Last week you wrote to me, introducing yourself as a colleague of my Uncle Joe. Your words about my blog were so kind. You were wondering if I had any advice on sour cream and raisin pie, as it’s your dad’s favorite and you’d like to make him one for Thanksgiving, even though you’ve never made a pie in your life. He asks for sour cream and raisin pie wherever he goes (finds it almost never) and since this is the first Thanksgiving your mom will not be present at your family dinner, you want to do something special for him. I hope your Thanksgiving dinner, though it will doubtless be bittersweet (dementia has taken a toll on both our families), will create happy new memories for all involved.
Now, to get you started on this pie!
I had NEVER tried a sour cream and raisin pie myself, but there is a recipe in Ken’s book (Norske Nook Raisin Pie) which looked like a great bet. Norske Nook is a restaurant in Wisconsin, not too far away from Minnesota-sounds like this is a pie of Midwest origins.
I’ve never before reproduced a recipe from Ken’s book word-for-word on my blog, but I’m going to go ahead and make an exception here. From this point forward, I’ll be writing the text of the recipe in plain type and adding my own commentary in italics. 🙂
I would love to hear how the pie turns out. I have every confidence it’ll be great; it was one of the easiest I’ve ever made, and in my opinion, absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to see what Dad thinks! (I’m sure my readers would love to see a picture of him with his beloved dessert.)
Thanks again for reaching out and I hope you find this post helpful.
Norske Nook Raisin Pie
Overall ingredient list: Flour, Butter, Shortening, Sugar, Salt, 2 cups sour cream, 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups raisins
Crust: Ken Haedrich’s Basic Flaky Pie Pastry (mostly his words, some of my paraphrase)
Cut up 1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter into small pieces and set aside. Measure out 1/4 cup of cold vegetable shortening and set aside. Combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter pieces over the dry ingredients and toss to mix. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of small peas. Add the shortening and pieces and continue to rub in until the fat is all in small pieces and very much incorporated into the dry ingredients. Fill the 1/4 cup you were using for shortening with cold water. Sprinkle half of the water over the mixture. Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture. Add the remaining water, 1 1/2 to 2 tbs. at a time, and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl on the upstroke and gently pressing down on the downstroke. Add a little more water, 1 tsp at a time, if necessary, until the dough can be packed together in a ball. Once it is packable, make a ball and press down to flatten it somewhat into a thick disk. Wrap the pastry (I use a piece of wax paper and fold all the corners under) and refrigerate until firm enough to roll.
This pie requires a pre-baked crust. I roll my pastry into a 12-inch circle between two sheets of wax paper-it makes it very easy to control the pastry. Once you have rolled out your pastry…Invert the pastry over a 9-inch standard pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes, then fully prebake and let cool.
To prebake: You will need some sort of pie weight. I use about a cup of dried beans.
Tear off a piece of aluminum foil about 16 inches long. That’s more than you’ll need to fit into your pan, but the excess makes the foil easy to lift when you’re removing the beans. Center the foil over your pie shell and, just as you tucked the pastry into the pan, tuck the foil into the pie shell. The bottom edge should be well-defined, as should the sides. Basically, the foil should fit the pie shell like a second skin. Let the excess foil on the ends just flare out like wings. Don’t bunch it around the pie pan, or you’ll deflect heat away from the sides. Pour in enough dried beans to reach the top of the pan.
With your oven preheated to 400° F, bake the pie shell on the center rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, slide out the rack and slowly lift the foil with the pie weights out the pan. Lower the oven temperature to 375° F and continue to bake the pie shell for 15 more minutes. Check on the pie shell once or twice during this time to make sure it isn’t puffing up; if it is, prick the problem spot with a fork. Look for visual clues that the pastry is properly baked. A fully prebaked shell will be golden brown and look fully baked.
Combine 2 cups full-fat sour cream, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 4 tsp all-purpose flour, 4 large egg yolks (set the whites aside for the meringue topping!) and 1 1/2 cups dark raisins in a large, heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick. (I added a tiny splash of vanilla, per Ken’s recommendation, although that’s not in the original recipe.) Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring continuously, until it thickens and turns glossy, 8 to 10 minutes. Slowly pour the filling into the cooled pie shell. Let cool thoroughly on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Here are some pictures to hopefully show you the difference between the custard when it is not quite thickened and the point after which it’s thickened. It will start bubbling in thick “plops” once it has thickened. Be patient! It really will take about 10 minutes over medium heat. When you make custard and it finally thickens, it happens very quickly and it’s a little magical, because it stays the same consistency for so long before the change happens.)
Just before serving, preheat the broiler and make the meringue. Put 4 large egg whites (that you saved when you took the egg yolks!) in a large metal bowl over a pan of hot water. (I set the basin of my stand mixer in a pie plate with hot water in it, just for a minute.) Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. When the sugar has dissolved, use an electric mixer to beat the whites until they hold firm but not dry peaks. (If you haven’t made a meringue before, be patient with this process as well! It’s another magical turning point, just like with the custard!)
(Here are all my adventurous pie-tasters! They either loved it or, if they didn’t like raisins, said it was great except for the raisins. Which is just such a funny thing to say about a predominantly raisin pie.)