Monday, November 9, 2009

Cranberry Craze

This box arrived on my porch the other day. I had an idea it was coming, but still I was surprised and exceedingly happy to see it. You see, this package of freshly harvested Cape Cod cranberries was sent by my in-laws who know how much I miss the Cape when I'm gone, and how much I love good food--more specifically food that comes straight from the farm. Though hardly local (to me), one cannot do without cranberries in the fall, especially when so many recipes revolve around their very presence. Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the cranberry sauce, would it?

My mother, even while being a fabulous cook, didn't really cook with fresh cranberries until I was an older child. Part of the reason was surely "tradition" and the fact that the jelled cranberry sauce, carefully released from the can with ridges intact, was a must-have on our Thanksgiving table. Ironically, this shivering blob was set upon a lovey crystal dish (on a bed of greens?), with a silver spoon made specifically to slice it. (I think the other reason we didn't use many fresh cranberries was that they just weren't available in the market either.) We laugh about that now, as the mere thought of canned cranberry sauce sounds so outrageously trashy, and we've happily have come up with quite a few wonderful cranberry sauces and chutneys in the years since.

But there are so many things that we make with fresh cranberries besides the sauce--breads, jams and jellies, cakes and crumbles and this amazing frangipane tart. I'm no gourmand, but I'm not exactly a slacker when it comes to food either. But a frangipane tart was something I had never, ever heard of until my sister-in-law brought it to Thanksgiving dinner last year. Stunning in both its presentation and its utterly delectable flavor, this dessert bested even the veritable pumpkin pie (in my humble opinion).

If you're like me, and have never heard of this delicious tart, have I got a treat for you! The filling of this dessert is essentially a ground nut paste that is shot through, in this case at least, with cranberries that peek out like buried jewels. And what's more, it's spiked with orange zest and a decent splash of brandy. The crust tastes exactly like my great grandmother's shortbread, and when combined with the toasty, tart, nutty flavor of the filling, you have one showstopping dessert that is definitely worth the calories (which is how I determine whether or not to eat desserts, by the way). Both the crust and tart recipes are adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Tart Shell

Not only is this tart shell relatively easy to prepare, it doesn't shrink up like others might. And it tastes like a shortbread cookie....As Ina would say, how bad can that be? Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan by way of Smitten Kitchen.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 jumbo egg yolk


Place dry ingredients in a bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until coarse crumbles form. Drizzle in egg yolk, while pulsing for 10 seconds at a time, until dough just comes together. It will look like clumps and curds, but should stick together if you squeeze it between your fingers. Turn out onto a floured board and knead gently into a ball. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic from ball and place on a floured surface. Roll out to a 12-inch round. Wrap the dough over the rolling pin, carefully lift it and center over a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Set dough in the pan, gently pressing together any cracks that may appear. Trim dough so that there is about a ½ inch overhang. Fold overhang towards the center to create an extra-thick edge. Prick dough all over the bottom and sides with the tines of a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Spray the shiny side of a piece of tinfoil with cooking spray and press onto the tart shell. To partially bake, place tart in the center of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil. If crust has bubbled, press lightly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 5 minutes more or until crust is light golden brown. Stop here to continue with the frangipane tart recipe. To fully bake crust (as for a fresh fruit filled tart), bake for 5-10 minutes more until crust is a deeper golden brown color. Cool completely and fill as directed.

Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart

This dessert is both beautiful and delicious. Try using more cranberries for a tarter flavor. Either way, you'll find it's well worth the small effort to prepare, and the calories. Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.


1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 to 1 cup whole, fresh cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel-blade attachment, pulse the nuts with the flour until finely ground. Add the sugar, butter, egg, brandy and orange zest and pulse until smooth.

Spread into a pre-baked tart shell and dot with as many cranberries as you'd like. Bake for 45 minutes, or until filling is puffed and golden and cooked through. If necessary, test by inserting a toothpick near the center of the should come out clean. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or just on its own.


boobooblog said...

Well here I was thinking that I knew what I was making for T-day... just added this pie to the mix. :)

Ann Mah said...

So beautiful, Alison! Love your description of the cranberries -- and what stunning photos. They make me miss cranberries, which are hard to find here (and v. expensive when you do). By the way, I noticed the pastry and tart recipes both call for one egg white -- should one of them be a yolk?

Alison said...

Yes, Ann...yolk in the crust. Thanks for pointing that out. I made the change!

I once went to visit an American friend in Ireland with a whole suitcase full of American-made goodies including maple syrup, canned pumpkin and corn tortillas, so I know how you must feel! The holidays are the hardest time of the year for her.