When I recently visited Philadelphia, I had the pleasure of trying out Magpie in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of the city. I noshed on a slice of Pear Ginger Oatmeal Crumb pie, and it was excellent! When I returned home, I decided to order myself a copy of their cookbook because the one thing I enjoy as much as eating pie is making pie.
I like to think of pie making/eating as therapy. Fifty percent of the therapy is the process of making the pie, mixing the dough, rolling it out, preparing the filling, crimping the edges, etc. The other fifty percent is definitely eating the pie! There’s nothing more therapeutic than a slice of freshly baked seasonal pie to comfort you after an exhausting week.
One of my favorite pie cookbooks is the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, and I’ve made several excellent pies from that book. It’s hard to say this early in the game, but I feel like my new Magpie cookbook will easily tie with 4&20 as my ultimate go to pie book (I have others, but these are definitely the most inspiring and well-executed books on the subject).
I’ve only just started reading and baking from the book, but I have already been impressed with some of the techniques and tips that are shared. For example, I have always been of the mindset that a pie is best enjoyed the day it is baked (freshest). But Magpie always lets their fruit pies set overnight, uncovered at room temperature. This allows the filling to completely set, and yield perfect slices. In the past I have always had a bit of juiciness in my filling the day it is baked, and the leftover pie the next day always does seem to slice more cleanly, so this makes perfect sense. Leaving it uncovered is also key, I believe, because covering it will trap it’s own moisture and then soften the crust, really detracting from that flaky quality you are aiming to achieve.
I also must say that in addition to some really great technique tips I have learned from reading the book, I am really floored by the incredible variety of pie recipes. They are divided up into Fruity Pies (which unofficially seem to be listed in order by season, beginning with fall and ending with summer), (Mostly) Creamy Pies, and Quiches, Potpies, and Other Savories.
A few of the sweet pies I’m anxious to try include Berry Custard Thyme Crumb Pie (next summer perhaps!), Hummingbird Pie (a riff on the classic Southern cake), Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Pretzel Crunch, and Peppermint Mousse Black Bottom Pie (maybe this Christmas!) among many others.
Some of the savory options have my mouthwatering as much as the sweet ones! I’m dying to try the Jalapeno Bacon “Popper” Quiche, the Smoked Gouda Butternut Squash Pie, as well as many others. I did note an editorial issue in the table of contents for the savory pies chapter, a couple of the pies are listed out of order with the wrong page numbers, but it’s possible that was corrected in a later printing of the book.
To begin, I selected a pretty standard flavor profile for this time of year, and a pie that would be perfect for this upcoming Thanksgiving or Christmas: Apple Cranberry Walnut Lattice Pie. It’s so incredibly seasonal, I just couldn’t resist making a pie bringing together so many fall flavors.
I will say that even resting my pie overnight, it was still somewhat “juicy” and syrupy, like other fruit (apple/pear) pies I’ve made in the past. I personally like having some fruity syrup in my pie, but I was hoping to have a firmer, better set filling for this pie. I suppose with small pieces of apple (I quartered mine before thinly slicing) it’s inevitable that it won’t have the best structure as something more cohesive. After a couple days in the fridge, however, it definitely firmed up and yielded nicer slices, but in a single day’s time it didn’t really make much of a difference.
I also could have potentially baked my pie a bit longer. It did bake longer than the book suggests, but my oven is electric, not gas, and may have just required even a bit more time for the filling to really set thoroughly. It was bubbling around the edges, but probably could have used a few more minutes.
Regardless of that fact, this pie is seriously a winner! The bites of apple are fall perfection, while the essence of orange permeates the entire pie from both the zest and juice. Bursts of tartness punctuate every other bite from the ruby red cranberries, and of course the crunchy toasted walnuts add a bit of texture to the otherwise soft filling.
I love so many kinds of pie, and the ones featuring fall flavors tend to be some of my favorites. This is such a great pie variety for this time of year, and if you find yourself visiting your local apple orchard, or just needing a comforting pick-me-up as the weather begins to cool, or even planning your holiday dessert tables, this is a fantastic pie to feature on your menu.
Apple Cranberry Walnut Lattice Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
1 recipe Magpie Dough for Flaky Piecrust, chilled overnight (recipe below)
2 pounds (906 grams) sweet-tart apples (such as Honeycrisp or Gala), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 ounces (113 grams) fresh cranberries
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup (144 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnut pieces, toasted and finely chopped
1 large egg yolk
Lightly flour a smooth work surface and a rolling pin.
Take a chilled disk of dough out of the fridge. Give it a couple of firm squeezes just to say hello, then unwrap it and set it on the floured work surface.
Set the pin crosswise on the dough and press down firmly, making a nice deep channel across the full width of the disk. Turn the disk 180 degrees and repeat, making a second indentation, forming a plus sign.
Use your rolling pin to press down each of the wedges, turning the dough 45 degrees each time. This will give you the beginnings of a thick circle.
Now, rolling from the center outward and rotating the dough a quarter turn to maintain a circular shape, roll the dough out to a 13-inch circle with an even thickness of 1/4 inch.
Set your 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan alongside the circle of dough. Brush off any loose flour, carefully fold the dough circle in half, transfer it to the pan, and unfold.
