Apple-Cranberry Pie

This super flaky pie crust adds a shot of vodka to reduce the amount of that water bonds with flour to form gluten, too much of it makes a crust tough. Vodka is 60 percent water, leaves no alcohol flavor, vaporizes in the oven and yields a tender crust.

Adapted lightly from Cook's Illustrated
Makes one 9-10 inch pie

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons COLD butter ( 1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup COLD vegetable shortening
1/4 cup COLD vodka
1/4 cup COLD water

Pour the vodka and water into a measuring cup and set it in the freezer to get cold. Process 1 1/2 cups of flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one second pulses. Add butter and shortening; process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will look like cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute around the blade. Add remaining 1 cup flour and pulse until evenly distributed, between 4-6 quick pulses. Place into medium mixing bowl.

Sprinkle (with your hand-like people used to do for ironing) vodka and water mix over dough. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into a four-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and no more than 2 days.

For the fillings:
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup sugar, divided, plus 1 tablespoon for top of pie
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 1/2 pounds tart green apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (6 to 7 medium)
pastry for double-crust pie (above)
1 egg white, beaten lightly

Bring cranberries, juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, pressing berries against side of pan, until berries have completely broken down and juices have thickened to jam-like consistency (wooden spoon scraped across bottom should leave clear trail that doesn't fill in), 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in water, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in large microwave-safe bowl; add apple slices and toss to combine. Microwave on high power, stirring with rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until apples are just starting to turn translucent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

While fillings cool, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed sheet pan on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1 inch overhang. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Transfer cooled cranberry mixture to dough-lined pie plate and spread into even layer. Place apple mixture on top of cranberries, mounding slightly in center.

Roll second disk of dough on generously floured work surface to 12 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1 inch overhang on each side.

Using kitchen shears, cut evenly through both layers of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg white and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Using sharp paring knife, cut four 1 1/2-inch slits in top of dough in cross pattern.

Place pie on preheated sheet pan and bake until top is light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate baking sheet, and continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool at least 2 hours.

COOK'S NOTES: Do not be discouraged by the lengthy directions, most of this you probably all ready know how to do if you have baked an apple pie. This pie crust is very flaky, a perfect fit for this pie. My friend who shared the recipe with me also noted, that the recipe took a bit of time, so making the crust and fillings ahead seem like a good plan. Also, tart green apples have substituted for the sweeter variety in the original recipe.