Monday, February 24, 2014

Cranberry Custard Pie

The other day, I noticed that I had an extra frozen 9" pie shell in my freezer.   It was sitting on top of a giant bag of fresh-frozen cranberries.  At that moment, I was holding a 3lb pack of bacon to put in the freezer, and the freezer was full so... something had to go!  It was clearly time to make pie!

You Will Need:

  • A 9" deep dish pie shell (thawed on your counter-top for 15 minutes)
  • 1.5 Cups of fresh cranberries
  • Some Cardamom
  • Some Cinamon
  • An Egg
  • 1 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1.5 Tbsp Flour
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
This pie is tricky.  It's super easy to put together, but it will require some diligent attention while it's in the oven.  More on this, later...

First, pour your cranberries right into the pie shell.  Leave them on the counter somewhere to thaw, if you haven't thawed them out already.  The berries should thaw in an hour or so, and it's super important that they aren't cold or frozen before you bake them, so don't skip this step!

While the berries are thawing out in your pie shell, sprinkle them with a couple of generous spoonfuls of sugar, and then shake on a dusting of cinnamon and a dusting of cardamom.  Walk away and let the sugar start to work its magic on the berries.  You'll start to smell this magic in ten or 15 minutes.  While you wait, you can pre-heat your oven to 425, and use the Convection setting if you have one.

Toss an egg into a large bowl and beat it to death with a good whisk.  Beat it some more.  You want a nice bright yellow uniform egg to start your custard with.  Add the Vanilla and the sugar and beat, beat, beat until you have a nice, smooth consistency.  I probably could have used my KitchenAid mixer, but I wasn't in the mood to wash it, so... I grabbed the whisk.  Lightly sprinkle the flour on top and beat it some more.  The flour is here to help thicken the custard, don't forget it! 
Add the heavy cream, a dollup at a time, and mix it slowly with the egg batter.  Your goal is to dissolve all of the sugar and to come up with a smooth custard.  You'll know its ready when you scrape your whisk across the bottom of the bowl and you don't get any sugar residue sticking to the wires of your whisk.

When you're sure your berries have thawed out, pour your custard on top of them.  They'll float, and that's a good thing!  They'll bob right up to the top of the custard and float there, like it was a glorious cream-filled hot-tub or something.  This is exactly what you want! Put the pie onto a cookie sheet so you can move it around without slopping the custard over the edge.  Nobody likes that... Put the pie into your 425 degree oven, and  Close the door and immediately lower the heat to 350!  Set the timer for 45 minutes but don't leave your kitchen because now is when things get "tricky!"

Several things are going to happen to this pie during it's stint in the oven.  First of all, your custard will try, desperately, to set up and get firm.  Meanwhile, as your berries get hot, they'll "pop" and release their glorious cranberry juices into the custard, interfering with it's attempt to firm up.  It's like trying to work up some muscle at the gym, while some fool walks around selling girl-scout cookies... it's tough to reconcile!  In any event, it will eventually come together, you'll just have to watch it like a hawk.

After the 45 minutes are up, slide the rack out of the oven and give it a look.  If the cranberries haven't popped yet, slide it right back in and wait another ten minutes.  That's what they get for being lazy!  If they did pop, give the pie a quick jiggle and assess how "firm" the custard it.  It should jiggle a little in the middle but be fairly firm around the edges when you pull it out of the oven, and it should like the picture here to the right.  If it's still too loose, don't be afraid to put it right back in for another ten.  Show those berries who's the boss!  When it's finally firmly set, take it out and let it set and rest for at least an hour, or it will run when you cut into it.  Letting it rest in the refrigerator is even better.

This pie smelled terrific when it came out of the oven, I can't even tell you how good it was!  It's a mix of egg custard, cinnamon, cranberry, and notes of caramel and cardamon... Wow!  It is sweet and tart at the same time, and very smooth.  I highly recommend making two at a time whenever cranberries are on sale!

Sidenote: The original pictures for this recipe got destroyed.  My good friend Holly made this recipe and was kind enough to take/send new pictures (YAY, Holly)! 

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