The calendar need only read December 1st and visions of orange zest, nutmeg, clove and spice start swirling in my head. How quickly I break up with pumpkin pie and move on to the warm, intoxicating smells of the winter holidays.
December is a month that I spend in my kitchen trying to recreate the traditions that made my childhood holidays so special. My Hungarian Grandma Foris would arrive at our house for Christmas with tins of Kiflis (Kee-Flees), nut roll and poppy seed roll. My Grandpa Brandeberry would spend weeks making candy to give as gifts. I can still see the white boxes with red bows piled high on top of his washer and dryer in the back room. If I came to his house on the right day, he would let me sit at his kitchen table and squish mounds of caramel between pecans while he dipped them in chocolate.
I like to think that my love of baking comes from a long line of proud cooks. I usually wear my Grandma’s apron and think about what life in the kitchen was like for her and her mother when they were in Hungary.
I think about my Grandfather and how, like me, he loved to give away what he made and how happy people were to receive the special candy crafted by hand just for them. But my Grandfather had more baking experience then I realized. My Dad came across this picture taken when my Grandfather was in the Army during World War II. He was a Master Sargent with the Artillery in the Philippines, but apparently he had some kitchen duty too!
This picture hangs in my kitchen with the ones above. Now I have some company watching over me when I make my pies. I also have some inspiration to find whatever genetic link I have to baking so I can make the best pie ever!
Holiday Cranberry Apple Pie
1 recipe pie dough of choice for a 9 inch DOUBLE crust (I use Best of Both Worlds)
4 Apples (I used 2 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji)
2 cups cranberries (if frozen, partially thaw)
1/2 cup sugar plus 1 Tablespoon
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Ahead of time: make dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to two days
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Roll one disc of dough into a 13 inch circle and place into a 91/2 inch deep dish pie plate. You will want to leave a one-inch over hang by cutting the dough to even it out. Tuck edges under and sculpt an upstanding ridge. Visit this pie post to see what that looks like. Roll the other disc of dough into a 12 inch circle and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate both for about 15 minutes.
Peel and slice apples about 1/4 inch thick. To help the apples lay more compactly, I cube some and leave others sliced. Toss with cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, orange juice and lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes. Mix cornstarch and 1T of sugar in a small bowl. Toss apple/cranberry mixture with the cornstarch and sugar.
Place contents into chilled pie shell.
Now the fun part – the top crust. You have a lot of options for what you want to do here. You can leave it in-tact and vent it with decorative slits. Or you can do a lattice crust which I highly recommend. This pie is so pretty and should not be hidden by a full top crust! For this pie, I played around with a peek-a-boo crust, cutting holes in the top crust with a small round cutter. I think I’ll do a lattice crust next time, but it was fun to experiment. I won’t go into a lattice tutorial on this post, but there are plenty on the internet.
Once your have secured your top crust and formed your edges, brush lightly with milk and sprinkle turbinado sugar over the crust.
Bake for 25 minutes at 425, then lower the heat to 375 and bake for another 30. I usually place the pie in the lower third of the oven to encourage a fully baked bottom crust. When the juices bubble, your pie is ready!