Make Ahead

Gingered Cranberry-Pear Pie

November  4, 2013
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • For the gingersnap cookie pie dough:
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 ounces gingersnap cookies, about 10 small cookies, or enough to yield ½ cup of fine crumbs
  • For the filling:
  • one 12-oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup juice and rind from 1 large orange (rind removed in long strips using a sharp vegetable peeler)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced ginger, no need to peel but scrub well
  • 3 leafy rosemary sprigs, each about 7 or 8 inches long
  • 3 large firm-ripe pears (about 2 pounds total), stems removed, cored and thinly sliced about ¼” thick (no need to peel)
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Let pie cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Brooke Williams Buffington
    Brooke Williams Buffington
  • Julie G
    Julie G
  • Elissa
  • Laura415
  • luvcookbooks

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

32 Reviews

Meagan December 27, 2020
Mine came out soupy and my crust stuck to the bottom of my pan (maybe I didn't grease enough, but I bake a lot of pies and never had that happen).
The flavours were really nice, but missing the bottom crust was a real bummer.

I'd say for anyone trying this recipe to grease the pie pan generously! I'd also like to try again but cook the pears down a bit to remove some water and transfer to the pie with a slotted spoon to drain excess liquid.
Meagan December 27, 2020
Just wanted to follow-up. I had taken my pie out of the fridge and the crust stuck to the bottom of the pan. However after letting it warm up to room temp, the crust easily came off the bottom of the pan. No concern here in that regard. Good recipe! :)
emanne May 7, 2020
Sorta just felt like cooked pears w a bunch of cranberry sauce on them. Good but soupy and not sure it’s worth all the steps.
emanne February 4, 2020
This had a lot of cranberry sauce on top. Texture of the sauce and pears wasn't my favorite--a little too mush mush. Good flavors though, but not sure I'd make it again.
Brooke W. July 31, 2017
I made this pie yesterday using my own pie dough recipe. Loved using the ginger snap crumbs!! Nice trick! I should've used more fruit to fill up the pan but other than that, it was great! No soggy bottom or soupy filling! Great flavor, too!!! I can see doing this with lots of variations! Thanks, Emily, for a great recipe!
caninechef January 23, 2017
I am an inexperienced pie maker and just made this ( OK not the crust) to great acclaim from the Sunday lunch group. With all the juice ( cranberries, pears,orange) it was a bit an act of faith but it set up great, looked beautiful and tasted wonderful. I decided to make a pear dessert and agonized over the choice but I came up a winner with this one. Thanks for the recipe and very complete instructions.
EmilyC January 24, 2017
Hi caninechef -- so happy to hear this was a hit! : ) Thanks for letting me know!
Julie G. November 23, 2016
I just made this pie. It is very, very juicy and didn't set. By the looks of the picture, maybe I needed to cook the cranberries longer or something? Though I had them on the stovetop for longer than the three minutes, so I'm not sure what's up. If I try this recipe again, I might add a thickener.
EmilyC November 23, 2016
Hi Julie -- after cooking the cranberries, did you strain and reduce the juice to a syrup? This should help the cranberries to set. But even if they seem a little juicy, they'lol thicken more in the oven so you're hopefully fine! Let me know!!
Elissa December 5, 2015
Just made this pie for a holiday party tomorrow- love the combination of cranberries and pears- looks beautiful!!!!
EmilyC December 5, 2015
Hope it's a hit at your party!! Thanks for trying it!
dac023 November 28, 2015
AMAZING! Literally the best pie I've ever eaten! The complex flavors add such dimension to this pie. I added a little more brown sugar to my crust and between the pear layers. I also added a little butter between the pear layers too. Made it the day before Thanksgiving because it is heavy on prep time. Held up beautifully and was a huge hit! Thank you for the recipe!
EmilyC November 28, 2015
What lovely feedback! Thanks so much for trying it and reporting back!
Laura415 November 14, 2015
Just when I was despairing of ever finding a use for those molasses ginger cookie crumbs in my freezer... This sounds like an awesome pie. I might use quince or even apples as alternatives to pears.
EmilyC November 14, 2015
Thanks! Hope you like it!
Kim W. November 14, 2015
Can you make this the day before serving?
EmilyC November 14, 2015
Sure! Like any pie, it's better the day it's baked in my opinion, but by all means make it the day before if needed.
purljamr March 29, 2015
Sooo delicious!
Cherjh7 November 29, 2014
I made this pie and it was the best pie I have ever had! The flavors were well blended and complex. It was simply lovely and a hit! I will double the filling next time. I used a deep pie dish and would have liked more filling but thoroughly enjoyed the pie.
EmilyC November 29, 2014
Delighted to hear this! Always good to know recipes work well in other kitchens! : ) I've need made this in a deep dish pan but makes sense to double the filling. Thanks so much for trying this and reporting back!
EmilyC November 29, 2014
Typing too fast...should be "I've never made this..."
Kate S. November 28, 2014
Although the filling didn't set as much as I would have liked, this pie was incredibly tasty! The tart cranberries and sweet roasted pears worked wonderfully together. And the ginger? forgetaboutit -- delicious.
EmilyC November 28, 2014
Thanks Kate -- glad you tried and liked it!
luvcookbooks November 30, 2013
Emily, I made this again and wanted more of the delicious syrup, so I added a twelve oz bag of frozen raspberries and cut up the pears in chunks to cook with the other fruit. Then I had too much fruit for an elegant tart and tacked on a top crust. A delicious variation. So complex but harmonious, thanks!!
EmilyC December 2, 2013
Oh, that variation sounds fabulous, Meg. I love hearing about how other people make recipes their own! By the way, if you want another use for the syrup, you may want to try this sparkling soda ( Hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving!
luvcookbooks December 2, 2013
Thanks for steering me to the syrup and drink recipe! It will be on the Christmas table with cava for those who drink and seltzer for those who don't.
Declan'sDad November 21, 2013
It's possible this pie will dislodge sour cream and raisin pie from my Thanksgiving table, whether I like it or not! Hmmmm. By the way, I'm pretty sure this is the only fruit pie I've ever had with rosemary in it... VERY good idea.
EmilyC November 21, 2013
There are 364 other days in the year for sour cream and raisin, right?!? : )
Bevi November 13, 2013
Brushing egg white on the baked pie shell is a neat trick. This pie sounds delish!
EmilyC November 13, 2013
Thanks so much Bevi! And I agree -- the egg white is a nice little insurance policy against soggy crust.
hardlikearmour November 5, 2013
This pie is the current top contender for fruit pie at my Thanksgiving dinner! I love all the extra layers of flavor you've added from the gingersnap crust to the spiced cranberries.
EmilyC November 6, 2013
Aw, thanks! I served this pie the other night after a big brisket dinner and it was hit, so I think it'll follow a big turkey dinner well, too!