Cranberry-Pomegranate Mousse Pie For the Holidays

The perfect ending to Thanksgiving.
The perfect ending to Thanksgiving.

Dessert Person.

That’s the name of the new cookbook by Claire Saffitz, a New York-based pastry chef and former Bon Appetit test kitchen on-air personality.

It’s also how I would very much define myself.

Yes, I am one of those people, the kind who wholeheartedly doesn’t think a meal is complete without dessert — even if 20 savory courses preceded it. So, even after a mega feast like on Thanksgiving, I always look forward most to the sweet finale.

“Cranberry-Pomegranate Mousse Pie” is worth that wait, too.

As Saffitz acknowledges in her “Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy, after a groaning holiday meal, you don’t necessarily want something especially heavy at the end. Nope, now that is not the time for bread pudding or cheesecake. What you want is something a little lighter, a little brighter, yet still pleasingly indulgent.

This pie is all that.

This recipe includes the best tip for making a graham cracker crust, too.
This recipe includes the best tip for making a graham cracker crust, too.

It’s one of the more than 100 exceptionally detailed recipes in the cookbook, which are imminently doable, and beyond tempting.

Whet your whistle with “Rice Pudding Cake with Mango Caramel,” “Ricotta Cake with Kumquat Marmalade,” “Peanut Butter and Concord Grape Sandwich Cookies,” “Honey Tahini Challah,” and “Black Sesame Paris-Brest.”

This pie has so much going for it, not the least of which is that it can be made ahead of time, and requires hardly any oven time — just baking the crust for 15 minutes.

How many of you have made graham cracker crusts countless times? Me, too. But I swear, Saffitz is the only person who has ever instructed me to form the sides of the crust first. And it makes such a difference.

Other recipes have directed me to dump the entire crumb mixture into the pie pan, then flatten it from the center out to push the crumb mixture up the sides, which often leaves the very top edge of the sides incredibly thin and ragged. Saffitz has you add half the crumb mixture to the pie pan to form the sides first, before adding in the remainder to press to form the bottom. What this does is create much more uniform sides. She also adds an egg yolk to the graham cracker crumb mixture to make the crust a little sturdier. So much so that if you have leftover pie for another day or two, the crust will still not end up soggy. It’s genius.

The baked graham cracker crust. Note how uniform the sides are, and how sturdy it all looks.
The baked graham cracker crust. Note how uniform the sides are, and how sturdy it all looks.
The cranberry mousse is added.
The cranberry mousse is added.

To make the pretty-in-pink filling, you cook down fresh cranberries with sugar, orange zest, pomegranate molasses to create a syrup that gets mixed with gelatin and whipped cream to create an airy mousse to fill the baked crust.

Making the easy sugared cranberries.
Making the easy sugared cranberries.

A mound of whipped cream garnishes the top, along with festive sugared cranberries. To make those, just simmer cranberries again with sugar, water and pomegranate molasses. Pluck the cranberries out to dry on a rack, before rolling them in more sugar to give them a sparkly look. If you want to save the leftover syrup, it’s wonderful stirred into a cocktail or plain oatmeal for breakfast.

What an addition to your holiday table!
What an addition to your holiday table!

Cranberries and pomegranate molasses are a match made in heaven. They both have a beguiling sweet-tart taste. Together, they give each other greater depth, with the pomegranate molasses rounding the sharp twang of the cranberries; and the cranberries perking up the syrupy pomegranate.

No matter how many helpings of turkey and stuffing you’ve indulged in, you will make room for this pie. You simply can’t say “no” to a pie that’s plenty creamy, with a fluffy filling, a crisp cookie crust, and a refreshing and buoyant sweet-tart taste.

It ends a once-a-year meal properly.

Creamy, light, fluffy and tangy, it's exactly what you want after a heavy meal.
Creamy, light, fluffy and tangy, it’s exactly what you want after a heavy meal.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Mousse Pie

(Serves 8)

2 wide strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler

1 cinnamon stick or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of kosher salt

10 ounces fresh cranberries (about 2 1/2 cups), plus 20 or so for garnish

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for garnish

4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 cups heavy cream, chilled

1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder

Graham Cracker Crust, fully baked in a 9-inch pie pan (Recipe Follows)

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Cook the cranberry compote: In a small saucepan, combine the orange zest, cinnamon, salt, cranberries, 1 cup of the granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons of the pomegranate molasses, and 1 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring often with a heatproof spatula, until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is very thick and reduced to a jammy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes (it shouldn’t immediately cover the line left by the spatula as you scrape it across the bottom of the pot). Remove from the heat.

Strain the mixture and stir in some cream: Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and scrape the compote into the sieve. Set the saucepan aside to use again later. Use the spatula to force the mixture through the mesh into the bowl below, pressing on the solids (discard the solids). Whisk 1/3 cup of heavy cream into the compote until the mixture is completely smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate just until the cranberry mixture is cool, 25 to 30 minutes.

Soften the gelatin: Rinse and dry the reserved saucepan. Pour 3 tablespoon cold water into the saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it (don’t stir). Set aside to allow the gelatin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Whip some of the cream to firm peaks: Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of the heavy cream into a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or into a large bowl if using a hand mixer) and beat, starting on medium-low and increasing the speed to medium-high as the cream thickens, until you have firm peaks. You can also do this by hand with a whisk. Refrigerate the cream until it’s time to assemble the mousse.

