Apple-Cranberry Pie

apple cranberry blog

Apples rank high among the many ingredients that I have no excuse for purchasing anywhere but locally, and lucky for me sometimes I don’t even have to do that. This versatile fruit is much like rhubarb and zucchini around here, in the sense that during one week of the year everyone suddenly encounters an overabundance of crop. If that sounds like a complaint than I apologize, because what I really want to do is bust out the bobbing barrels and throw an apple harvest party. Before you laugh, remember that we have entire festivals dedicated to both maple syrup and pumpkins.

Certainly worth celebrating is the fact that Ontario is home to some of the best baking apples in the world, including the much coveted and super crispy Northern Spy. The key characteristic one is looking for when choosing apples for pies and other desserts, is a flesh that holds its shape well after baking. Some apples will rapidly disintegrate when heat is applied, which is especially problematic if you like to partially cook the fruit or prepare the filling beforehand. A quick internet search will turn up which varieties grown in your area are the best for baking, and which are best left for making applesauce. In this particular pie I used a 3lb bag of local McIntosh, but when options are available consider using a combination of apples and playing with different flavours.

For the crust, use your favourite recipe for all-butter pie pastry or try this one from Four and Twenty Blackbirds via Food52. Their formula and method is genius, and certainly deserves a place in a serious pie maker’s repertoire.

Apple-Cranberry Pie
Adapted from Four and Twenty Black Birds via Food52
And Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:

2 discs prepared pie pastry*

3 lb (whole) tart baking apples
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 ground all-spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 oz fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

*For complex designs or heavy lattice patterns, part of an additional disc of pastry may be required.

Method:

Prepare the pastry as directed. Roll one disc of pastry into a 12 inch circle, and fit it into a 9 inch pie plate. Return the shell to the fridge to chill while you make the filling. Roll out the second disc of pastry as thinly as possible without stretching or tearing the dough. Using a pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or scalpel, cut the pastry into long strips for a lattice. Alternatively, use cookie cutters to stamp out pieces for a unique design. Refrigerate the prepared pieces of top pastry.

In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice, salt, and tapioca starch. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4 inch thick wedges. In a Dutch oven or a large non-stick pan, gently toss the apple slices with the sugar mixture until they are evenly coated. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until the apples begin to tenderize. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Let the filling cool to room temperature.

To prepare the cranberries, combine with the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the orange juice in a medium saucepan. If using frozen cranberries, cover the pot and heat on low, stirring occasionally, until the berries have thawed. For fresh cranberries, cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until some of the berries begin to break down and the natural pectin has thickened the liquid. Remove from the heat and let cool completely to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400°F

Using a rubber spatula, gently combine the cooled apple and cranberry mixtures. Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell, leaving only enough room to fold over and crimp the pastry (if you have some filling leftover that is fine). Arrange the top pastry over the fruit, seal the edges if necessary, and crimp as desired.

Bake in the preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is a rich golden brown. Rotate the pie halfway through baking to ensure even colouring, and use a pie shield to prevent the edges from overbrowning if necessary.

Let cool completely before serving.

Super Crumb Coffee Cake

When I set out to create my ideal sour cream coffee cake recipe, I was not surprised when I found the base of it in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible. The batter is thick, rich, and sweet just as it should be. The sour cream lends an unmistakable flavour to the cake, and using the reverse creaming method consistently results in a moist crumb. For the crumble I turned to my own recipe with a higher yield, and because it adds body I bake the cake in a large tube pan with a center that acts as a heating core. Many types of fruits and berries would be delicious thinly layered in the middle, but ones that I have had success with in the past include fresh cherries, blueberries, apples, and stone fruit.

Tips for success:

1. Ensure that the sour cream, eggs, and butter are all at room temperature so that the batter does not curdle.
2. Check that the cake is finished by pushing a little crumble aside with your finger tip and tapping the top of the cake very lightly. If the cake springs back and your finger does not leave a dimple, it indicates that it is fully baked.
3. Pat the fruit dry after washing and arrange it in a thin and even layer. Too much fruit will produce excess moisture and prevent the cake from rising properly.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
with Fruit

Crumble Recipe

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (188g)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (4 oz)

Method

Melt the butter and let it cool slightly.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt and whisk to combine.

Drizzle the butter over the dry ingredients and quickly toss with a fork to form large and small clumps, until no dry spots remain.

Dump the crumble onto a small baking tray, and use your fingers to squeeze together any sandy crumbs.

Place in the freezer for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Cake Batter Recipe

Adapted from “Sour Cream Coffee Cake”, from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible

2 cups cake and pastry flour (200g)
1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
2/3 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature (160g)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 oz), room temperature (65°-68° F)
1 1/2 small nectarines, or 1 large, sliced 1/4 inch thick
or fruit of choice

Method

Make the crumb topping. Let it chill in the freezer while you prepare the cake batter.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9 inch tube pan with a removable bottom.

