Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

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.

Shortbread Dough:

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.

Filling:

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!

29 comments:

JEP said...

Those look soooo good! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

VeggieGirl said...

oh my goodness how lovely are these Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts?!??! stunning!!! such a fun way to "jazz up" Thanksgiving dessert :0)

Peabody said...

Absoulutely gorgeous...cranberries make everything so beautiful.

glamah16 said...

I've been itching to make a cranberry dessert. Those tarts look divine. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ben said...

I think I love you, hehe. Those are some gorgeous tarts. Hmmmm!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Elle said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and thanks for another beautiful tart recipe. Imagine what will happen if they deliver too many persimmons!

bea at la tartine gourmande said...

Scrumptious Helen, as always!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your American family!

Muffin said...

Those look SO tasty!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Those tartlets are gorgeous! They look extremely delicious...

Cheers,

Rosa

ilingc said...

Omg, they look absolutely delicious! Cranberry, pistachios and almonds - you've just spelt out my 3 favourite ingredients and what's more.. caramel.. mmm.. sigh..

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Meeta said...

Oh you make my world sweeter! This looks incredible!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Lovely tarts, Helen - I love the colors

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

These tarts are just beautiful! The cranberries look like little jewels. I'll bet they taste divine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

hanne hanne said...

Wow, those look beautiful. And a shortbread pastry? I love the jewel tones and the green on red.

Nora B. said...

You are definitely the Queen of Tarts - these look so shiny, crunchy & inviting!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anh said...

So lovely Helen! I made something similar the other days. In a caramel kick rite now if you ask!

Anonymous said...

happy thanksgiving for you two and for all your american family. Bisous Mam

Cynthia said...

I like the fact that they are individual desserts that way everyone gets to feel special.

kellypea said...

Helen, you are amazing! I agree with what you say about being thankful for love, but haven't really quite thought about the tingling hiney before! Bwahahahahaha! And as far as the tarts go, what a lovely combination of flavors and colors with these. I can just imagine the textures and the caramel. Scrumptious!

. . . said...

these are beautiful. AND they sound amazing. well done!

i like your 'thankful for' list. =)

have a fantastic weekend!

Chris said...

These look amazing! They look perfectly mouthwatering. I love the individualized portions.

Mimi said...

Ooh! I am making something similar this weekend, but I think I like this better. Anything with cranberries is preferable to anything without. Maybe for Christmas!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

The tarts are worthy of the Tart Queen! You are my Tart Queen. And I am thankful I've gotten to know you some and hope for more. Thank you for being so graceful and gracious.

Rachael said...

So beautiful, and creative! Extra produce always seems to bring out the best recipes!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Jeanne said...

Oh, those look too fantastic! I love to combine cranberries with nuts and these little tarts are such a gorgeous way to do it.

Love your Thanksgiving list too and hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving :)

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Lynna said...

I've been looking for a new dessert recipe to try for Thanksgiving. I've read about this one on two other blogs and it looks great, but the other two bloggers (smittenkitchen and wednesday chef) mentioned they had problems with crust shrinkage. Did you run into that problem? Or have any suggestions about how to avoid it?

Thanks and p.s. everything on your blog always looks great and so elaborate!

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