While in Nantucket last summer, Jay and I managed to tear ourselves away from our Dark and Stormies long enough to ride the ten mile long bike path to ‘Sconset. We had a delectable lunch at the Sconset Cafe, including the aptly named “best chowder on the island.” Light, brothy and herbaceous, their clam chowder is a far cry from the gloopy white stuff one finds elsewhere.
Very full and very sore, we rode the long path home, stopping to explore the cranberry bogs.
We dismounted near a group of large signs which displayed photographs and history of the bogs. At least, I think that’s what they displayed. Before I could read a single word, I heard frenetic, high-pitched buzzing in my ears, and the backs of my knees began to itch wildly.
We jumped on our bikes and pedaled away as fast as we could.
Were I not terrified of mosquitos, whose angry, red welts wake me up every night for a week after being probed, I’m sure I would have all sorts of interesting facts to share about cranberries.
But instead, my knowledge of cranberries is limited the following:
1) They grow in bogs.
2) They taste good.
They taste especially good when paired with ingredients that tame their astringent tartness, like apples, pears, warm spices, vanilla, and sweeteners.
This pie starts with a super flaky, all-butter crust, which gets parbaked to maintain a crisp bottom, then deeply caramelized throughout a long bake. A foil shell protects the crust from burning, and the result is bronzed, crunchy and flavorful.
Next, sliced apples, cranberries and candied ginger combine with sugar, lemon and a little flour to make a bright, firm and tangy filling. A leisurely bake ensures tender, gooey apples dotted with jammy pockets of cranberry. I used some fun heirloom apples that I found at my co-op – Rome, Black Arkansas and Winesap. If you ever see any of these, snap them up! Romes are firm and tart, but with more nuanced flavor and less aggressive sourness than Granny Smiths. Black Arkansas have a deep burgundy skin; their crunchy flesh tastes a bit like roses. Winesaps are soft, floral, and break down nicely in a pie. But any tart baking apple will do here, such as Fuji, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Granny Smith combined with McIntosh.
Finally, an oat and brown sugar streusel tops it all off. The recipe comes from Three Babes, the pie maestras (piestras?) of San Francisco. (And it’s not too late to pick up a pie or two for Thanksgiving.) A unique blend of cinnamon, allspice, ginger and plenty of salt give the buttery topping an incredible depth of flavor which tastes almost fruity. The amount of streusel will seem excessive at first, but when baked, the pie flattens to normal proportions, with big hunks of crunchy topping hanging out among sandier crumbs.
I wish I could enjoy a bowl of Sconset Cafe’s quahog chowder right about now. Ah well, I’ll just have to settle for another piece of this pie. (And thankfully, no mosquitos.)
Cranberry Apple Crumble Pie
If you can find them, heirloom apples such as Rome, Black Arkansas and Winesap make an amazing pie with complex flavors. Otherwise, use any combination of Fuji, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Granny Smith. Give yourself plenty of time to make this pie, as the crust requires some chilling time, the pie a long bake, and two hours of setting to be sliceable. Serve slices with Vanilla, Honey Yogurt or Fresh Ginger ice cream, or lightly sweetened whipped cream. Or nothing – this pie stands on its own. All ounce measurements are by weight.
Makes one 9″ pie, 10-12 servings
1 recipe of this All-Butter Pie Dough, parbaked
(Adapted from Baking Illustrated)
2 pounds of apples (6 medium – see headnote), peeled, cut off the core, and sliced 1/4″ thick
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries, coarsely chopped into halves and quarters
1 1/2 tablespoons packed minced crystallized ginger
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
(Adapted from The Three Babes)
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2 3/4 ounces) old-fashioned or thick rolled oats
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, diced, at cool room temperature
coarse sugar and flaky salt, for sprinkling on top
Position a rack in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
Protect the edges of the par-baked pie crust with foil: cut two 15″ long rectangles of foil and place them on the counter in a criss-cross. Place the pie pan in the center of the cross, and fold up the edges of foil, crimping and folding them so that they cover just the edges. Place the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
Make the filling:
Toss the apples in a large bowl with the lemon zest and juice. Add the remaining filling ingredients and toss well to combine thoroughly. Set aside to macerate for 10 – 20 minutes while you make the crumble topping.
Make the topping:
Combine the flour, oats, sugars, salt, and spices in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle). Work in the butter with your fingertips, a pastry cutter, or the paddle in the mixer until it begins to form hazelnut-sized clumps.
Assemble and bake the pie:
Scrape the apple mixture and any extra juices into the parbaked crust and pack them down a bit. Top with the crumble, forming some of it into hazelnut-sized balls. There will be a lot of crumble, but the pie will cook down to reasonable proportions. Don’t pack the crumble down, leave it loose and streusely. Sprinkle the top with a teaspoon of coarse sugar and a few pinches of flaky salt.
Bake the pie until the streusel is deeply golden and looks cooked through, and juices bubble thickly around the sides, an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. Let the pie cool completely at room temperature, at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.
Serve the pie at room temperature with barely-sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The pie is best within a day of being baked, but extras will keep, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Rewarm before serving for best results.