Pie is something I take very seriously, both the making and eating of it. My mom and grandmothers set the bar high (learning how to make a good pie is practically a rite of passage in Midwest farm country), and my husband grew up in a family of pie lovers. On both sides of our family, the Thanksgiving dessert table typically consists of several pumpkin pies, pecan, and sometimes apple -- and in the case of my husband’s Nebraskan family, sour cream and raisin. As much I love all of those options, I often find them too rich and sweet after a big meal. This contest gave me the perfect excuse to create my ideal Thanksgiving pie, and this gingered cranberry-pear one is the result.
I started with an all-butter pie dough that’s rolled in gingersnap cookie crumbs, an idea I picked up from Martha Stewart’s buttermilk pie where the dough is rolled in graham cracker crumbs. It’s the perfect solution when you can’t decide between a pastry and gingersnap crust, and the crumbs make the dough a breeze to roll out. From there, I layered the crust with thinly sliced pears, then cranberries simmered with ginger, orange, and rosemary (a flavor combination inspired by a cranberry-rosemary soda I made last fall). It’s festive, boldly flavored, and beautiful in presentation, with its sweet-tartness a refreshing change of pace after a big turkey dinner. I may never be able to take pumpkin pie off the Thanksgiving menu, but this pie will definitely make a most welcome addition to the dessert table. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
EmilyC takes pie seriously, and she has done an artful job with this Gingered Cranberry-Pear Pie. Even if I had not liked the pie (I did), I learned some techniques while making it. Emily rolls her pie dough on gingersnap crumbs, giving you the flaky non-sweetness of the pie dough along with the crunchy, gingery snap of the crumbs. Plus, the dough does not stick when rolled out. She adds flavor and thickens the juices by infusing cranberry juice with orange peel, rosemary, and ginger and boiling it down. Another sweet-savory triumph. The finished pie is light and tart, just right after a heavy dinner. —luvcookbooks
- Serves 8
For the gingersnap cookie pie dough:
1 1/4 cups
unbleached all-purpose flour
(1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 to 5 tablespoons
gingersnap cookies, about 10 small cookies, or enough to yield ½ cup of fine crumbs
For the filling:
12-oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries (about 3 cups)
turbinado sugar (or more to taste)
juice and rind from 1 large orange (rind removed in long strips using a sharp vegetable peeler)
thinly sliced ginger, no need to peel but scrub well
leafy rosemary sprigs, each about 7 or 8 inches long
large firm-ripe pears (about 2 pounds total), stems removed, cored and thinly sliced about ¼” thick (no need to peel)
large egg white, lightly beaten
- To make the gingersnap cookie pie crust: In a food processor, blitz your gingersnap cookies using the pulse function until they’re finely and uniformly ground. Remove, set aside, and wipe clean the bowl of your food processor. (Cookie crumbs can be prepped several days in advance; store in an air-tight container.)
- Next, pulse flour, salt, and brown sugar to combine about 3 times. Scatter butter pieces over the flour mixture, then pulse until the butter is about the size of peas, about 8 to 10 short pulses. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over mixture and pulse a few times, then repeat with 1 tablespoon of water at a time, or just until small curds start to form and the dough holds together when pinched with your fingers. (Alternatively, you can do this by hand.) Form dough into a 4-inch disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days in advance; allow to soften on the counter before rolling it out.)
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Spread gingersnap crumbs on a clean work surface (I like using a sheet of parchment paper). Roll out dough on top of crumbs, coating both sides, into a 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Smooth out crumbs from time to time to distribute evenly. Gently fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate, and crimp edges as desired. Freeze shell at least 30 minutes before baking, or thoroughly chill in the refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Line shell with parchment or foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Remove pie weights and parchment. Let cool completely.
- TO MAKE FILLING AND ASSEMBLE PIE: Set aside 1/2 cup of cranberries. Bring remaining cranberries, turbinado sugar, and orange juice to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Cook, stirring, just until cranberries begin to pop and release their juice, about 3 minutes. This is the time to taste for sweetness. Add more sugar if you prefer a less tart filling. Drain cranberries in a sieve set over a bowl to catch the juice; you should have about 1 cup. Place cranberries in a small bowl, and stir in your reserved 1/2 cup of cranberries. Set aside.
- Return strained cranberry juice to a saucepan and add ginger, orange rind, and rosemary. Simmer liquid over medium-low heat until thickened and reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool before removing the ginger, orange, and rosemary to impart more flavor. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour syrup over cranberries. Discard solids.
- Heat oven to 350° F. Brush a par-baked pie crust with the egg white to prevent sogginess. Evenly layer the crust with thinly sliced pears, starting around the outer edge and working your way to the middle; once done, your pears should be 3 to 4 layers deep. Top with your cranberry mixture, spreading it to the edges and making sure it’s evenly distributed. Bake until syrup has thickened, berries begin to brown, and pears are tender (check with tip of a knife), about 45 to 50 minutes. If pastry edges brown too quickly, cover with a band of foil.
- Let pie cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.