Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Cranberry Tart, A Seasonal Treat

The finished tart, shiny and yummy
We were off for a post-Thanksgiving gathering and I told our host that we would be bringing something “seasonal.” I wouldn’t say what, because I like there to be some element of surprise. What I brought was a cranberry tart. It was seasonal (needs fresh cranberries), yummy, and it’s not difficult to make.

I will offer the caveat: I’ve got some kitchen skills, and (at least) I think I’m pretty good at making desserts. I made this more difficult by baking it in a tart shell, because I like the way that looks. It could be done in a pie shell, but even then I would use the richer tart crust. The tart really is akin to a pecan pie, but with cranberries (and that’s good because I don’t much care for pecan pie).

I finished it off with an apricot glaze, as a result of binging on episodes of The French Chef. Once again, this is not difficult, and the glaze isn’t simply pretty, the apricots give the tart another level of flavor. You can paint this stuff on practically anything.
Docking. Almost ready to bake

The first step is a tart shell. Okay, this is where all the scary stuff is, so once you’re past this, it’s smooth sailing. As with pie dough, the secret is cold. Keep your dough cold. Until you bake it, of course. I like Mark Bittman’s recipe for tart dough (pate sucrée, or “sugar dough,” in French). It’s a very rich dough. You could use it, or you could use a (less rich) pie dough. This is one I go with.

When I am making a tart or a pie, I throw my butter in the freezer for at least two hours. Then you work fast. This is one thing you do not make until you have your mise en place in place. Butter is in the freezer. I fill a short drinking glass with ice cubes and cold water, then that waits in the freezer as I assemble the rest of the ingredients (don’t leave it in there too long).
Mark Bittman’s Rich Tart Crust
From How to Cook Everything
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1½ cups (about 7 ounces) all-purpose flour [I always weigh mine out]
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons ice water

Cut butter into small pieces, at least ten. Place in a plastic bag and put into the freezer for at least 2 hours to chill. 
When you are ready to start making your dough, store your ice water (briefly) in the freezer while you gather your additional ingredients.

Put the flour, salt, and sugar into the bowl of a food processor, spinning briefly to mix. Add the butter, and process until things are thoroughly mixed. The mixture should like like a coarse grain. Add the egg yolks and process briefly. It should start pulling together at this point.

Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture clumps together.
Form into a ball, wrap in plastic (I usually just put into a plastic back), and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
It's a good day when I get
to use my pie chain
If I’m making multiple batches of dough (more usual with pie crust), my glass of ice water travels back and forth from counter to freezer. When rolling out the dough, don’t go all the way to the edges (a Julia Child tip), or it will get too thin there. Roll it out about two inches wider than your tart pan, then stash it in the refrigerator for at least half an hour to let the gluten relax and the dough to chill again. (I said it wasn’t difficult. I never said it was quick.)

The shell needs to be blind baked. Once the dough has rested, transfer it to your pan, by either folding it in quarters or draping it over your rolling pin. Push it down along the bottom and then along the sides. Make certain things square off nicely. Remove the excess by rolling your rolling pin across the top. The tart can wait in the refrigerator at the point, or it can be baked right away.

Par-baked. Ready for filling.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Prick the bottom of the tart shell (docking) all over with a fork. Cover the tart carefully with aluminum foil, pressing it gently down against the dough. Weight with dry beans or rice. Or, if you’re me, you have a pie chain. Bake for ten minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the aluminum foil, and let cool for ten minutes. Reduce the oven to 350°.

This is what you do with those twenty minutes. First, already read to the end of the recipe first. So, if you’re trying this in your own home, you’ve already read this before. We’re in part 2, but the tough stuff is over.
Cranberry Nut Tart
From Cranberry Cooking for All Seasons
3 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon flour
1¼ cups walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans [I always use walnuts and always ignore the notation to toast the nuts. These things are baking for nearly an hour. Nor do I chop them, as I like the look of the large walnut pieces.]
3 cups (that’s one bag) fresh cranberries, cleaned and sorted

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and butter. Add in the flour and salt, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the cranberries and nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared tart shell. (There will be a bit too much of the mixture to fill a tart shell, though you could probably fit it all into a pie shell. I get all the cranberries and nuts in there.) 

Bake for 45—50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the mixture has set. Cool.
In the oven.
I covered mine with an apricot glaze. It looked pretty before the glaze. After the glaze, it took on a gem-like quality. Everything glistened and looked enticing. I made mine a little thick, following Julia Child’s recipe. Mark Bittman suggests thinning out the glaze with a little liqueur. I’ll have to try that next time.
Apricot Glaze
After Julia Child
½ cup apricot jam (get a good quality)
2 tablespoons sugar

Force the jam though a fine mesh to get rid of the peels. This takes some wrist strength, gathering the results in a small saucepan. Add the sugar, bring to a boil, and cook for 2–3 minutes.

While it is warm, use the glaze to paint the surface of the tart. If the glaze cools, you will need to return it to heat to loosen it (though it tightens as it becomes more dehydrated).
You know that this needs?
Apricot glaze, of course.
Julia Child clearly had some power behind those arms. I'm not going to conceal this: it's some work pushing apricot jam through a sieve. By the end, my wrists were somewhat tired. On the other hand, I'm going to take that punishment in the future, because the result was beautiful, and  was pleasing to the eye and the tongue. Next time, I’ll have to try Bittman’s suggestion and thin out the glaze a bit.

The dish was a great success. It's a recipe I'll definitely keep making. The only problem is that now, when I tell someone that I'm going to bring something "seasonal and appropriate," they're going to be thinking, "cranberry tart." I'd better deliver.
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1 comment:

  1. How much butter in the cranberry filling? Around 1/4 to 1/3 cup, like in pecan pie? I'd like to make this; it sounds delicious.


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