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Cranberry and Almond Tart

September 29, 2014

Try this with a dollop of whipped cream or french vanilla ice cream.

Tarts are one of those desserts that always seem like they are more work then they really are. Not as finicky as a pie, a bit more refined than a buckle, and considerably less work than a trifle, a tart fits the dessert bill in almost all cases. And this tart is no different. Tart whole cranberries are front and center in this tart’s filling. Fresh cranberries are preferred, but frozen, thawed cranberries work perfectly here. Sweetened with brown sugar and just a touch of apricot preserves, the filling couldn’t be more perfect for this tart shell.

Which is in fact, shortbread. A bit easier to make than a pastry shell, it does suffer from the same neophyte mistakes, namely overmixing the dough once the flour is added. This dough can either be formed by hand, or more conveniently, by food processor. The food processor’s boon is also its bane. The speed of the blades can quickly process foods. But this speed also creates heat, something we want to avoid while making this dough. Using the processor in short, pulses will help keep the heat to a minimum.

Once the dough is formed, handling it as little as possible will help keep the crust tender and not tough. And not adding any extra flour when you form the crust will also help. Gently rolling the dough while it’s on a piece of plastic wrap will help to keep the added flour to almost zero. And much of the dough can be pressed outward and upward to form the bottom crust rather than rolling it completely. A French pin or a bakers pin will give you the most control while rolling the dough.

As with anything, a bit of a rest and cool down is always appreciated. This dough should chill for at least 30 minutes in the tart pan to firm up before it goes in the oven. This brief repose in the icebox will also give the flour time to completely absorb any errant butter bits and homogenize the crust.

The filling should be completely cool before it goes in the crust. And this makes it a great dessert to make in stages over a day or two. The crust can be made a day or so in advance and held in the refrigerator, unbaked and covered. Simply bake the crust when you are ready to put this tart together, and continue with the rest of the recipe.

Summer, fall, winter or spring, this shortbread tart is sure to please.

Cranberry Almond Tart

 For the filling

  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 12 ozs. fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
  • 3 tablespoon apricot preserves

Dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice and ½ cup of water in a 3-quart sauce pan. Add the cranberries and bring the mixture to a simmer. Heat gently until the cranberries have popped and the liquid becomes syrupy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the preserves and heat until they are melted. Remove the filling from the heat and allow to cool completely.

For the crust

  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons fine yellow cornmeal
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces butter (1 cup), cubed and softened
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • zest from one lemon
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • non-stick cooking spray

Toast the almonds in a dry non-stick skillet over low heat until they begin to brown. Do not burn. Cool for 5 minutes. In a 10-cup (minimum) food processor, pulse the almonds and 2 tablespoons of the flour until the almonds are pulverized but not powdery. Transfer the almonds to a mixing bowl and add the rest of the flour, salt and cornmeal, stirring to combine.

Pulse the butter and sugar in the food processor until creamy, add the zest, extracts and egg yolk and pulse until completely combined. Add the dry ingredients and pulse until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix. Pour out the dough and press the mixture together on a dry surface, knead once or twice to combine. Divide the dough in half.

Gently roll half the dough to a diameter of 9 inches. Lightly spray a fluted tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. Lay the dough in the bottom of the tart pan and gently press the dough to the edges and up the sides of the pan. Press the remaining dough into a large disk and cover with plastic wrap. Cover the tart crust with plastic wrap and chill both for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325°F during this time. Remove the plastic from the crust, place the tart pan on a heavy baking sheet and bake the crust for 30-35 minutes. The crust should be dry, set and just beginning to brown.

If the crust puffs up, press it gently back down with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour the filling into the crust. Break the dough disk into pebble-size pieces and cover the filling. Bake the tart for 30-35 minutes or until the top crust starts to brown. Cool completely in the tart pan.

Place the tart pan on a bowl smaller than the fluted edge of the tart pan. Gently press the fluted edge down and away from the crust. Carefully slide the tart off the tart pan bottom and onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

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