Cranberry Velvet Pie

Let someone else make the apple and pumpkin pies. (And mincemeat, if that someone is my sister.) You bring along this little gem and watch the other pie-bakers shrivel up with jealousy. You can prepare all the components a couple of days ahead of time and make the pie (or tart) itself 24 hours in advance. I'm not saying it's the easiest pie you'll ever make — but it's the best, and most beautiful, Thanksgiving pie there is.

Hands-On Time: 4 1/2 hours
Ready In: 12 hours
Yield: one 9 1/2-inch pie or 11-inch tart

Ingredients

    For the crust:
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1 tablespoon fresh-grated orange rind
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
    1 large egg
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    For the filling:
    4 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and/picked over
    1/2 cup orange juice
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    Pinch of salt
    6 large egg yolks
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced into 8 pieces
    1 tablespoon fresh-grated orange rind
    Whipped cream for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Process flour and orange rind in a food processor until the rind has been thoroughly ground into the flour, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and salt and pulse on and off for a few seconds. Scatter butter slices over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal, about 10 times. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and pulse on and off until the dough holds together. Gather up the dough, knead it manually if necessary to smooth it out, and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill it for at least an hour or up to 2 days.
  2. Divide dough into 8 to 10 pieces. Scatter the pieces evenly in a well-greased 11-inch tart pan or a 9 1/2-inch pie plate. Gently pat the dough into place to make a 1/4-inch-thick crust, coming as far up the edges of the pan as you can. Chill pan for 20 minutes while you heat the oven to 375.
  3. Grease a 14-inch square piece of heavy aluminum foil. Gently fit the foil, greased side down, over the crust. Cover foil with pie weights, uncooked rice, or uncooked beans. Place crust on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the foil and pie weights and set aside. Return crust to the oven and bake until golden and baked through, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. Take the crust out of the oven and reset the oven to 275.
  4. Put cranberries, juices, sugar, and salt into a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Lower heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook, stirring frequently, until berries are soft, about 25 to 30 minutes. Force cooked berries and any cooking liquid through a fine sieve or food mill to remove all the skins and seeds. (This is a boring job if you use a sieve, so have a book or willing assistant handy.)
  5. Put the cranberry purée into a clean saucepan. Over low heat, stirring constantly, whisk in egg yolks. Continuing to stir constantly over low heat, cook the mixture until it is very thick, about 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat and whisk in the butter slices one at a time. Whisk in orange rind.
  6. Pour the cranberry mixture into prepared crust. Bake until set, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely; then chill for at least 6 hours or up to one day. Serve with whipped cream if I'm eating at your house.

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