Editor's note: There's no such thing as too much pie at Thanksgiving, so this week on Sweets is Pie Week—a different recipe every day.
Fresh cranberries are one of my favorite ingredients for adding a burst of flavor and color in a season of otherwise drab-looking produce. I especially love them in desserts because they play so well with other flavors, including caramel and nuts, which was why I decided to bake them into a pie this year.
I adore desserts that highlight ingredients that have tart and/or bitter qualities by adding just enough sweetness to make them sing. For this pie, I mixed a healthy amount of tart, whole cranberries with chopped walnuts and bound them together with a caramel custard similar to the one most commonly found in pecan pie. When the cranberries are baked, they release their tart juices into the custard, creating a delightful cranberry caramel that's much less sweet and balances perfectly with the earthy walnuts. This pie is best enjoyed at room temperature (with ice cream, of course.)
When choosing fresh cranberries, look for fruit that ranges from bright red to deep maroon in color. The berries should feel firm, and if you bite into one, the flesh should be firm and white. Cranberries are mainly produced in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington, and they are often available at farmers' markets in those areas. Otherwise, they are commonly sold in bags in the produce section of the grocery store this time of year. I stock up early and freeze them for later use because they hold well in the freezer if you are using them for baking. If you're using frozen cranberries, let them thaw before using.
This Thanksgiving, consider extending cranberries beyond the main course. A tart pie is the perfect foil for other sweets that grace the holiday table.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.