Pear & Cranberry Torte

Pear & Cranberry TorteEverybody has their holiday mainstay dish. For some it’s tamales, for others, a glazed ham. For me, it’s this Pear & Cranberry Torte. I found the recipe for a simple cranberry version years ago when I was just learning to bake, and I’ve made it ever since. I made it as written many times, but as I gained more knowledge and confidence in my baking, I made a few adjustments and have had it in my holiday repertoire ever since.

Pear & Cranberry TorteWhat’s the difference between a torte and a cake? Besides just sounding fancier than regular cake, tortes are made with minimal to no flour, relying on eggs, sugar, and sometimes leaveners to give them structure. I’ve put one other torte recipe on here, my grain-free version of Molly Wizenberg’s Winning Hearts & Minds Cake. If you or your guests are way into chocolate (or gluten-free!), throw that recipe on your menu.

Pear & Cranberry TorteBut back to today’s torte. It’s a buttery, light vanilla-almond cake full of soft pieces of pear and tart whole cranberries–it definitely tastes like the holidays. Where a lot of holiday desserts are time consuming and require ingredients you don’t use for the other 11 months of the year, this one is simple. With the exception of the pear and the cranberries, you probably have all the ingredients in your home right now.

The cake base comes together in minutes. Cream some butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar. Beat in a couple of eggs, some vanilla, and a hint of almond extract. Mix in a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt before spreading the batter into a buttered springform pan. That’s it! Then just dot the top with chunks of pear (you’ll want to use one that’s ripe but not mushy) and scatter on some cranberries. Dust it all with a tablespoon of sugar before baking for 40 minutes or so.

Pear & Cranberry TortePear & Cranberry TorteOnce baked, Pear & Cranberry Torte has a very rustic appearance. The pieces of pear will buckle into the batter while the cranberries dot the golden brown top crust. The torte may be served warm or at room temperature, and is just as good with whipped cream or a dusting of confectioner’s sugar as it is by its lonesome.

I hope this Pear & Cranberry Torte becomes a holiday mainstay for you. The buttery vanilla-almond cake and seasonal fruit are a delightful end to any holiday meal. And if you’re the kind of person who gives cakes as gifts, this torte is easy to pack and your friends will love it.Pear & Cranberry Torte

Pear & Cranberry Torte
adapted from Lottie & Doof
one 9-inch cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon, for sprinkling
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 medium pear, cored, peeled, and 1/2-inch diced (about 1 cup cubes)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter until very light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in granulated and light brown sugars. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla and almond extracts. With the mixer on low, mix in dry ingredients. Batter will be thick.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Scatter pear pieces and cranberries over the top and lightly press them into the batter. Sprinkle additional tablespoon of granulated sugar over the top. Bake 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge and releasing the springform.

Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream, if desired.

Cranberry Crumb Pie

Cranberry Crumb PieWhat a week. I had planned to post this recipe on Wednesday, but when I got home from catering an election party on Tuesday night, I knew I wasn’t going to get any work done until I knew who would become President-Elect. Since then, our country’s citizens have been more deeply divided than ever before (and we were already pretty divided). It’s tough to be an American this week. Regardless, we need to come together for change and for the future. I suggest we start with pie.

Cranberry Crumb PieCranberry Crumb PieWhen I first came to New York nine years ago, I had a friend who loved pie. I mean LOVED it. At the time, I had never eaten a slice of pie that I considered revolutionary, so I asked him: why is pie so great? What he said has stuck with me since. Every time I make pie, I think of his words. He said that pie is a communal food; it brings people together. Pie is designed to be shared. While one certainly can eat a whole pie by their lonesome, it’s much more enjoyable to share it. I think the same goes for our nation.

In a couple of weeks, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving with their families and friends. Of course, just because you share DNA or a last name with someone doesn’t mean you have the same beliefs. There are some of us who dread these family holidays for fear of awkward political talk over turkey. I love my family, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some of these fears, too. And while there’s little anyone can do to change someone else’s beliefs over the course of one holiday, there is one thing we can all enjoy together: Cranberry Crumb Pie.

Cranberry Crumb PieThis pie has it all. Orange-scented cranberries layered with sweet, buttery cinnamon crumbs in my favorite Cream Cheese Pie Crust. If you love cranberries and the crumb on top of coffee cakes, this is the pie for you! Some don’t particularly care for the tartness of fresh cranberries, but here they are sweetened with sugar and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg before being tossed with the zest and juice of an orange. They are still tart, to be sure, but the combination of sugar, spices, and citrus mellows them enough to be enjoyed on their own.

Cranberry Crumb PieThe crumb is an old stand-by for American bakers. Cold butter is cut into a combination of flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla until evenly combined. Some prefer to make large amounts of crumb with their mixer, but I encourage you to do this with your hands. Sure, it takes a few more minutes, but it will keep the crumbs from all being the same size, giving your pie a little textural diversity. The cranberries and crumb are layered before being baked–there will be two layers of each. As the pie bakes, the cranberries burst and bubble around the crumb, spreading the buttery cinnamon flavor a bit, but also allowing those crumbs the get crisp-crunchy and super delicious. Soft, juicy cranberries and sweet, crispy crumbs? Yes, please!

Now, go forth and start to heal your community. Make a pie and have friends over (make one of them bring the vanilla ice cream). Be good to each other.

Cranberry Crumb PieCranberry Crumb PieLooking for more pie? You’ve come to the right blog! Check out this Black Bottom Pear & Almond Pie, this light & fluffy Pumpkin Pie, this Cranberry Apple Pie, this Salted Butterscotch Pie, and this Maple Pecan Pie. One more pie recipe is coming your way next week!

Cranberry Crumb Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

Crumb:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Pie:
1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Pie Dough or other good crust
4 cups (about 15-16 ounces) fresh whole cranberries, rinsed and picked over
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
juice and zest of one medium orange
milk or cream, for brushing
vanilla ice cream, for serving

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour in vanilla. Add butter. Use your hands (or a pastry blender) to work butter into dry ingredients until a clumpy but homogenous mixture forms. Set aside.

Roll out the pie crust to 12-inch diameter. Fit it in a pie pan, trim the excess to 1/2-inch, and crimp as desired. Chill 15-20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place racks in the top and bottom positions.

Place cranberries in a large mixing bowl. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cornstarch, salt, and orange juice and zest.

Place chilled pie crust on a baking sheet. Pour half the cranberries into the pie crust and top with half the crumb, breaking it up with your fingers as you go. Top with the remaining cranberries. Brush exposed pie crust with milk. Place pie (on baking sheet) on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake 25 minutes.

Remove pie from oven and top with remaining crumb. Bake on the top rack for 25 minutes, tenting with foil (or using a pie protector) if anything gets too dark.

Let pie cool on a rack at least 4 hours, until room temperature. Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Pie will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

Cranberry Crumb Pie