Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

The recipe for the Nantucket Cranberry Pie was first published in November 2013. I have since updated the directions, photos, as well as added directions on making an orange flavored whipped cream. The flavors of slightly tart and sweet pie are elevated even further with a large dollop of the whipped cream. 

Until I discovered this recipe for Nantucket Cranberry Pie a couple of years ago, I had never tasted a pie made with fresh cranberries. My intake of cranberries were primarily in cranberry chutney, cranberry sauce, and, oh yes, dried cranberries in cookies or bread). I was a bit of a cranberry pie skeptic as I didn't think raw, tart cranberries would taste good in a pie. Even one baked for almost an hour. To say I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor and texture of this pie would be an understatement. The combination of fresh cranberries, pecans, orange and almond extracts make for one incredibly delicious slightly sweet, tart pie.

It may have been simplicity of the recipe or the fact that it may have originated Nantucket that initially drew me to this recipe. Fortunately, I didn't let my limited cranberry consumption exposure prevent me from making this pie. (Up until I started this blog, I actually thought I had a pretty good knowledge of and relatively wide range of experiences with food. I have caught myself more than once in the past year admitting to my unfamiliarity with or limited application to quite a few foods. So it seems that my perception hasn't been in alignment with my reality. At least on the culinary front that is.) 

While Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, but this isn't just a Thanksgiving or autumnal pie. No, it is one of those pies that is delicious year round (that is for as long as you can find fresh cranberries). Having said that, it really would be a great addition to any array of Thanksgiving desserts. Even if you are serving a cranberry chutney or cranberry sauce during the meal, as there are certain times when there is no such thing as 'too much' cranberry). For those of you who believe otherwise, consider serving this on Thanksgiving morning, at least then there will be a several hour gap between your consumption of cranberries.  What I am trying to say is you should really make this pie as soon as you can find fresh cranberries in your grocery store or market.

In addition to the cranberries, pecans, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and sea salt, the pie also contains both almond and orange extracts. Be careful not to use 'imitation' extracts as they will not yield the same flavor results. Most grocery stores carry both extracts, however, you can usually also find them at speciality cooking stores or online.

Mix together the fresh cranberries, the pecans, and one-half cup of sugar in a medium sized bowl and set aside. Important note: The recipe uses a total of 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup is mixed in with the nuts and cranberries and 1 cup is mixed in with the remaining ingredients.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, lightly beaten eggs, one cup of sugar, almond extract, orange extract and salt until well blended. Fold in the flour using a spatula until no streaks of flour remain.

Add in the cranberry, nut and sugar mixture to the batter. Carefully blend together with a wooden spoon or spatula. The batter should be very thick.

Scrape the batter into a glass or ceramic nine inch pie plate very generously buttered. Place on a baking sheet in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Baking time on the original recipe was 45 minutes, however, I have found that the baking time is often closer to 60 minutes. The pie is done when the top is a light brown, some of the cranberries have burst, and it pulls away slightly from the side of the pie plate. Serve the Nantucket Cranberry Pie at room temperature (so you can make it early in the day and lightly cover).

In this updated version of the recipe, I have added an Orange Flavored Whipped Cream. Why I never served the pie this way before is anyone's guess. But I know now I will never ever serve it any other way.

When I lived out east I used to make this Nantucket Cranberry Pie often. During the fall, when cranberries were in abundance, I would often make it for friends visiting. Like me, they too were surprised at its' deliciousness and texture. This bit crunchy on the edges and softer in the center is pie heaven. More often than not, they would request the recipe. Needless to say, I was more than happy to share it. 

Recipe (updated October 2019)
Nantucket Cranberry Pie (slight modification to the Nantucket Cranberry Pie recipe created by Will Hotham in the "Home Port Cookbook: Beloved Recipes from Martha's Vineyard")
Serves 8

2 generous cups (8 ounces, 227 g) fresh cranberries
1/2 cups (2 1/4 ounces, 64 g) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 cups (300) granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract (recommend Nielsen-Massey Pure Almond Extract)
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt.

Orange Flavored Whipped Cream 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons confectionary sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
Orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Generously butter a 9 inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Set aside.
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine cranberries, pecans and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Mix and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, remaining one cup sugar, almond extract, orange extract, and salt until well-blended. Fold in the flour until thoroughly combined.
4. Add the cranberry/nut/sugar mixture and fold to combine both mixtures.  Note: The batter will have a thick consistency.
5. Scrape batter into a 9 inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan midway through the baking process, until the pie is lightly browned, some of the cranberries have burst and the pie pulls very slightly from the edges. Err on the side of baking slightly longer as this is a very dense pie. (Note: My baking time tends to be closer to 60 minutes but I start checking at 50 minutes.)
6. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. 
7. In a medium sized bowl, whip the cream, confectionary sugar, and orange extract until semi-firm peaks form. 
8. Serve the pie with the whipped cream sprinkled with some orange zest.

Notes: (1) To toast the pecans, preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Lay pecans flat on a baking dish. Bake for 8-9 minutes. Let cool slightly before chopping. (2) Leftover pie should be covered and either placed in the refrigerator or can be left out. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before serving or enjoy chilled.

The first time I traveled to Nantucket I felt a sense of the island's history instantly after I got off the ferry. Or maybe what I was feeling could better be described as an aura. One I cannot fully explain. Certainly I had never experienced such a feeling in any of my prior travels. Needless to say Nantucket left a permanent imprint on me. Whatever it was that I felt, I thought that if I were on a ship in the 1600s and the first sighting of land was Nantucket, I wouldn't have wanted to travel any further. This would have been the end of the journey for me. Most likely I would have become one of those who would 'never have left the island'. While the landscape has changed over the past four hundred plus years, I have no doubt it has always been a compelling, beautiful place. From the original cobblestones in the center of town; to the uniqueness of each of the beaches; to the architecture of the buildings and homes; to the landscape; to its' history; it is without a doubt one of my most favorite travel destinations on the east coast.

Before I traveled to Nantucket, I had taken ferries to both Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. Each time I got on a ferry all I could think of was Nathaniel Philbrick's book "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex". More specifically, I couldn't help but worry about the possibility of whales bumping the ferry and me being thrown into the middle of the ocean (an example of my very active imagination). In retrospect this unfounded fear of mine might have been just a little on the dramatic side, however, I had just read the book for the first time a few weeks before getting on a ferry that 'crossed the ocean' and so unfriendly whales were fresh on my mind. But nothing I had ever read or seen before prepared me for the sheer beauty of Nantucket. I have been known to weep over taking in nature's beauty. Being on Nantucket and hiking in the Rocky Mountains each for the first time just might have brought tears to my eyes. But I will let your active imagination decide whether or not tears were actually shed.