Instead of pumpkin or pecan pie this Thanksgiving, we are going to have these little beauties: Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts....Oh Yeah!!! Cranberries, pistachios, almonds all stirred in a creamy caramel and baked in little shortbread tart shells. Not that we do not like a little pumpkin or a little pecan here and there, but these we could have over and over and more...
Not only are we going to enjoy warm out of the oven, but I am also bringing them to Jeanne, who is hosting this month Waiter There Is Something In My....Tart!
I made these for the first time years ago at the restaurant a few days before Thanksgiving. I had to make the usual required pies for T-Day but I was really itching for a change. Everybody was getting in the holiday mood and I thought a little cranberry dessert would be a good idea. For some reason, our produce guy had misunderstood our order and we got twice the amount of cranberries we needed. The chefs dropped off a box by my pastry kitchen with a little "Have Fun!" sticky note on it. Their idea of a good time...ahahah!!! Same guys who loaded me with two crates of pears one day and I ended up re-writing the book on pear dessert! I digress, sorry.
Well, I looked around the kitchen, closed the door behind me in the walk-in cooler for a few minutes (my best thinking place), and took out the shortbread tart dough I had made that morning and figured I would make a tart with them. Question was: which one? Can I be trusted with cranberries? After all they were not part of my culture growing up and I had only had them in cranberry sauce with turkey. Mmmm...I emerged from the walk-in and found a book on my prep table with another sticky note, this one from Old Chef "It's in here and it's good". Got to love those guys! He knew I was starting to struggle with the "Tart of the Day" on the menu. I thought I had a brilliant idea with that one: using only fresh produce to come up with a different tart every time. Different doughs, fillings, fruits, toppings, but other time consuming desserts on the menu were taking my attention away from the tart. The book in question was appropriately named The Book Of Tarts by Maury Rubin, and I believe it saved me from boredom and a few of our regulars from another Pear or Banana tart! The book is a treasure trove of tarts, tartlets and other inspiring recipes.
The recipe in the book uses sliced almonds but I wanted little festive look and used half the amount in pistachios and the rest in slivered almonds (what I had in hand). Feel free to use your favorite nuts, I have tired several combinations over the years and they never turned out bad. The caramel part can be a little tricky for new bakers but if you watch your pot carefully there should not be a major need for firefighters. It starts with a dry method caramel in which you had cream and butter. Baby your sugar so that it does not burn and be careful of splatter and bubbles when you stir in the cream and butter. If the mixture does not appear smooth, put it back on the stove and stir slowly until it becomes smooth.
Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts, adapted from Maury Rubin.
Makes 8-10 3 inch tarts or one 9 inch.
13 tablespoons (1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Let the butter sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until malleable.
Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Using a paddle attachment with a standing mixer, combine the sugar and butter at medium speed, until the sugar is no longer visible.
Add the egg yolk and combine until no longer visible.
Scrape down the butter off the sides of the bowl. Add half of the flour, then begin mixing again until the dough is crumbly. Add the remaining flour and then the cream and mix until the dough forms a sticky mass.
Flatten the dough into a thick pancake, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before preparing to roll out the dough.
Roll out the dough and cut out 8-10 6inch circles, fit into your 3 inch tart molds (or 9 inch tart pan), trim away the excess. Line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
1 cup slivered almonds
Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.
To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.
The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added. If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.
Stir the cranberries and the nuts into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart shells mounding toward the center.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour.
Although Thanksgiving is not a holiday I grew up with, I wanted to write down a few things and people (you know who you are. I am probably IMing with you too) I am thankful for.
* I am thankful for my family, who often times closes their eyes on my silliness and loves me no matter what.
*I am thankful for love, the kind that gives your step a skip and makes your hiney tingle at the same time.
*I am thankful for my friends who accept me with all my sensitivity and dorkiness and have stopped correcting my pronunciation of certain English words ("iron" being one of them)
*I am thankful for my health (beside a tooth that needs fixing), which helps me push the envelope a little more each day and discovering that I can put my body through 2 hours of BootCamp training and still have enough energy to make a cake and dinner.
* I am thankful for my readers whose words are not received as praises but encouragement that I am writing in the right direction, that I am on the right track in telling them to get in the kitchen and bake! Thank you all for all your emails, questions, keep them coming eve if sometimes it takes me a long time to reply.
Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!