Thanksgiving is almost here!! Given the occasion, I think many of you will agree that it would have been entirely remiss of me to post anything but a pie recipe today. While I actually will not be providing any pies for my family this Thursday–pies are my grandma’s territory and I dare not encroach on her mastery–I felt there wasn’t any other choice for the blog. Just envision a classic Thanksgiving scene: a long, food-laden table with aunts and uncles and cousins and kids and grandparents all chattering happily as they enjoy endless supplies of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and plenty more. Now imagine mom or grandma excuses herself and goes into the kitchen to retrieve the finale of the feast, the dessert. As she returns, cradling the cherished item, every family member’s eyes follow her. She smiles proudly from the end of the table and sets down the……pie. Not Thanksgiving cookies or Thanksgiving cupcakes. Pie, always.
I chose to go for a variation on apple pie, having a long-time fondness for apples in any form (and always picking the apple pie over the pumpkin when I must choose). In attempts to be different and in fear of creating a classic apple pie that wouldn’t live up to my grandma’s, I decided to incorporate the cranberries. Per request, I also chose to venture into the gluten-free pie realm. As usual, I dedicated an afternoon to constructing a pie taste-test: three mini pies with three different crusts and three different fillings. I love and hate the mystery of creating pies: unlike cake batter or cookie dough, you can’t really anticipate how a pie will taste before its baked. With no time to bake and try the pies one at a time, I felt just a bit reckless, blindly tweaking proportions with what I hoped was good judgment.
That night I walked into Bible Study with my pies, knowing I’d be the most popular attendee of the evening. When I opened up the pies for testing in the middle of the room, our loose circle of people tightened within seconds into a crowded huddle around the coffee table. Forks and laughs were tossed about the group as everyone reached to try them all, giddily exchanging opinions with each other and occasionally shouting them over to me as I took notes. There was no shortage of feedback, but a few of the most exciting comments for me were along the lines of “This one’s my favorite because it reminds me of my mom’s pie.”
Of course the fact that the pies actually tasted good satisfied me. But what really brought me joy was that they brought a small piece of home to someone. My little experiment pie in a Pittsburgh apartment miles from where they grew up was able to remind them of family. It reminded me of the unifying power of food, of why I began this blog in the first place. In a time of practical late-night dinners, dorm room snacking, and schedules only conducive to fast food, the image of a family sitting together to eat has become one limited to antiquated paintings and 1950s-era chapters of history textbooks. As a busy young adult, this phenomenon makes the rarity of a Thanksgiving table even more special to me.
This particular pie, like any good turkey day, is a wonderful mix of sweetness and tartness. Fear not, just like the holiday, the sweet side mostly prevails in this recipe (I’m notorious for preferring things WAY too sugary, so using cranberries at all was a test for me!) The crust is deliciously crumbly with a bit of salt and some orange juice to compliment the flavors from the fruit. It could make a great addition to your holiday table, if you so choose. Whatever your continued traditions or new plans for this Thanksgiving, whether you’re the cook or the taste-tester, if you’re with family or away, I hope that you can enjoy the love that comes from a shared meal, and maybe a pie of your own.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Cranberry Apple Pie (gluten-free, vegan)
- 2 2/3 cup gluten free flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free baking flour)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cup very cold vegetable shortening
- 3 TBSP orange juice
- 3 1/2 cups apples, about 3 medium apples (peeled, cored, and chopped into slices, about 1/4 inch thick)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 cup vegan sugar
- 3 TBSP cornstarch
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 TBSP orange juice
**optional: mix 2 TBSP almond milk with 1 TBSP maple syrup or agave. Brush over pie before baking to give the top color
- Combine flour and salt in bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix salt evenly.
- Add vegetable shortening, and pulse until mixture forms small crumbles.
- Add orange juice, and pulse just a few times to incorporate it. Do not over-blend the mixture..
- Gently press the mixture into a ball with your hands, and flatten slightly to make a disc. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove dough from fridge. Unwrap, and separate into 2 sections. Lightly dust one of them with flour, and roll it out between 2 pieces of wax paper until it’s large enough to cover your pie pan (lay open pie pan on top to estimate).
- Remove top piece of wax paper, and gently flip rolled dough into pie pan. Gently work the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, adjusting the edges so the corners don’t pull.
- Remove any excess dough hanging off the sides, and use fingertips to smooth edges. Patch any holes that formed with extra crust. Save any extra dough for decorating if desired.
- Chill pan with bottom crust in fridge while you roll out top crust and make filling.
- Prepare filling: mix all ingredients for the filling together in a large bowl until fruit is evenly coated.
- Roll out top crust in the same way as the bottom crust.
- Remove pan from fridge, and pour filling inside, scraping any sugar or spices remaining in the bottom of the bowl and adding them in too.
- Carefully flip the second rolled out crust onto the pie. Remove any excess, and pinch edges of top and bottom together. Crimp or press with a fork if desired. Use remnants of crust to decorate top as desired.
- Place the entire pie in the fridge to chill for another 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F. If the heat source is on the bottom, move a shelf to the lowest setting in your oven.
- Brush the pie with milk mixture if desired. Bake the pie for 10 minutes on the bottom rack. (If your heat source is on top, bake it in the middle rack).
- Turn oven down to 375°F, and bake for about 30 more minutes or until crust begins to brown as desired.
- Remove from oven, and let cool completely in pan before slicing. (Cutting warm will taste fine but will result in a runny pie).