Cranberry Chess Pie: The Beginning of a Study In How to Make Normal Sized Desserts

cranberry chess pie

I had stepped away from baking for a bit, and when I came back to it, my life was different. I married my partner in crime, and in a strange twist we started weightlifting together, shifting our diet away from things that aren’t animal protein or vegetables.

On the other hand, I spend one night a week with dear friends watching sci-fi (when available, or whatever ridiculous shows are available instead), drinking wine, eating cheese and ordering the best delivery we can find on Seamless. At some point I decided that civilized gatherings require pie. Sci-fi Pie. This gathering draws between four and eight humans on a average, and the idea of making an entire batch of brownies or a standard size pie was troubling. None of us are kids in our 20s. We want our pie, but we don’t want to be stuck with the 3/4 of an entire pie that would remain if we each had a slice.

I set myself to cutting down my favorite baking recipes into portions that would leave a MAXIMUM of two SMALL slices at the end of the night (one breakfast for me, one for the hostess). Cut-down recipes, so everyone could have a little something but nobody felt there would be dire consequences from this night’s indulgence.

This began in August, with blueberries and peaches busting the seams of the Union Square Greenmarket, so I made my usual pie dough recipe, cut it into four instead of two pucks, and started buying fruit, making pie, and freezing things ahead of time. There was peach pie, nectarine pie, blueberry pie, strawberry crostada and some other things, but this cranberry chess pie was the first thing I wrote down.

Cranberry Chess Pie
Ham-handedly adapted from Serious Eats

(this recipe makes 2 x 6” pies; put one in the freezer)

1 pie dough recipe, cut in half and rolled out separately
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 melted butter
pinch salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp flour
1/4 c buttermilk (or half and half and a little extra vinegar in a pinch)
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp orange (or lemon) zest

1-2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped (wear an apron; don’t wear white)

Put 1/4 of a pie dough batch, rolled out, into each of 2 6” pie pans. Put these in the fridge or freezer to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 375. Wait 15-30 min until oven beeps.
Remove pie shells from fridge/freezer and put into oven. Bake 15 minutes.
Remove pie shells from oven and let cool on rack. Leave the oven on.
Whisk together sugar, butter, salt; add eggs one at a time, combining until smooth.
Stir in flour, buttermilk, vinegar, zest. Mix well.
Add cranberries, fold in.
Pour the mix into the pie shells.
Bake 30-50 minutes, or until the top of the custard is a light golden brown and the filling is firm.

Let cool on a rack 1 hour. Wrap one of these in foil and freeze.