Cranberries, meet Apples

Ah beautiful cranberries,  ruby red jewels of the holiday season…

Courtesy Oregon Cranberry Growers Assn.

It’s too bad that cranberries tend to receive little more than a cursory nod when cast in their limited role as a wobbly sauce —several circles down from the holiday turkey.  If real lucky, they might be hung out to dry on a string draped around the Christmas tree.

I decided to give cranberries a chance, this time as a co-star with another seasonal favorite, the Honeycrisp apple (or any other sweet-crisp variety).  Anyone who has played with cranberries knows they can be quirky.  They are hard, tart, and when cooked have their own thickening power.  On the other hand, Honeycrisp apples are full of flavor, crisp, bright and juicy—they could go a long way to elevating cranberries beyond their obscure part as a bit player.

This beautiful Crostata is very similar to the Stone Fruit Galette in my Counter Cuisine cookbook.  If you have taken a look, you know that it is a hand formed pie mounded with fresh fruit. It also bakes in about 30 minutes.

Apple Cranberry Crostata

The trick here is to cook the apples and cranberries just long enough to soften them but still retain their shape and unique attributes.

Apples and near popping Cranberries

The best way to pull this off is to briefly cook the filling ahead. The hand formed pastry can be prepped ahead, too. Then, it’s a simple matter of assembling it all and baking the crostata off until bubbly and golden brown.

A little pastry with your fruit

The result: a crisp pastry bundle wrapped around a tender-fresh filling near bursting with holiday flavors.

Apple Cranberry Crostata

1 recipe Hand Formed Pastry (below)
1 Tbsp butter
2-3 Honeycrisp or other apples, peel, core, cut into ½” slice or chunks, @ 3 cups
1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 orange:  1 Tbsp juice, 2 tsp zest
1 Tbsp flour
¾ to 1 cup raw cranberries
Egg wash: 1 egg yolk + 1 tsp water, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Glaze: 1 Tbsp melted and strained marmalade (optional)


  1. Prepare pastry and chill at least 30 minutes, up to 2 days.
  2. For filling, heat butter in wide pan over medium. Toss in apples to coat, add the spices and sugars to melt. Add the orange zest and juice, cook 1 minute.
    Remove from heat, sprinkle flour over the fruit and gently stir to combine all. Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the cranberries, lower heat and cook 2-3 minutes, until thick and fruit just begins to soften. Remove and cool well, 1- 2 hours. Filling can be chilled and brought to room temperature before proceeding.
  3. To assemble, roll out pastry on floured parchment into 12” free formed round. Set pastry and parchment on baking sheet.
    Mound prepared filling onto pastry with slotted spoon, higher in center. Allow 2” border to fold over fruit and contain it. Brush pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  4. Bake 375-400°F for 25-35 minutes, until filling is bubbly and pastry is golden brown. If desired, brush fruit top lightly with marmalade glaze for extra shine. Cool well. Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream. Serves 4 to 6
Hand-Formed Pastry

3  Tbsp each butter and vegetable shortening spread ½” thick, freeze 15 mins
1 cup AP flour
½ tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp ice water

Whisk flour and salt in med bowl. Dice the cold shortening and butter into ½ cubes and cut into flour with 2 knives or a pastry blender, until pieces are the size of small peas.
Add 3 Tbsp ice water and stir with a fork until the flour is moist and begins to hold together. Add a few more drops of ice water into bottom of bowl if needed. Gather up dough and gently shape into a ball and flatten into a disk. Roll out as needed or wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill up to 2 days.

Quintessentially laid back

I can’t believe I haven’t yet posted on Key Lime Pie, a favorite of many, including me. Once you’ve had a taste of its tart-sweetness, just thinking about this luscious pie makes your mouth water.

Key Lime Pie

This is a recipe that comes from my cheffing days based out of Florida—where  small, flavorful Key limes are readily available. If not, no worries, just substitute bottled Key lime juice or regular limes. It really doesn’t matter—it’s always good.  For a tropical climate with a laid back attitude, this legendary pie is one that everyone can wrap their minds around.

It’s a curious pie that hasn’t changed much in decades. One of its quirks comes from the inclusion of sweetened condensed milk. The knowledge that acid combined with evaporated milk could yield a thick filling was a boon to those living on the water or in remote locales. No need to fret over fresh milk or cream, and the addition of sugar in the canned milk made it even easier.

Chilled Out 

Still, there are many versions of Key lime pie.  I like to lighten the filling just a bit with a couple of  beaten egg whites.  An optional sour cream topping can introduce an interesting counterpoint to the sweetness of the pie.  Also included, a graham cracker crust alternative that bakes for only three minutes in the microwave.

Most Key lime pie lovers would agree that it is perfectly good morning, noon, or night—anywhere there’s a cool breeze and a little shade.  At times, I’ve been known to get further carried away by making candied lime slices ahead for garnish points. But that’s another story.

Key Lime Pie

1 recipe Graham Cracker Crust, baked (below)
1 – 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand is good)
¼ cup Key lime juice (6 small), bottled Key lime juice, or fresh lime juice
1 tsp grated lime zest
2 eggs, separated
½ tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Optional:  Topping: 1 cup sour cream, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp vanilla; lime slices


  1. Ahead bake the crust. Pre-heat oven to 325-350°F.
  2. For the filling, whisk condensed milk, lime juice and rind in a bowl to blend. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla until smooth and thick.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the whites until soft peaks form, sprinkle on sugar and continue until stiff. Gently fold into lime mixture.
  4. Pile filling into the pre-baked shell and bake 15 minutes to set; remove to rack to cool while making the topping. If not using, bake a total of 30 minutes.
  5. For topping, gently combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla and spread over the warm pie. Bake the pie with topping an additional 15 minutes.
  6. Cool and chill well. Slice into wedges and serve with a lime slice. Yield: 8 slices.

