Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving.
A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.
I flipped through Martha Stewart’s New Pies & Tarts cookbook and discover a rather standard Cranberry Tart with Pate Sucre pastry crust. However, the method is a bit unusual: The cranberries cook on the stove until the berries start to pop. Then the berries are strained and the liquid reduced to a syrup. This mixture is piled into a partially prebaked pastry crust and baked. I assume the reason the berries are precooked is to reduce and thicken the liquid before adding it to the pastry shell. This helps keep the pastry shell crisp. However, truthfully, I haven’t noticed excessive liquid or soggy crusts to be an issue with this pie.
Then in the The Silver Palate Cookbook, there’s a Cranberry-Currant Conserve Tart with a full 1½ cups of raspberry vinegar in the filling. This is balanced with 2 cups of dark brown sugar. The conserve contains cranberries, currants, walnuts, and a whole orange. I definitely want to try this sometime, but for now, I’m going to borrow just the cranberry-walnut-currant-orange combination, which I know from past experience is dynamite.
As Easy as Pie features a Cranberry-Raisin Tart that is similar to Silver Palate’s version, minus the whole orange, with a double dose of raisins instead of currants. Not much of a change, but on the facing page is a recipe for Linzertorte, that sweet and spicy cinnamon-almond-berry tart with the lovely lattice pastry top.
And THAT was the inspiration I needed. The pastry for this fragrant, flavor-forward cranberry tart is now modeled on the classic Linzertorte pastry (which I love). Will this be the cranberry dessert that graces our Thanksgiving table this year? Very likely, but I plan to make and eat a few more tarts before I decide.
Cranberry, Walnut & Currant Tart
This open-face cranberry tart packs a real flavor wallop and it’s pretty to boot; a perfect finish for a festive holiday dinner. Serve narrow slices with plenty of Orange Whipped Cream. And be prepared for pleas for seconds.
Technique Note: Before making the pastry, be sure to review Quick & Easy, Flaky, All Butter, Short-Crust Pastry + 7 Variations.
Ingredient Note: I am really torn on the sugar amount for this tart. On the first test, I used only 1 cup of dark brown sugar and the tart was decidedly TART. I liked it, but you may not. I suggest you try 1¼ cups.
Walnut Short-Crust Pastry (recipe below)
1 egg white, beaten lightly
Cranberry Walnut Currant Filling
1 cup currants
¼ cup Grand Marnier, other orange liqueur, or orange juice
3 cups fresh cranberries (12 ounces)
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1¼-1½ cups dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
2 tablespoons orange juice
Orange Whipped Cream (recipe below)
- Prepare Cornmeal Short-Crust Pastry dough as directed in the recipe below. Line a 10-inch, shallow, removable bottom tart pan with the pastry and partially prebake as directed. Remove the pastry from the oven and brush all surfaces with egg white. This helps to keep the pastry from absorbing liquid from the filling. Reserve.
- Soak the currants in Grand Marnier for 10 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the macerated currants, liqueur, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, orange zest, and orange juice. Toss to mix well, and then pour into the partially prebaked pastry shell and smooth the top. Protect the edges of the pastry with strips of foil.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 425°. Bake tart for 20 minutes, lower heat to 350°, and bake for 30-35 minutes longer, until juices at the center are bubbling and thickened.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- To serve, remove the outside ring of the tart pan and position the tart on a doily-lined dessert platter. Cut thin wedges with a finely serrated cake knife.
Spiced Walnut Short-Crust Pastry
This spicy, slightly sweet pastry crust is a kissing cousin to Linzer Pastry. Ground walnuts stand in for the more typical ground almonds.
½ cup walnuts
1¼ cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour (6 ounces)
¼ cup fine or powdered sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, very cold
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
3-4 tablespoons ice water, approximately
- In a processor fitted with the steel blade, process the walnuts with ½ cup of the flour to affine powder.
- In the cold bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour-walnut mixture, remaining ¾ cup flour, sugar, butter, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and salt. Mix on slow speed just until the butter bits are the size of oatmeal.
- With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in just enough of the water to moisten the dough enough so that it forms a ball. With the mixer off, check the wetness of the dough with your fingers. Add a little more water if necessary to achieve a dough that will hold together.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, gather the dough together with your hands and flatten it into a disk. Enclose in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the butter to firm and the gluten to relax.
- Dust a pastry cloth and cloth-covered rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to the desired size and shape.
- Refrigerate, sealed in plastic wrap, until ready to use. (This dough may also be frozen.)
- Roll out on a floured board, countertop, or floured pastry cloth to the desired thickness—?- to ¼-inch thick.
- Using a sharp knife, cut around the outside of the pastry to remove the jagged edges. (If left as is, these will cause the pastry to tear when you pick it up.) With a soft brush remove any excess flour from the pastry.
- Fold the pastry in half and carefully position it over a 10-inch shallow, removable bottom tart pan (no need to butter the pan). Unfold, carefully easing the pastry into the corners of the tart pan. Pat in place, and cut the pastry evenly ½-inch bigger all around than the diameter of the pan. Fold this extra ½-inch to the outside and press against the outside body of the pastry. This should give you a reinforced edge, a little higher than the sides of the pan, with which to work.
- For a fancy fluted edge, crimp the pastry between the thumb and forefinger of one hand and the forefinger of the other, evenly all the way around. For a more delicate edge that won’t get left behind on your guest’s plates, push the reinforced edge down just a bit and trim off the excess even with the edge of the tart pan. Now use your fingers to push the edge back up a little so that it follows the natural convolutions of the pan and extends a ¼-inch or so higher than the pan edge.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or freeze for at least ½ hour) to reset the butter, relax the gluten, and firm up the pastry so that it won’t bend out of shape when the liner is inserted.
- To prebake the shell, line the pastry carefully with foil (following the side curves) and fill the liner to the halfway mark with aluminum pie weights or dried beans (these may be used again and again indefinitely).
- Bake at 425º for 15 minutes, remove the liner with the pie weights (also called a “blind”), and continue baking for 10 minutes for a partially baked crust or 15 minutes for a fully baked crust. The bottom should be totally set and the pastry beginning to color nicely in the latter instance.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Makes enough dough for a 10-inch, shallow, removable-bottom tart pan or regular depth pie pan.
Orange Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar, in a sifter or sieve
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1/8 teaspoon orange oil
- In the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, mix the cream until it begins to thicken.
- Add the powdered sugar and orange oil, and continue mixing until cream is softly whipped.
- Scoop the whipped cream into a bowl and fridge until needed.
Makes 2 cups.
- Epicurious: Cheesecake Tart with Cranberries in Port Glaze
- Figs, Lavender, and Cheese: Cranberry Tart
- Jerry’s Thoughts, Musings & Rants: Cranberry Tart with Polenta Crust
- The Pioneer Woman: Nantucket Cranberry Pie
- Smitten Kitchen: Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart
- What’s for Lunch Honey: Chocolate Cranberry Tart
- Williams-Sonoma: Cranberry-Apple-Orange Tart
- As Easy as Pie
- Martha Stewart’s New Pies & Tarts
- Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie
- The Pie and Pastry Bible
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Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.