I absolutely love cranberries. I can guzzle dried ones by the handful as a snack. But you know what? They're a bit two-faced.
The vibrant rosy cheeriness that hides that sharp pucker.
I guess that's why they can work so well in baked goods. They can help to balance out all that sweetness.
I've used dried cranberries in a number of recipes such as Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti, Cranberry Shortbreads and Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies. I've even been known to chuck a few handfuls into Chocolate Brownies. But I have never actually cooked fresh ones.
So, I was looking forward to seeing the first of the season's fresh cranberries appearing in the shops, as I had bookmarked this recipe a while back and wanted to give it a go.
This is a real knock-your-socks-off holiday treat. It's a brilliant alternative to the stodginess of Christmas pudding, and even the usual variation of lemon meringue pie. The cranberry curd filling is so light and refreshing, and the meringue topping is perfectly balanced so it doesn't overly sweeten the pud.
The pie crust is delicious in itself - and I had one of those 'zen' moments when making it. You know how I was talking about making pastry with my mum in my post on Starry-eyed Mince Pies? Well although I have tried, I have never been able to recreate exactly the taste of it. Making this pie, I realised why. I could never remember the amount of salt in the pastry. I guess the salt police had got to me, so I was adding the merest hint instead of the 1/2 tspn in this recipe. Honestly, I feel a bit foolish now, but the taste of the raw dough (yes I nibble), when it hit my tongue was so evocative I felt eight years old again, sneaking bits of raw pastry when my mum wasn't looking!
Cranberry Meringue Pie
Ingredients (Makes one 9 inch pie)
For the pie crust
175g plain flour
113g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn caster sugar
30 - 60ml chilled water
For the filling
340g fresh cranberries
240ml orange juice
160g caster sugar
1 egg (57-64g weighed in the shell) lightly beaten with an additional 3 egg yolks (from eggs 57-64g each - reserve the whites for the meringue topping)
For the meringue
3 egg whites (see above)
1/4 tspn cream of tartar
75g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 F / Gas 4.
If you are using a ceramic pie plate, there is no need to grease it as there is enough fat in the pastry so that it won't stick.
First make the pastry, as it will need at least an hour to chill before you roll it out. Place the flour, salt and sugar into a processor and whizz for a few seconds to thoroughly combine. Add the cubes of butter and whizz for no more than 10 seconds, until you have what looks like coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, slowly add the water to the mix and whizz until it begins to come together, but isn't yet in a big lump. Don't process for more than 30 seconds though. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gently bring it together with your hands. Form it into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for at least an hour.
While the dough is chilling make the cranberry curd filling. Place the cranberries in a saucepan along with the orange juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes until the cranberries have popped - you may need to assist them a bit with a spoon. When it's ready you'll have a thick, pulpy liquid. Press the cranberries through a sieve, collecting the pulp in a bowl. Discard the skins.
Return the pulp to the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over a lowish heat. Whisk in the beaten eggs and continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and bubbling - up to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cover the top with clingfilm, so that it touches the curd and prevents a skin forming. Set aside.
To make the meringue topping, place the egg whites in a stand mixer and whisk until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and salt, and whisk to the soft peak stage. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the caster sugar and whisk until you get to the stiff peak stage, and you have a thick, glossy meringue. At this point, you could (just before you get to stiff peaks) add in 1 tspn of vanilla extract. I didn't bother with this.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to a depth of 2mm. Line your pie dish, pushing the pastry down gently into the base. Prick the base with a fork. Trim off the excess from the sides of the dish.
At this point, I followed the original recipe and baked the crust straightaway. It shrank from the dish a bit, and I think it would have been better to have rested it for 15 - 30 minutes in the fridge before baking. Anyway, once you are ready to bake it, you need to line it with some greaseproof paper and baking beans, so that you bake it blind for about 15 minutes. Then remove the paper and beans, and bake it for another 10 minutes, until the base is golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven.
Fill the crust with the cranberry curd and level it (hopefully it's still a bit warm at least, as this will apparently help the meringue stick to it).
Carefully spread over the meringue topping, and make sure that it goes right to the edges of the crust. Level it, and then using the back of a spatula (if you like) pat it to make some small peaks. Bake the pie in the centre of the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the meringue is golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before chilling. I left mine overnight in the fridge.
Slice and serve with a big, fat grin on your face.
The cranberry curd will give up a little juice as it rests. The meringue may also pull away from the base and crust a little (at least that's what happened to mine). This is why Audra suggests placing the filling in the pie crust while it is still hot, so that it helps set the meringue from the bottom, too. Mine had cooled though, so although it did pull away a little, the pie still tasted gorgeous.
It's a great way to use fresh cranberries.