Cranberry Custard Pie

Thanksgiving staples are not easy to come by. Although, the last few years I have been more and more open to the expansion of my pie horizons. This particular pie is a significant diversion from my norm, but if my husband has anything to do with it I will be making it for many years to come. The tartness of the cranberries is so nicely balanced by the sweetness of the vanilla bean custard. Baking an already stovetop cooked custard is definitely a bit unconventional, but I assure you, it CAN be done and it is delicious. 

Just please, for the love of all that is good, make sure you have a good flaky pie crust. I can't stress this enough. 

Cranberry Topping

12 0z. Fresh Cranberries

1/2 Cup Orange Juice

1/2 Cup Water

1 Cup sugar

1 Cinnamon Stick

Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan and cook on medium/low heat. The berries will start to split and pop open and the juices will start to thicken. 

Remove from the heat and let cool.

Pastry Cream

2 Cups Milk

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Egg

2 Egg Yolks

1/4 Cup Cornstarch

1 Scraped vanilla bean

2 Oz Butter

Pastry cream can be a bit scary, but it really doesn't have to be. 

Start by getting everything ready: 

The two cups of milk go into a medium saucepan with 1/4 c. of the sugar and the vanilla bean.

The other 1/4 cup of sugar gets whisked together with the cornstarch in a large bowl. 

The egg and the yolks should be cracked and ready in a small bowl.

In another large bowl you will have your butter. Have a mesh strainer ready over this bowl. 

Over medium/low heat, bring the milk to a scald (just bubbling around the edges.)

Whisk the eggs and yolks into the cornstarch/sugar bowl. 

While still whisking, VERY slowly pour the scalding milk into the egg/sugar/cornstarch bowl. Make sure you keep whisking the whole time. (You are tempering the eggs- slowly bringing them up to a warmer temperature so that they do not curdle.)

Pour everything back into the pot. Ditch the whisk and replace it with a rubber spatula. 

Heat the pot over medium and stir CONSTANTLY with the rubber spatula. make sure nothing is building up on the bottom of the pan.

Keep stirring (somewhat vigorously) until the custard starts to thicken. It should be about the consistency of cake batter, but it will be a bit lumpy. You don't want it to get TOO thick, as it will be subjected to further cooking in the oven. 

Remove the pot from the heat and pour the custard through the mesh strainer onto the butter in the large bowl. 

Stir the custard until it is smooth and the butter is incorporated.

Technically, you should chill the custard over an ice bath now. That is the proper thing to do. I stuck mine in the refrigerator and everything was just fine. Either way, let it cool.

Pie Crust

1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 Tbs. Granulated Sugar

1/2 tsp. Salt (I use a fine sea salt, but kosher works just fine)

12 Tbs. Unsalted Butter (COLD)

3 Tbs. Ice Water

1 tsp. Lemon juice 

Start by combining the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. 

Cut your (COLD) butter into 1/2" cubes. (They can be smaller cubes, but you'll be bummed out if they are bigger cubes because it means a lot more squishing which means more chance of melting butter which ultimate means.....mealy crust. Sad.) Toss the butter cubes into the bowl. Using just your fingertips, as they are the coolest part of your hands, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks coarse and crumbly. You still want butter clumps that are about 1/2 the size of a blueberry (or rather, the size of a smallish pea.) 

Drizzle the ice water and lemon juice over the butter/flour mixture and toss it with your hands or a fork to evenly distribute the liquid.  

Once the dough looks like a shaggy mess (yes, thats how it is supposed to look) dump it onto a counter that had been dusted with flour. Press the dough together gently but firmly. Fold it over onto itself. Keep pressing and folding until all the loose bits have been incorporated and the dough all holds together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, but up to three days.

Pie Assembly

Once the dough has been properly cooled, generously flour your work space. Pull the dough out of the refrigerator, and roll it out to about a quarter inch thick. Dust off the flour and drape the dough into the pie pan. Press it into the corners and sides letting it hang over about an inch on all sides. 

Roll the edges under and using your thumb and forefinger, crimp the edges. You may also use the tool old fork pressing trick. 

Spread the custard evenly into the bottom of the pie shell. 

Top with the cranberry mixture.

Place back in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 375.

Brush the exposed pie crust with egg wash (1 yolk, 1 Tbs. Cream) and sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake for 30-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

LET IT COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE SERVING!!!!!! Or else it will be a mushy mess. Delicious, but a mess nonetheless....