I’m from New England. That means that I’m slightly cynical, a little rushed, and if you bite me, I taste like fall.
For thirteen autumns, my mom has baked this pie. Officially, I think it’s “Nantucket Pie.” But because we’re so God blessed creative, we’ve always lovingly called it Cranberry Walnut Pie.
The first fall that mom pulled it from the oven, my brother and I shrugged, told her we were “sorry, but just too full to try it”, and ran to the store for school supplies. (Ring Dings.)
Truth is, I don’t think either of us had much contact with cranberries. In fact, the only ones I considered worthwhile were jellied in a can. Certainly there was no place for tart berries in baking. There’s chocolate to be had.
Maybe it was desperation. Maybe that damn Irish guilt. Or that 7/11 was out of Ring Dings. Whatever the reason, we set our better judgment aside and sliced a wedge of pie from the still-hot dish. Mom smiled.
I blacked out for the rest of that night.
Came to in a sweat with dry mouth and only the faintest memories of euphoria.
Something about cranberries and walnuts and buttery cake and me and mom and the oldest brother from Hansen…and…
It was all too much.
Rich, custard-like flavor, similar to the buttery notes of a well made shortbread. It’s simple yet absolutely stunning in jewel-toned color and crumb. Though considered a pie, it’s more of a moist cake in consistency. Which could explain a lot of the reason why I adore it. The highlight, though, and the real deal sealer, is the addition of almond extract. It makes for the most delicate tip toe between almond macaroon and amaretto.
And then there’s the underbelly of this honey hued cake layer…the tart-sweet pucker of fresh cranberries…the crunch of tanned and toasted walnuts.
Cranberry Walnut Pie was and still is my favorite fall pie. The one pie in the world that I’d save on Thanksgiving, if God forced me to sacrifice the rest of the desserts for the better of all mankind. God, please don’t ever do that. The one I’d leave Daniel for if pressed to choose. Daniel, thanks for the memories.
It’s also the pie that is most beloved and requested each year at Thanksgiving by family, friends, and kindly workers at the post office. I personally like to bake for people who facilitate me receiving presents. A story for another day.
But don’t just take my word for it. Bake it and call me when you awaken from your own black out. I’ll be there with a cold washcloth and black coffee.
Cranberry Walnut Pie
(makes 1, 10″ pie)
- 2 cups cranberries, chopped (I use a bag of Ocean Spray fresh cranberries)
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp almond extract (This is an absolute must in the recipe, do not skip it)
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter the bottom and up the sides of a 10” pie plate.
- Spread the chopped cranberries and walnuts over the bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle the mixture with ¼ cup of sugar.
- Whisk the flour, salt, and remaining 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl. Beat in melted butter. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth. Stir in the almond extract. Do not overmix.
- Pour batter on top of the cranberry/walnut mixture and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is puffed and just beginning to turn a golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.