Thursday, December 01, 2022

Walnut Cranberry Tart for the Festive Season

Welcome December! We had lots of rain last night and this morning!! With the prolonged drought we have been in here in California, this is cause for celebration. Of course the coming holidays are also cause for joy...and lots of baking and making. Here is the first recipe I recommend to you, dear reader, for you holiday baking. It's a keeper. Do read through the full post before making it...there are tips for you.

I bought a bag of fresh cranberries sometime in early November. I do this almost every year because I know that before they get too old I'll come across a recipe or recipe idea where you need fresh cranberries...and there they will be in the bottom crisper drawer in the fridge.

That happened last week. There was no time to make the tart for Thanksgiving, but that weekend I had the time, so I made this delicious tart which combines walnuts, fresh cranberries, orange, and some brandy.

Instead of making a tart dough, I just used a refrigerated, rolled out pie dough circle. Once I fit it into my 9" tart base and pushed the dough up the sides, there was just enough to fold the rest of the dough down along the sides and push it into the I had double thick sides but a single thickness on the bottom. Of course a home made pie dough is delicious, so if you prefer to do that, the recipe is below the recipe for the tart.

Because I didn't have the size tart pan called for in the recipe (10-inch is called for but I had a 9-inch one), I knew that there would be extra filling. My solution was to let the fruit and nuts settle a bit after I mixed them into the filling, and then I poured out about a third of the filling into a spare bowl. I poured the rest into the tart shell and then topped it up with the filling in the spare bowl. It worked just fine, but I had leftover filling...without many bits of cranberry or nuts. My solution was to spray a pie dish with baking spray and then I added about a half cup of walnuts to the spare bowl and the filling still left in it. That mixture went into the prepared pie dish and it was baked at the same temperature...but for only about 15-20 minutes until the mixture was set. Sweetie had some after it cooled and he liked the mostly nuts version...without any crust!...better than the tart. I liked the tart better. I think that the cranberry added a freshness that the 'mainly nuts' filling didn't have. Still, if you would like to put in more walnuts and fewer cranberries (or none), feel free. I think you'll find that the orange-brandy-brown sugar filling works well with both.

Bakers tip: Zest the orange before you juice it.

Cranberry Walnut Tart

by Michele Anna Jordan, as published in the Nov. 23,2022 Press Democrat newspaper
Makes 6-8 servings

Pastry dough (recipe follows) (or do as I did and use ready made pie dough circles)

3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup agave nectar or maple syrup (I used 1/2 cup pure maple syrup and 1/2 cup dark brown Karo syrup)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh cranberries, minced
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

First, make the pastry dough and chill it according to the instructions in the recipe.  Then, on a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. Carefully lift the dough and put it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it gentle at the inner edge and crimping it all around. Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill. (Alternately, use a refrigerated pre-rolled pie dough round, folding the extra dough down the inside circumference and pressing gently into the indentations to make a double sided crust. Chill as described above.) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk until they are thick and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and agave nectar or maple syrup and stir well. Add the melted butter, vanilla, brandy, orange juice, orange zest, and salt. Fold in the cranberries and walnuts, pour the mixture into the tart shell and set on a baking sheet. Set the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling is set, about 40 minutes. (Check at about 20 minutes and thereafter; if the top is getting too brown, tent loosely with foil.)

Remove from the oven and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cutting into wedges and serving.

Pastry Dough for Pies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 4 pieces , or 4 ounces of lard, chilled
3-4 tablespoons ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. With your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter or lard until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; work very quickly so that the mixture doesn't get too warm.

Make a well in the center and pour in 3 tablespoons of water. Use your fingers to mix the dough together quickly; add more water if needed for the dough to come together.

Press the dough into a ball, wrap it in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes and as long as 2 hours.

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