Melt the gelatin and whisk into the compote: Remove the cooled cranberry mixture from the refrigerator, uncover, and whisk to smooth it out. Place the saucepan with the gelatin over low heat and warm, swirling often, until the gelatin is melted into a clear liquid free of granules — you want to make sure it’s completely melted or the mousse won’t fully set. Whisk the gelatin into the cranberry mixture.

Assemble the cranberry mousse and chill in the crust: Remove the whipped cream from the refrigerator and scrape half of it into the bowl with the cranberry mixture. Fold until just a few streaks remain. Fold in the remaining whipped cream until you have a light, uniform mixture, then scrape into the prepared crust. Smooth the top and refrigerate until the mousse is set, at least 4 hours. After the first hour in the refrigerator, cover the pie with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming

Make the sugared cranberries: While the pie is setting, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, and 1/3 cup water. Bring to a very gentle simmer over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and add the 20 cranberries. Simmer very gently until the cranberries are softened and a few have burst, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries from the saucepan and transfer to a wire rack (discard any that have collapsed or lost their shape). Let sit until the cranberries are slightly tacky to the touch, about 1 hour. Toss the cranberries in some granulated sugar to coat them and return to the wire rack to continue drying at room temperature until the pie is set.

Whip the remaining cream and top the pie: Just before serving, remove the pie from the refrigerator and uncover. Whip the remaining 2/3 cup heavy cream as before until you have soft peaks. Beat in the powdered sugar and scrape the whipped cream on top of the pie. Spread over the filling, making swooshes and swirls, and dot with the sugared cranberries. Cut into wedges and serve.

Note: The cranberry compote can be made up to 4 days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated. The cranberry mousse can be assembled and chilled in the crust up to 1 day ahead. Whip the cream and top with sugared cranberries just before serving.

You can use frozen cranberries instead of fresh in the compote, but note that you won’t be able to use them for the sugared cranberry garnish, so skip that part.

Look for pomegranate molasses at well-stocked supermarkets or Middle Eastern grocers. If you can’t find any, omit it and replace the 1 cup water in the recipe with 100 percent unsweetened pomegranate juice. For the sugared cranberries, use 1/2 cup of the pomegranate juice in place of the water and pomegranate molasses.

Graham Cracker Crust

(Makes one 9-inch tart or pie crust)

6 ounces plain graham crackers (9 or 10 sheets), broken into pieces

2 tablespoons demerara sugar

1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the crumb mixture: In a food processor, combine the graham crackers, demerara sugar, salt, butter, and egg yolk and process in long pulses until the crackers have broken down into fine crumbs and the mixture looks like moist sand. It should easily hold together when squeezed.

Press the mixture into the pan: Transfer just shy of half the mixture to a 9-inch pie plate, 9-inch removable bottom tart pan, or 9-inch springform pan. Push the mixture outward to create an even ring around the perimeter, then use a straight-sided 1 cup dry measure to press the mixture firmly against the sides. Scatter the remaining crumb mixture across the bottom of the pan and use the bottom of the measuring cup to flatten the crumbs into an even layer with no bare spots. Place the pie plate or pan on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake the crust: Bake the crust until it’s fragrant, firm to the touch, and the outer edges are darkened in color, 13 to 15 minutes.

Note: The baked crust, wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature, will keep for 1 day. The crumb mixture can also be pressed into the pan, covered, and refrigerated up to 1 day before baking.

When making the crust, stop processing the mixture just at the point where it looks damp but not greasy, otherwise the crust will be more likely to slump in the oven. You could also make this without a food processor by very finely crushing the graham crackers in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag with all the air pressed out. Roll back and forth over the pieces with a rolling pin to pulverize them, then sift the mixture into a medium bowl. Place any larger pieces back in the bag and pulverize again, then add to the bowl. Add the remaining crust ingredients and work the mixture with your fingertips until the butter disappears and the mixture feels like wet sand.

From “Dessert Person” by Claire Saffitz

More Cranberry Recipes to Enjoy: Cranberry and Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce

And: Cranberry Coffee Cake

And: Cranberry Creme Fraiche Bundt Cake

And: Saucy Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake

And: Cranberry-Balsamic Chicken Thighs

And: Cranberry-Hoisin Chicken ‘N’ Rice

And: Cranberry Corn Muffins

And: Cranberry Roly Poly

And: Zucchini, Carrot and Cranberry Muffins

And: Cranberry and Pear Tart

And: Cranberry Crumble Pie

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  • Cranberries and pomegranate molasses??! Haven’t had that combo, but it sounds divine! Two flavors made for each other. And this mousse is made for me. You did save me a piece, didn’t you? 🙂 Really nice — thanks.

  • Hi John: I think you might have to arm wrestle my husband for that last slice. LOL Happy holidays! 😉

  • Wow. Feeling frustrated I farmed out dessert to my SIL this year. Rats.

  • Hi Judith: You could always make it for Christmas. It works just as well. Happy holidays! 😉

  • I too am a person that thinks a meal isn’t complete without dessert much to the chagrin of friends when we dine together. They want to get the check, while I want to get dessert at the end of a meal. The pie sounds get and love its pretty color.

  • Hi Karen: I have one friend who does that even better: When she sits down at a restaurant (pre-pandemic), she ask for the dessert menu first in order to properly save room for the finale of the meal. LOL

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