At this point, the dough will be lying across rather than fitted into the pan. Now, without stretching the dough, set the dough down into the pan so that it is flush up against the sides and bottom. The best way to do this is to gingerly lift the dough and gently shift it around so that it settles into the pan bit by bit. Use a very light touch to help cozy it in. Trim the overhang (if needed) to 1 inch all the way around. Cover the bottom crust with plastic wrap and put the pan in the refrigerator while you roll the dough for the top shell.
Fetch the second disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out as directed above. Fold the circle of dough in half and carefully transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet, then unfold to lay flat. Use a pizza cutter, pastry wheel, or large life, along with a ruler or straightedge, to cut the dough into six 2-inch-wide strips. Cover them with plastic wrap, slide the baking sheet into the refrigerator, and chill the strips until the pie is ready to be topped.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the center. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
In a large bowl, toss the apples and cranberries with the orange zest and orange juice.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and walnuts. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit and toss to coat the fruit and moisten the sugar and cornstarch so that no dry white streaks remain.
Retrieve the prepared bottom crust from the refrigerator, set the pan on the parchment-lined baking sheet and evenly layer the apples into the pie shell with your hands, keeping the top of the filling flat and level (not peaked). Use your index finger to scrape some of the syrupy fruit juices off the sides of the mixing bowl and generously moisten the top edge of the shell.
Fetch the dough strips from the refrigerator. Lay 3 of the strips vertically across the filling, spacing evenly. Fold back the two outer strips halfway and add a dough strip horizontally across the center of the pie so that it crosses the flat strip. Swap the folded and unfolded vertical strips and add a second horizontal strip across the flat strips. Repeat once more with the remaining strip to complete the lattice. Pinch the two edges of dough together, roll outward and under to form a ledge, and tuck the edge inside the lip of the pie pan. Crimp the edges all the way around at about 1-inch intervals, pressing from the inside with the knuckle of your index finger while supporting on the outside with the thumb and index finger of your opposite hand. Don’t pinch the dough, you want the flute to look like a thick rope.
Whisk the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Lightly brush the lattice with the egg wash.
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake the pie 25 minutes at 400 degrees F, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees F, rotate the baking sheet and bake 25 to 30 minutes more (mine baked an extra 40 minutes), or until the lattice is golden and the fruit is tender (the tip of a small knife can easily be inserted into the fruit through the spaces in the lattice) and the juices are bubbling up through the lattice. Tend the top with foil if the crust starts to over-brown.
Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the pie cool and set uncovered, at room temperature, overnight (or up to 3 days) before slicing and serving. Serve at room temperature, or rewarmed in a 425 degree F oven.
Magpie Dough for Flaky Piecrust
Makes Enough Dough for any of the Following:
2 (9-inch) single-crust pies, 1 (9-inch) double-crust or lattice-top pie, 8 (4 x 2-inch) potpies, 12 (2 x 1-inch) mini pies, 1 (9 x 3-inch) quiche, or 8 (4-inch) hand pies
2 1/2 cups (312 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (28 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (6 grams) fine salt
3/4 cup (170 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and frozen
1/4 cup (60 grams) vegetable shortening, preferably in baking stick form, frozen, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, and put back in the freezer
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 grams) ice-cold water
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse the machine 3 times to blend. Scatter the frozen butter cubes over the flour mixture. Pulse the machine 5 to 7 times, holding each pulse for 5 full seconds, to cut all of the butter into pea-size pieces.
Scatter the pieces of frozen shortening over the flour-and-butter mixture. Pulse the machine 4 more 1-second pulses to blend the shortening with the flour. The mixture will resemble coarse cornmeal, but will be a bit more floury and riddled with pale butter bits (no pure-white shortening should be visible). Turn the mixture out into a large mixing bowl, and make a small well in the center. If you find a few butter clumps that are closer to marble size than pea size (about 1/4 inch in diameter), carefully pick them out and give them a quick smoosh with your fingers. Pour the cold water into the well.
Use a curved bowl scraper to lightly scoop the flour mixture up and over the water, covering the water to help get the absorption started. Continue mixing by scraping the flour up from the sides and bottom of the bowl into the center, rotating the bowl as you mix, and occasionally pausing to clean off the scraper with your finger or the side of the bowl, until the mixture begins to gather into clumps but is still very crumbly. (If you are working in very dry conditions and the ingredients remain very floury and refuse to clump together at this stage, add another tablespoon of ice-cold water.) Lightly gather the clumps with your fingers and use your palm to fold over and press the dough a few times (don’t knead! —just give the dough a few quick squishes), until it just begins to come together into a single large mass. It will be a raggedy wad, moist but not damp, that barely holds together; this is exactly as it should be—all it needs is a good night’s rest in the fridge.
For single- and double-crust pies, mini pies, potpies, or hand pies: Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, gently shape each portion into a flat disk 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, and wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. For quiche, leave the dough in one piece, flatten it into a single large disk 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
No ifs, ands, or buts, the dough must have its beauty sleep. That means 8 hours in the refrigerator at the very least. Extra rest is just fine; feel free to let the wrapped dough sit in the fridge for up to 3 days before rolling. (The dough may discolor slightly. No worries. This is merely oxidization and will not affect the flavor or appearance of your finished piecrust.)
Cooks’ Note: The wrapped, chilled dough can be put in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.