours has been sitting around for years and is one big clump, screw the sifting.
1 T milk
Demerara sugar – *I used Zulka, the Mexican raw sugar Eric likes in his coffee, it’s cheaper and it works just as well.
Okay, for those of you who have skads of time on your hands and want to give la Stewart a run for her money, start here. I’ll see the rest of you at the beginning of the filling instructions.
One day ahead, make crust: Whisk flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add butter and toss. Use a pastry blender (or two butter knives if you don’t have a pastry blender) to cut the butter into the flour, working quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain.
Combine the ice water and vinegar and sprinkle 4 T over the flour mixture and mix with a spatula. When the liquid is fully incorporated, add more, 1 to 2 T at a time. Mix just until dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. (DON’T over mix or you’ll have tough crust.)
Squeeze lightly with your fingertips to bring dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more liquid if necessary.
Divide dough in half, shape into flat discs, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour (overnight is preferred) before using.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll the bottom crust to fit a 9 in. pie pan. Leave about 1 / 2 inch of the rolled out crust beyond the pan’s edge. Chill in the fridge.
Roll out the top crust and cut into 1 in. wide lattice strips and arrange in a lattice large enough to cover the pie on a piece of parchment paper placed over a baking sheet. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the lattice and chill it in the fridge.
Prepare filling: (Okay, admit it, you skipped the fussy crust part and came right to the good stuff because pre-made crust is just fine by you, right? Congratulations! Welcome to the Jim Otey School of Cooking. You just aced your first test.)
Combine the sage and 1/8 c of white sugar in a food processor. (Confession time again, I don’t OWN a food processor –in my kitchen it’s either done by hand or, in a pinch, the blender. I used the blender in this case and it worked fine. Just be careful not to overdo it or you’ll have sage&sugar paste.)
Roughly chop 2 c of the whole cranberries (you can also use a food processor). (Here’s where you’ll discover just how rubbery a ripe, fresh cranberry can be!) Combine the chopped, whole and dried cranberries with the grate apple. Mix in the vanilla, rum (or port) and one of the eggs, lightly beaten beforehand.
Whisk together remaining dry ingredients (except the Demerara sugar) and the sage sugar. Combine with the cranberry mixture.
Remove crust from fridge. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cranberry mixture to the prepared pie shell. (The slotted spoon is important. You’re going to want to leave some of the liquid that the cranberries produce when you add them to the sugar behind in the bowl. Otherwise your pie will end up runny.)
Arrange the lattice on top and trim or fold the ends to match the edge of the bottom crust. Roll the crust in from the outer edge to seal the two layers together. Go around the crust, pressing the layers with your fingers.
Place pie in fridge or freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up the crust.
Remove pie from fridge and brush crust with remaining egg beaten with 1 T milk. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack until crust JUST starts to brown.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees F, move the pie to the center rack, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes more. The pie is finished once the juices are bubbling and the bottom crust is browned. Let cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a heaping dollop of whipped cream. (Whipped cream, hell. I served mine with homemade persimmon ice cream. Anyone who wants that recipe, sing out.)
See, it’s not so terribly complicated, is it? I know you’re going to love this pie. Consider it my Christmas Eve gift. Be sure to check in tomorrow. More recipes, including some tasty cocktails that are guaranteed to help mom and dad get through Christmas Day. (Bacon martini anyone?)
What are THESE? Those aren't the right kind! I told you cha cha heels, black ones!