Floating Top Cranberry, Cherry & Apple Pie

The Pie Academy’s Tailgate Pie of the Week: Week 10

One of the things I love about pie making is the astonishing number of ways you can take pastry and filling and fiddle with them to come up with delicious and attractive variations.

I’m not talking about carving up pastry and recreating Mount Rushmore, piece by piece, on top of my apple pie; I don’t have the patience for that sort of thing.

But I do like decorative flourishes that elicit “oohs” and “ahhs” and the stray compliment, all of which enhance the pie-eating experience.

Making a “floating top pie” is a great example. And it couldn’t be simpler: instead of attaching the top crust to the shell, you simply let it “float” on top of the filling. I’ve broken it down for you in this short video, required viewing if you intend to make this pie. (I strongly suggest watching it even if you don’t intend to make the pie because – using advanced movie making skills and astounding slight of hand – I actually make a pie crust levitate.)

If you aren’t already, you should be stocking up on cranberries for this pie and many others through the end of the year. They freeze beautifully, so throw a bunch of bags in the freezer.

Grab some frozen cherries while you’re at it. I picked some up this week at my local Harris Teeter supermarket and was reminded just how good frozen fruit can be. Wherever they were harvested, these cherries were clearly picked at their peak of ripeness and had an excellent flavor that could only be fully appreciated in the finished pie.

We’ll be using more frozen fruit in our pies throughout the winter, to supplement the limited supply of local fresh fruit in markets for the next few months.

Our recipe’s title would lead you to believe otherwise, but when I make this crowd-pleaser of a pie I’ll use apples, pears, or  – quite often –  some of each in the mix. So long as you use 2 1/2 cups total, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. You’ll love this either way and – I suspect – put it near the top of  your list of candidates vying for a coveted Thanksgiving dessert slot.

The No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course



PASTRY NOTE – Any favorite pastry can be used here, but my preference is for the GOOD BASIC PIE DOUGH. You will need 2 batches of it.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: I highly recommend watching this short video – HOW TO MAKE A FLOATING TOP PIE – before making this.

Floating Top Cranberry, Cherry & Apple Pie


  • 2 batches GOOD BASIC PIE DOUGH, refrigerated
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled, cored and coarsely diced apples or pears
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries (let them come to room temperature if refrigerated or frozen)
  • 2 cups pitted cherries (fresh or frozen), halved and at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon each: nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves
  • Glaze: 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk


  1. On a sheet of lightly floured wax paper, roll one batch of the chilled pastry into a 13" to 13 1/2" circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2" deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer until needed.
  2. Meanwhile, on a sheet of floured wax paper, roll the other batch of pastry into a 12" circle. Trim two sides, so the dough is about 10" wide (see video: How to Make a Floating Top Pie) and slide the paper and pastry onto a baking sheet. Place in the freezer while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the apples (and/or pears), cranberries, cherries and all but about 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl. Add the orange zest and lemon juice. Mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes. Mix the remaining sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir into the fruit along with the spices. Set aside.
  4. Measure your pie pan at the rim, from inside edge to inside edge. It will likely be about 9". Find or create a round template that's 1-inch smaller - around 8". A plate or cake pan, perhaps. Remove the chilled and trimmed dough from the freezer. Place the template on top of it and - using a paring knife or pastry wheel - cut out an 8" circle. Using a 1" (or thereabouts) round or other cutter, make a hole in the center.
  5. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the top so it's good and level. Place the circle of dough evenly on top of the filling and brush with the egg yolk glaze. Bake on the center oven rack for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375° and bake another 40 to 45 minutes, until the pie is bubbly and done. (Watch the video if you have any doubt about how much it should bubble.)
  6. Transfer the pie to a rack and cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 10 servings.