Remove the butter from the fridge and cut it into 3/4 inch thick cubes. Allow the butter to warm to room temperature, between 65° and 68° F, while you prepare the other ingredients. If you do not have a digital candy thermometer, use your finger to test the temperature by pushing firmly on a cube of butter. When the butter is ready it will be pliable but still cool to the touch, and your finger will make a smooth indent with no cracks. If the butter is too warm it will feel very soft and offer no resistance to pressure, and it must be returned to the fridge.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine. Transfer the ingredients to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1/4 of the sour cream, and the vanilla extract.

When the butter is the correct constancy, add it to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Add the remaining sour cream. Mix on the lowest speed for 30-60 seconds until the ingredients are completely moistened. Increase the speed to medium (speed 3 on Kitchen Aid) for 90 seconds. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the egg mixture in 3 parts, beating for 20 seconds on medium speed and scraping the bowl between additions. In the final 20 seconds of beating, increase to speed to 4 to ensure that the cake is fully aerated as most of its rise comes from the air that is incorporated during this process.

Using a large spoon, distribute 2/3 of the batter in the tube pan and spread it evenly with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle one half of the crumble over the cake batter, and arrange the nectarine slices atop the crumbs so that they are touching but not overlapping. Use the spoon to dollop the remaining batter over the fruit, and carefully spread as even as possible. Top with the remaining crumble.

Place the cake pan in the preheated oven, directly on the middle rack to allow for air circulation. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the centre springs back when lightly touched. Cover with a foil tent after 45 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Let the cake cool completely in the pan before removing and serving.

The cake will keep for up to 4 days well wrapped and covered, and actually improves in flavour and texture by the second day.

Just for Fun: Sparkling Apple Snacking Cake

Remove chocolate from a basic brownie recipe, and you get a blondie. But what happens when you take the caramel, or the brown sugar, out of a blondie recipe?

This apple cinnamon snacking cake was inspired by yet another winning Dorie Greenspan recipe, this time from Baking: From My Home to Yours. Her books are full of jumping off points, and we love her for that. The ratio of ingredients and the method are what makes this cake unique, as they result in an ultra dense and moist vanilla cake with a thin crackly top reminiscent of a tray of brownies.

Always a sucker for baked apple treats, we chose to adapt the original recipe to create a no-fuss cake filled with the flavours of honey, cinnamon, and one tart Ida Red. Simple, comforting, and so quick to put together that you can pull dessert from the oven just as your friends arrive, this cake makes it easy to impress.

Tips for Success:
• Wait until the last minute to shred the apple, as it will quickly turn brown in the open air.
• Take the time to drain any excess water out of the shredded apple to avoid a soggy cake.
• Keep in mind that just like brownies, the center of the cake may appear slightly under baked when you remove it from the oven.

Sparkling Apple Cake 

Yield: 9 inch round cake
Prep: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

Cake
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (175g)
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (125g)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 oz unsalted butter
1 medium tart apple

Topping
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.

Melt the butter and let it cool.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder.

Put the sugar in a medium bowl and whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Whisk in the honey, salt and vanilla extract.

Peel and shred the apple, and use your hands or a fine mesh strainer to gently squeeze out the excess water. Set aside briefly.

With a rubber spatula, stir the flour into the egg/sugar mixture until there are no longer any streaks remaining in the batter. Gently fold in the melted butter until smooth, then fold in the shredded apple, making sure it is evenly dispersed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Make the topping by combining the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it evenly over top of the cake.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 – 28 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the middle has a crackly, paper thin crust.

The cake may be served slightly warm, but it will also keep very well for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.

 Inspired by: Dorie Greenspan’s “Swedish Visiting Cake”, from Baking: From my Home to Yours

Nutty Carrot Cake

Amid an abundance of moist carrot cake recipes, this one stands apart. Tart apple, toasted nuts, brown butter, and warm spices combine to create a memorable cake that you will want to serve again and again. Chose a sour apple, such as Granny Smith, for the most impact, and make sure to use a fine mesh strainer to gently squeeze out any excess water after shredding.

Nutty Carrot Cake

Inspired by: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/grandma-s-apple-carrot-cake

Ingredients:

2 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
1 cup all purpose flour (125g)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup lightly packed peeled and shredded apple, drained of excess water
1 1/2 cups lightly packed shredded carrot
2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and line a square 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in colour. Measure a 1/2 cup of the liquid brown butter (there will be some remaining) and gradually add it to the egg mixture while whisking until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  3. Combine the flour, spices, baking power, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gently and gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, just until the mixture is combined.
  5. Fold in the shredded apple, carrot, and pecans.
  6. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake for 35-40 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (a few moist crumbs is okay).
  7. Let cool completely in pan, then carefully use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the tin, or simply cut and serve.

Quick Brown Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter (2.7 oz)
2 cups icing sugar (250g)
tiny pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons 35% cream

Method:

  1. Melt and brown the butter, let cool slightly.
  2. Stir in the salt, icing sugar, vanilla and enough cream to reach desired consistency.
  3. Spread over completely cooled cake.
Image

Photo of the Day: All-in Apple Cake

Some ingredients for my favourite snacking cake, the all-in apple cake. I’m a sucker for texture, and this simple cake delivers the crunch. Besides the last of my northern spies, the cake is studded with sweet currents, toasted organic coconut, pecans, and a medley of freshly ground spices, including some inciting ceylon cinnamon. And it’s okay to eat it for breakfast.