Pies please

It’s a proper winter across much of Australia, and that means time to break out the warmest meals. The lovely Francesca from Better Homes and Gardens has been cooking a pie a week over at her blog, and her last entry is completely scumptious – Pear, Raspberry & Custard Crumble Pie. It’s as though she took four of our favourite desserts and rolled them into one!

In fact, the only thing I can think of that challenges that pie in the deliciousness stakes is the Cranberry chocolate nut pie from the Winter 2011 issue of family circle. It’s rich nuttiness is sweetened with bursts of white chocolate and made more grown-up with tart cranberries and a bit of brandy. Classic but just a little bit quirky – it’s the Kate Middleton of pies, just not quite as trim around the hips.

So, just as a special treat, here’s the recipe. You can swap the white choc for milk or for dark with up to 60% cocoa, if you prefer, and use a good shortcrust pastry from the shops if you don’t have time to make your own. And don’t forget to check out all the tips for pie perfection in our 10 Damn good pies! feature, onsale now.

Cranberry choc nut pie

Cranberry chocolate nut pie
Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 60 mins
Chilling time: 1 hour
Serves 6-8

½ cup brandy or orange juice
¾ cup dried cranberries
1 quantity basic pie pastry (see below)
80g butter, melted and cooled
1½ cups caster sugar
3 eggs
Good pinch fine table salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup plain flour
100g white chocolate, chopped

1 cup thickened cream
2 Tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

1 Warm brandy (or juice) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place cranberries in a small bowl, then add warmed brandy. Cover and leave for 1 hour. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon brandy.
2 Preheat oven to 180°C fan-forced (200°C conventional). Prepare basic pie pastry, roll out and line a 23cm pie plate.
3 In a medium bowl, whisk butter, sugar, eggs and salt. Stir in walnuts, flour, white chocolate, drained cranberries and reserved brandy.
4 Spoon into lined pie plate and bake for 30 minutes. Cover top loosely with foil and bake for a further 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Cool for at least 45 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.
5 To make sweetened cream: Combine cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer on medium to form soft peaks. Serve with pie.

Basic pie pastry
1¼ cups plain flour
¼ tsp sea-salt flakes, crushed
80g butter, chilled, chopped
2-3 Tbsp chilled water

1 Combine flour, salt and butter in a food processor, then pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add 2 tablespoons of the water and process until pastry almost comes together, adding more water if necessary.
2 Transfer pastry to a lightly floured benchtop and gently knead until pastry is smooth. Shape pastry into a 1cm-thick round and wrap in baking paper. Refrigerate until pastry is firm enough to roll out.

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