Buttermilk Pie & Pomegranate Cranberry Compote

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I'm about to show you the easiest pie I've learned how to make. There's no crust to roll out and the filling can be made in a blender. I'm talking easy. Last summer, I came across an article about Atlantic Beach Pie. I was intrigued by the saltine crust more than anything else. At the same time, chess pies and buttermilk pies were on my list to try so although I hadn't yet baked one, I knew all of those recipes could be combined into something magical. So that's what I did, and after a few tries, I got the consistency I was after. The thick, creamy custard filling with a crackled surface is so irresistible that I'm often puzzled why on earth I'd spend all day making any other pie. And the saltine crust? Heavenly. It's a little salty and very crumbly (let's call it "rustic") and contrasts with the sweet filling perfectly. Truthfully the pie is great all by itself but in the summers I liked serving it with a strawberry topping. So for the winter season, I'm dressing it up with a tangy pomegranate cranberry compote that has a hint of rosemary in it. Even if you think you can mess this pie up, you won't. Buttermilk pie is what I'd call a "pantry" recipe, because it's super cheap to bake from ingredients you probably have hanging around. Well, I always have buttermilk at any rate, but if you don't it's not expensive to grab. Please don't create a milk and vinegar concoction to substitute here. You'll want real buttermilk, preferably not the low-fat variety but the recipe is fortified with heavy cream just in case. If you love a good custard pie, you'll be hooked on this one!

Buttermilk Pie & Pomegranate Cranberry Compote


For the filling:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 tbsp set aside
1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 whole eggs + 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Zest of 1 orange
2 tsp orange juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c. melted butter, cooled

For the compote: 3 cups whole cranberries (frozen is fine)
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 c. real maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
Peel of 1 orange
Rosemary sprig

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours plus additional time to chill if desired
Yield: Serves 8
Special Equipment: Blender or food processor, medium saucepan, fine mesh strainer

To make the crust, pulse the saltine crackers in your food processor or blender until crushed to the consistency of bread crumbs. Add the sugar and butter, pulse to combine. The mixture should hold together once pinched, but it shouldn't be wet. Press it into the bottom and sides of a pie pan, using the flat bottom of a cup to help pack it tighter if necessary. If it's too crumbly to hold together, you can moisten it with a tiny bit of water or more butter. I don't really worry about the top of the rim being perfect; the edges will crumble after it bakes. Freeze the shell for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.

When you're ready to bake the pie, preheat your oven to 325° F.  In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt with a whisk. In a clean blender or food processor, add the eggs, egg yolks, buttermilk, heavy cream, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla and nutmeg. Blend on low speed until combined. Keep the motor running, and pour in the sugar mixture, followed by streaming in the cooled melted butter. As soon as everything is combined, turn the blender off. Pour the filling gently into the pie shell.

Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the surface of the pie filling. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The filling may puff up slightly but it will deflate later. It will also develop a golden, crinkly surface. You're looking for the same consistency as a baked pumpkin or sweet potato pie, so just shake the pie ever so slightly to check that the middle is a little bit jiggly. Once cooked, turn the oven off and let the pie cool for 30 minutes with the oven door open. Then transfer the pie to your counter and let it finish cooling for at least a couple hours to set the custard. If you like your custard pies cold like me, once the pie pan feels like it's close to room temperature you can transfer it to your fridge and chill overnight.

I love that the crackled sugar topping helps cover imperfections, like your toddler sticking her fingers in it while it cools.

The crust is pretty crumbly, which is a good thing for custard pies. To clean it up before serving, I just took a pastry brush and swept away any stray crumbs along the rim of the crust. 

I made my fruit compote while the pie baked. Add the cranberries, pomegranate juice, sugar, maple syrup and orange peel to a medium pot. Let the liquid come to a boil and wait for the cranberries to swell and begin to pop, about 5 minutes. Strain the contents of the pot into a bowl, transferring just the liquid, cinnamon stick and orange peel back to the pot. 

Add the rosemary sprig to the pot. Over medium low heat, let the liquid simmer until it reduces slightly to the consistency of a thin syrup. That should take about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it.

Meanwhile, transfer the cooked cranberries to whatever container you'll be storing/serving the compote (I used a mason jar.)  Once the liquid in the pot has been reduced, strain it into your jar to cover the berries. Discard the cinnamon, orange and rosemary. Chill until needed; it will thicken as it cools.

Serve the buttermilk pie at room temperature, slightly warm, or chilled - it's good however you like it! Spoon a generous amount of cranberries on each slice, allowing the syrup to drip over the edges. It kind of reminded me of cheesecake this way! 

If you have any leftovers, store the pie and compote in the fridge. It's excellent with coffee. Welcome to your new addiction.

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