Graham Cracker Crust
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (10-12 graham crackers)
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
⅓ cup melted butter

  1. Spray a 9″ pie plate with cooking spray.
  2.  For the crust, combine ingredients and pat into pie plate; chill for 15 minutes.
  3.  Bake the crust in the microwave for approximately 3 minutes, or in 375°F oven 6-8 minutes, until firm and crisp. Set aside to cool.

Pasta Frolla and the Very Berry Pie

searchNot too long ago I was asked to bake a Razzleberry Pie for a  birthday celebration.

“What’s that?” I puzzled.

“It’s a fantastic pie with raspberries and other berries,” was the reply.

I later learned that Razzleberry Pie, made famous by Marie Callender’s Restaurant, is a combination of raspberries and marionberries.  No wonder it’s so good.  Here in Texas we have the usual berries—not that exquisite, rarified berry grown and bred in Oregon.  A friend suggested I just go to the supermarket and get a ready-made pie out of the freezer section and bake it, or go to Marie Callender’s and buy one.

Good advice.  Had I known the investment in berries that would lie ahead, that surely would have been worth considering.  But it was a birthday request and I felt duty bound to honor it.  Moreover, I was thrilled to have a chance to take a crack at pasta frolla—an amazing Italian shortcrust pastry that I have been waiting for an excuse to make.  I’ve danced around it and made many variations; now it was time to tackle it straight on.

Unlike many pie crusts which can be temperamental, pasta frolla is Pie Lattice IMG_0268known for its near foolproof qualities and its versatility. This soft, tender dough incorporates eggs and a bit more sugar than usual into a highly malleable and forgiving product.  So versatile, it is the basis of many tarts, crostatas, cookies, and it is surprisingly good with both sweet and savory fillings.  It can be pre-baked without weights and does not shrink.  What’s not to like?

Yes, working with this dough is a dream.  I can only caution that the less it is manipulated, the happier it is.  As with many pastries, the butter needs to stay cold and not over-stimulated.  Here, the food processor makes assembly a breeze: only a few pulses are necessary to mix the dry ingredients, a few more whirls to incorporate the butter, a few more spins to combine the eggs—and it is done.  Turn it out onto plastic wrap, form a disc, wrap the dough tight, and allow it to chill up to 3 days.

Pasta frolla practically rolls itself out.  Remember to remove it from the refrigerator a good 30 minutes before using.  Divide it in two with one larger than the other.  The smaller will be used for any lattice work or decorative topping.   The easiest way to roll the dough out is between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment.  Roll out the larger into a 12” round, flip it onto a pie plate or tart pan, and press it in.  If it tears simply press it back together again.  Trim the edges, cut any lattice strips for the top, place them on a tray, and chill all while making the filling.  It is that easy!

 Pasta Frolla  (Tender Dough)Pie Dough IMG_0246

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter (4 oz., cut into 1/8’s)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and optional lemon zest into the work bowl of a food processor with metal blade. Pulse a few times to mix ingredients.
  2. Add the butter and pulse briefly to cut it in. With machine running, add the eggs and process just until dough comes together.
  3. Remove the dough from processor and form into a smooth disc.  Wrap the dough in plastic and chill well; it can be made up to 3 days ahead.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before using.  May be frozen; thaw in refrigerator.  Yield:  enough for a 9” lattice-topped pie.

 Very Berry PieBerry Pie IMG_0274

For the filling I settled on raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and a few strawberries; absolutely no one complained.


1 recipe Pasta Frolla

Very Berry Filling

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup strawberries (optional)
  • 2/3 cup or more granulated sugar (depending on fruit sweetness)
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut in small pieces


  1. Prepare the pie dough and chill well.  Divide it into 2 portions, one larger for the bottom and the remainder for the latticework on top.  Keep the smaller chilled.   Roll out the larger to about 12”, large enough to fit into a 9” pie plate or tart pan with removable bottom.  Gently transfer the dough, and press it up the bottom of sides of the dish.  If there are tears, press the edges together and continue.   Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
  2. Roll out the second portion of dough into about a 13” round. With a pastry wheel or knife, cut 12 –  ¾” strips.  Place them on a parchment lined tray and chill while preparing the filling.
  3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4.  Rinse and drain the berries.  In a small bowl combine the suga,r cornstarch, lemon juice, and zest.  In a large bowl, place the berries, add the sugar mixture and toss gently to combine.
  5. Fill the pastry with the berry filling and evenly distribute berries. Dot the top with pieces of butter.   For lattice, lay 6 of the strips evenly across the top the pie.  One at a time, evenly distribute the strips and weave the remaining strips over and under diagonally across the first 6.  Trims the ends even with the top and pinch the edges to seal.
  6.  Bake the Pie for 35 to 40 minutes or until the berries are bubbly and the crust is golden.  If it browns too fast cover the edges with foil.
  7.  Allow the pie to cool and set for several hours.  Serve with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.