About a year ago, amid the annual rush of end-of-year posts and articles purporting to predict food trends for the coming new year, 2011, one of the popular ideas was that pie would be “the next cupcake.” Food editors and writers, not to mention storefront bakers, had seen that you could make a killing in cupcakes and everyone wanted to know what was next. Some pie buzz in the food blogosphere, a hip pie emporium here or there in the grooviest corners of Brooklyn or Seattle or Austin, and a pie-centric food truck or two were sufficient to get the next trend declared and anointed.
The idea was appealing but probably wrong. For starters, in the mid-size suburban city where I live, three shiny new cupcake bakeries opened during 2011, in what is about an eight-block downtown, suggesting that for 2011 at least the next cupcake was: more cupcakes. Second, cupcakes are fast and easy to make, good for kids’ birthday parties, and largely about the artistry of the frosting you make and pipe or spread on them. Pies, by contrast, are a slow and sometimes tricky proposition, not a good choice for a kids’ party, and, though they have an indisputable humble beauty, not things you can make very colorful or cute, by frosting or other means. Third, not least, pies have been an important part of the North American diet for centuries. Calling them the next food trend is a little like calling milk or water the next hip drink.
There are, nonetheless, neat new ideas in pie cookery these days and you can find many of them in food blogs. I made myself say “North American” rather than “American” in the last paragraph because the pie I want to share here today comes from a Canadian blogger. As any U.S. cookbook editor who has written jacket copy will tell you, when you call your cookbook “American” you make the Canadian audience wonder if the book is meant for them. Canadians are great bakers, anyhow, and we ought to include them when we talk about pies.
Aimee Wimbush-Bourque’s Simple Bites comes from Canada but has many readers all over North America—with good reason. It’s a great blog because the recipes she and her co-writers share are good, the photos are handsome, and the writing is warm and clear. It avoids the two traps we cookbook editors watch for when we see the word simple: first, that the food is so simple everyone looks at it and says, “I already know how to do that and I already own six recipes for each of those dishes,” or, second, that the label is false and that the reader has a lot work to do over a long time in the kitchen, using ingredients that took hours to find. Simple Bites falls right where it should between these two poles. Most home cooks will find Aimee’s recipes an exciting step up from the familiar and predictable, but at the same time they’ll be pleasantly surprised at how little time, money, and effort it took. In this respect her blog reminds me of the Silver Palate cookbooks.
While fresh cranberries are still in the stores, try your hand at this pie that Aimee created. The original post is at http://www.simplebites.net/cranberry-orange-pie-with-cornmeal-streusel-topping/ You can use Aimee’s crust recipe (follow the link in the recipe) or your own, or use a store-bought crust. There’s no delicate lattice-work to be executed atop the pie, just an easy food-processor streusel that you scatter about. That’s what simple should be.
Cranberry-Orange Pie with Cornmeal Streusel Topping
Since my pre-teen years of pie making, I’ve adapted my cranberry pie to feature a streusel topping instead of a lattice crust. I’m smitten with the rustic, slightly crunchy cornmeal streusel and it’s so simple to pull together and garnish the pie. I probably don’t have to tell you, but this tangy pie is best enjoyed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- 1 9-inch unbaked pie crust, chilled. (Half a recipe of Rich Pie Crust)
For the filling:
- 4 cups fresh cranberries, washed
- Zest of 2 oranges
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 cup Turbinado sugar or brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
For the streusel topping:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cornmeal or polenta
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup salted butter, cubed and cold
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, toss cranberries with orange zest, orange juice, sugar and melted butter. Pour into pie shell.
- In a food processor, combine flour, cornmeal, brown sugar and butter. Pulse for a minute or so until combined. Scatter cornmeal streusel evenly over the top of the cranberry pie filling.
- Place pie on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and place on the middle shelf of the oven.
- Bake for about 40 minutes or until the pie is bubbling around the edges and the topping is a dark golden brown.
- Remove cranberry pie from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
Recipe and photo used by permission of Aimee Wimbush-Bourque