Blerg, okay, so, here’s why I’ve been standing back here wringing my hands for a few days:
- I made this kick-ass pie I want to tell you about, and,
- The recipe itself was a nightmare but I don’t want to say anything critical about Rose Levy Beranbaum.
I wanted to make something light but seasonally appropriate for Thanksgiving at a friend’s house, and as any girl in distress would do I called my mom. And by “my mom” I literally mean my mom — really, everyone calls my mom. You should give her a call, she’ll talk you through whatever is going on.
Anyway, she started flipping through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible while on the phone with me and suddenly says “Cranberry Chiffon Pie.” GIMME, I shout. So as my mom starts reading the recipe to me, we both come to the same slow and wretched realization: the recipe is written terribly. Horribly! The ingredient list is all over the place, the instructions themselves aren’t intuitive or streamlined, but neither are they conversational and pleasantly meandering like Maida Heatter tends to be. Basically after reading the recipe out loud to me about six times (truly!) we barely thought we got it. We’re still not sure how she claims to have made a meringue for the topping from a single egg white.
But it’s one of those stories I seem to tell with regularity: after some hacking and some tweaking and some outright disregard for anyone’s feelings, I came out the other end with a pie that I’ve already sworn to a dozen people that I will bring again next year.
Leftover cranberry pulp.
And while the assembly of the pie itself isn’t difficult, I warn you in advance that it dirties literally everything in your kitchen. If I hadn’t had a dishwasher I would have been furious. Even still: sort of irritated. A little. Not really. Also, I got to eat this pie.
Those are hibiscus flowers cured in sugar syrup that my friend Marika gave me! ZOMG!
Cranberry Chiffon Pie
i’d like to say this cranberry chiffon pie is greatly inspired by Rose Levy Beranbaum rather than just straight-up ripped off. if you want to compare mine to her original, just know that the primary thing I did was double the filling volume and dispense with the meringue topping and a cranberry juice glaze, because they would have added literally two more fussy extra steps, and we’re already at 4 fussy major steps. TOO MANY STEPS. also be advised that this must be made 24 hours in advance. no last-minute chiffon pie for you.
1 1/2 bags fresh cranberries (about 5 cups)
2/3 cup frozen cran-rasp concentrate OR white grape and raspberry juice concentrate
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lime and 1 small orange or tangerine
1 Tbsp. (***SEE NOTE) granulated unflavored gelatin (vegetarian/kosher gelatin works, too)
4 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 pre-baked walnut-graham pie shell (see below)
***Note about gelatin: the tablespoon makes the preferred texture for me, but be advised that this pie will melt at room temperature. It is a chilled pie. If you’re going to have the pie out of the fridge for longer than it takes to serve it, add an extra teaspoon of gelatin. It won’t stop it from melting, but it will help.
- First, prepare and chill a pie shell. Make a graham-cracker pie crust as instructed on the back of a box of Honey Maid graham cracker meal, but substitute 1/2 cup of the graham meal with finely ground walnuts. Bake, according to instructions, to just lightly toast and set the crust. Place into fridge and allow to chill before starting anything else.
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat, put all the ingredients for the cranberry sauce into the pan and allow to come up to a simmer. The cranberries will begin to pop (not explosively, just gently) and deflate and eventually the mixture will bubble down into a slurry with a thick layer of pink foam on the surface (see the first photo of this post). When it reaches that stage, allow it to simmer for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Into a large bowl with a fine sieve placed over the surface, slowly work the cranberry sauce through the sieve, pushing the fruit through as best you can while retaining the tough cranberry skins. You’ll have to periodically scrape the skins off the sieve and set them aside (see the second photo of this post) and eventually you’ll have a little over two cups of nice cranberry puree, about the texture of a thick pea soup, and about a cup of cranberry skin waste. Throw the skins away and set the bowl of sauce in the fridge to chill. Give the sieve a good rinsing but set aside. You’ll need it again.
- When the sauce has been given a chance to cool off and is starting to chill (about 30 minutes to an hour) begin making the custard. In a small bowl, place 4 Tbsp of the 1 cup of milk and sprinkle over the gelatin. Set aside. In a small saucepan warm the remaining milk and the sugar together until starting to lightly steam a bit. In a side bowl, whisk together the 4 egg yolks and the now-sort-of solid bit of gelatin and milk. Don’t worry, it’ll whisk together. Into the yolks and gelatin, slowly whisk the warm milk and sugar mixture. When mixed together, place it all back into the saucepan and over medium-low heat, while constantly stirring, bring the custard up to just-below a simmer. It will thicken to the consistency of … well, warm custard. The professional chef test is to take a large spoon of any providence, dip it into the custard, turn the spoon over so the bottom is facing up and run your finger across the back of the spoon, through the custard. If it’s ready, you’ll easily leave a clean swipe through the liquid that does not go away. If it is not ready, the swipe edges will ooze.
- Using the same sieve from before, pour the custard right into the cranberry sauce. Just, right in. Mix them together and replace in the fridge. Place an empty metal or glass bowl into the fridge or freezer for our upcoming whipped cream.
- When the cranberry-custard mix is cooled off again, (again, 30 to 60 minutes), start whipping the cream. In your frosty-cold bowl whip the cream and sugar together to a stiff peak, as stiff as you dare get it without making butter. Working in thirds, very carefully fold the whipped cream into the cranberry-custard mix until just barely incorporated. Pour this whole slurry into the chilled pie crust. You’ll have a little bit of filling left over, depending on the volume of your pie dish, but that’s good news: pour that extra into a small bowl and snack on it later tonight after it sets a little. It’s your cook’s tithe.
- Allow the pie to chill for about 4 or 5 or 6 hours until mostly set, and then cover the surface directly with a piece of plastic wrap. Continue to allow to set undisturbed overnight.
- The next day, decorate as desired with some fresh fruit or mint leaves as a garnish, and serve right after taking from the fridge. Return any uneaten portion immediately to the fridge.