A New England Cider Pie for Thanksgiving

Years ago, my good friend and talented chef, Matt Sunderland, mentioned that his mom always baked a cider pie for Thanksgiving. Intrigued, I asked how it was made. “Not complicated,” he responded, and pulled out a recipe written in typical chef fashion: an abbreviated list of  ingredients and a single brief paragraph of instruction. When I asked him to be a little more specific, he called his mother for extra details.           

The unusual filling is prepared by reducing cider, then cooking this liquid with butter, sugar, and water until thickened. When the cider base has cooled, egg yolks are added to it and beaten egg whites folded in. This simple filling is spooned into an uncooked pie shell, then popped into a very hot oven for 10 minutes so that the crust will start to crisp up quickly. The oven temperature is then reduced and the pie baked until its filling is set and a rich dark brown on top. Although the pie can be served warm, I find that the delectable filling–shiny and almost jelly-like in consistency–becomes firmer as it cools, thus making the pie easier to slice.           

For my version, I garnish each slice with a generous dollop of crème fraiche, which counters the sweetness of the cider. So, along with traditional pumpkin or pecan pies, try adding this scrumptious New England confection to your dessert table on November 25th. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!



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Thanksgiving Cider PIe Garnished with Crème Fraîche

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice water plus more if needed
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

Filling and Garnish
2 cups apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup crème fraiche
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream, half and half, or whole milk
Confectioners’ sugar

1. For crust, combine flour, butter, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water and egg yolk. Process until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls, if dough is dry. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 30 minutes or longer. (Dough can be made 1 day ahead; keep chilled. Bring to room room temperature 20 minutes before rolling out.)

2. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round, then transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold in overhanging dough to form a high rising border and flute the edges. Refrigerate dough at least 30 minutes while you prepare the filling. (Pie shell can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.)

3. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

4. For filling, have ready a 1 cup glass measuring cup. Put cider in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. Cook until cider reduces to 1/ 2 cup, about 20 minutes or longer, depending on type of pan used. Watch carefully.

5. Add sugar, water, and butter to reduced cider and return pan to high heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and cook at a simmer until mixture reduces to 1 cup, about 10 minutes or longer. Transfer mixture to a medium, heatproof mixing bowl and cool to room temperature. It will thicken as it cools.

6. Separate eggs and whisk the yolks into the cooled cider mixture. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat whites until just firm and fold them into the cider mixture, a third at a time, making certain all whites are mixed into the cider mixture.

7. Spoon filling into the prepared pie shell. (Shell will be about two thirds full.) Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake until crust is golden, and filling has set, about 25 minutes more. The top of filling will become dark brown as pie bakes. Check after 10 or 15 minutes at 350 degrees, and if filling and crust are browning too quickly, cover pie with a buttered sheet of foil (buttered side down).

8.Remove pie and cool to room temperature. (Pie can be made 5 hours ahead; leave uncovered at room temperature.)

9. To serve place crème fraîche in a serving bowl and whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons cream, half and half, or milk to lighten slightly. Dust pie with confectioners’ sugar. Garnish each slice with a generous dollop of crème fraiche. Serves 8.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2021

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