There should be no rules to pie making. It should be enjoyable, carefree… any way you want your crust to be. Personally, I like a messy pie. I like a rustic crust that looks lived and breathed in, not a stiff pie that resembles a stress-filled moment of perfection. Hands and fingers ought to be relaxed, played in the dough with flour in the air. Then it’s fun, creatively put together. The end result?–simple satisfaction and a seemingly better tasting pie, all because the hair’s been let down, an enjoyable experience when you knew you could just be yourself.
I could make a perfect edge but so what, who cares if I really don’t… ? Regardless, I have a pretty pie.
I like baking with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky this time of year. It’s essential for holiday pies and chocolates. The cinnamon flavor gives a baked good that extra spice, mildly, and the whiskey thickens the dessert while putting a flair of flavor on the sweet pastry that isn’t a potent punch. Fireball is smooth, not overly strong when you bake with it for flavor and texture. It’s my favorite whiskey for Thanksgiving and Christmas baking.
Cook the cranberries, first, since it will take a while. While they’re simmering, the crust can be made, then patted into discs to chill for a double-layer.
But before you begin, pour 1 cup Fireball to chill in the refrigerator until it’s time to make the pie dough. This will go into the crust in place of water.
For the pie filling, in a heavy pan so the sauce doesn’t burn, measure 1 cup water and 1 cup Fireball. Add 2 12-ounce bags cranberries, a pinch of salt, and 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Stir and begin cooking on a medium-low flame with a lid because the cranberries will eventually burst and pop. Stir occasionally, and continue cooking on a simmer to thicken.
When the filling has thickened, immediately scrape into a heat-proof bowl to cool at room temperature, not the refrigerator. Stir every so often to cool it down so it’s not too hot for the pie dough.
For the crust, make sure everything is chilled, absolutely cold. This ensures a flaky crust. It comes together so much easier, too.
Measure into a large bowl 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 3 teaspoons sugar. Blend well before cutting in the cold butter and shortening or lard.
With a large fork or pastry blender, mash into the flour 1 1/2 sticks cubed unsalted butter and 1/2 cup lard or white shortening–not butter flavored shortening. The key is in the size of the chunks of butter and shortening when a large serving fork is used in this step. You never want the chunks to be too small when worked into the flour, because the crust will be tough; an over-worked pie dough by the time it’s baked.
When the fat content has been worked into flour ingredients, drizzle or sprinkle a little at a time, still working with the fork, the chilled Fireball from the refrigerator. Make sure that you’ve added some ice into the Fireball as soon as it’s taken from the ‘frig so it will be the coldest, the right temperature for pie dough. With fingertips, work in the Fireball, but be careful not to allow the dough to get too wet. Not too dry, not too wet. Depending on the climate of the day, the moisture or lack of moisture in the air, the amount of liquid into flour dough will be determined. You may or may not need the full cup of liquor. Where I am today, I ended up using 3/4 cup.
Divide pie dough in half and flatten into 2 discs, and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. In the meantime, keep stirring the cranberry pie filling so it continues to cool to room temperature. At this point, taste the filling. Is it sweet enough? If not, here’s when it’s time to add more sugar. Stir some in, then prepare the counter or tabletop for pie rolling.
Putting the pie together, taking 1 dough disc from the refrigerator to work with at a time so the secondary one doesn’t get warm… For the top, try piecing it together for a change. Make thick slits in the dough with a fat butter knife instead of a sharp knife so that the pie has more of a chance to ventilate while baking. The crust doesn’t bake shut this way in the slits, and the design is more prominent–and pretty.
For piecing fragments of torn pie dough over the top, first brush a whisked egg and water mixture over the top crust so that the torn pieces adhere to the top crust. Overlap the edges of the torn dough onto the egged pie shell, making sure that the slits are not covered with dough. Sprinkle sugar over all of it before placing in a preheated 400 degree oven. Don’t get sugar on the edge of the pie or on the pie plate, to prevent burning.
When the pie has been baking for 30 minutes, turn up the heat to 450 degrees to finish baking the pie for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the cook-speed of your oven. Keep a close eye on the pie to prevent the edges from getting too done. Lay doubled aluminum foil over the entire pie during the last 10 or 15 minutes.
When out of the oven, sprinkle with more sugar, and cool completely. It’s a Fireball Cranberry Pie.
Song & Artist: Take Your Time by Sam Hunt