Cranberry Curd Tartlets

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This fall I was lucky enough to come across a mass haul of fresh, local, and organic cranberries. These bright, tangy berries freeze remarkably well, and not unlike lemons they are capable of producing a punchy curd that can be used in a variety of desserts. When paired with orange juice, a handful of brown sugar, some good vanilla extract and placed in a nutty shortbread shell, cranberries are happy to shine on center stage.

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Cranberry Curd Recipe

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Curd
Ingredients:

14.5 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (from about 3 oranges)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed (2.5 oz)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg

Method:

Combine the cranberries, water, and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Cover the pan and set it over medium heat. Cook the cranberries for 35-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until they pop and release liquid. Use the stirring tool to burst open any stubborn cranberries. Remove the pan from the heat just before the liquid begins to thicken. Use a fine mesh strainer to separate the juice and the pulp from the solids, making sure to scrape the bottom of the strainer to include all the pulp. You should have 1 3/4 cups of juice with very fine pulp. Discard the remaining seeds and solids.

In a clean pot, cook the cranberry juice with the sugars, salt, and butter until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts, approximately seven minutes.

Whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg until the mixture lightens slightly. Vigorously whisk in the warm cranberry liquid one tablespoon at a time. Return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium-low heat while whisking constantly. Cook the curd until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers 160° F on a candy thermometer. Strain the curd into a glass bowl and cover securely with a sheet of plastic wrap. Let cool completely to room temperature. The curd can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored well covered in the fridge. Loosen the refrigerated curd by stirring it with a spatula before assembling the tarts.

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Spiced Pecan Tart Shell Recipe

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Sweet Tart Dough, in Baking: From My Home To Yours
Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (188g)
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (4.5oz)
1 large egg yolk
35g toasted pecans

Method:

Lightly grease 8 to 10 small individual tart shells with removable bottoms.

Combine the flour, icing sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Place the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor along with the toasted pecans. Pulse until the pecans are fairly finely ground with some visible bits remaining.

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse just until the largest chunks of butter are the size of small peas. Lightly whisk the egg yolk with a fork. Add the yolk in three batches, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is added, pulse in long ten-second pulses until the dough begins to clump and curd. Dump the crumbly dough out onto a clean work surface and knead sparingly to fully incorporate the ingredients.

Place a small handful of dough crumbs in the bottom of a tart shell. Press the crumbs gently but firmly along the edges of the shell. Place another tiny handful of crumbs in the shell, then press them down evenly and seal the edges to form the bottom crust.

Place the tart shells on a tray and refrigerate them for ten minutes. Prick the bottom of each tart with a pointed toothpick approximately 8 – 10 times to dock the shells. Place the tarts in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake the tart shells for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 5-6 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the bottoms are completely dry. Let cool completely on a wire rack. The shells can be made up to 1 day in advance. Store the shells in their individual pans in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble.

To Assemble

Carefully spoon or pour the curd into the prepared tart shells. Slide the tarts to one side of the tray so that they remain stationary then cover the tops with a sheet of plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour to set the curd. At this point, the tarts can remain in the fridge overnight and be served the next day.

Just before serving, prepare the whipped cream topping.

Chantilly Cream Recipe

1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar or granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all three ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Carefully remove the tarts from their individual moulds. Top the curd with a generous scoop of whipped cream and serve immediately.

Homemade Gingersnap Cookie Crust

Ever since I started baking, I have been turning down cheesecake recipes across the board for one singular reason – those damn cookie crusts. Too stubborn to bring store-bought cookies into my kitchen, I stealthy avoided this dessert until I finally did what I knew needed to be done all along. It was time to make some cookies.

Graham crackers, here I come.

Gingersnap Cookies
adapted from David Lebovitz and Alice Waters

Yield: 24 cookies
Ingredients:

2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (280g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2/3 cup unsalted butter (150g)
2/3 cup granulated white sugar (133g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup fancy molasses
1 large egg

Method:

Pull the butter from the fridge and cut it into small cubes. Let the butter sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place the egg in a mug with warm water to quickly bring it to room temperature.

In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.

When the butter has softened slightly, scrape it into to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, or until the butter is soft, smooth, and a little fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the granulated sugar and beat just until the mixture becomes smooth, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla, molasses, and room temperature egg. Beat on medium speed until smooth, scraping the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are combined. It is normal for the mixture to curdle slightly when the mixer has stopped. Unhook the bowl and add the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon or a small, sturdy spatula just until the dough has formed and no streaks of flour remain.

Quickly and gently roll the dough into 1oz balls, flattening each ball with the palm of your hand immediately after rolling. Place the flattened balls on a baking tray and chill them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bake the cookies on a parchment lined tray for about 12 minutes, or until the edges have begun to darken slightly and the bottoms are a shade darker.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Ginger Cookie Tart Shell

Yield: one 9 inch tart shell

Ingredients:

12 ginger cookies
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Method for Fully Baked Tart Shell:

Butter a 9 inch tart shell with a removable bottom.

Crush the cookies by pressing two between the palms of your hands and grinding them together. Break up any large pieces with your fingers until all or most of the crumbs are a fine sandy texture.

Sprinkle the sugar over the crumbs and stir to combine. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter evenly over the crumbs, and then use a fork to quickly disperse the liquid and combine the ingredients. The crumbs should hold together when you squeeze them gently in your fist. If they are still a little dry, use the rest of the butter until you reach the desired consistency.

Dump the crumbs into the center of the tart shell. Using the back of your fingers, lightly disperse the crumbs evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use a straight-edged measuring cup or drinking glass to press the crumbs evenly against the tart pan. First press down the bottom of the shell, then hold your thumb against the rim of the pan and squeeze the crumbs against the side with the cup, while using your finger to press down from the top to form a solid edge.

Freeze the tart shell while you wait for the oven to preheat to 350° F, at least 20 minutes.

Bake for 12 -13 minutes, or just until the crust is dry.

Let the shell cool completely before filling. Alternately, the crust may be refrigerated and used as directed in another recipe.

Date Crumble Tart

Although it may appear slightly fancier, this tart does not stray far from the classic Canadian combination of sticky sweet dates and buttery oatmeal crumble. Choose the best dates you can find, preferably some fat and juicy medjools from the organic section, and that is all you will need to elevate the humble date suqare. The sweet tart dough is so rich and flavourful that the last crust-filled bite is just as delicious as the rest, and the crunchy crumb topping adds a welcome contrast to the moist filling.

Date Crumble Tart

Sweet Tart Dough Recipe
via Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (188g)
1/2 cup icing sugar (60g)
1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (4.5oz), cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk

Lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Sift together the flour, icing sugar, and salt. Place in the bowl of a food processor.
Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse only until the butter resembles large flake oatmeal with a few remaining pea-sized bits.
Use a fork to break up the yolk and then add it gradually, pulsing after each addition.
When the egg yolk is incorporated, pulse in long (10 second) pulses until the dough forms small clumps.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball, giving it a few brief kneads if necessary to ensure that all the ingredients are combined.
Press the dough into the tart pan, making sure that it is evenly distributed and pressed in firmly around the edges.
Cover the shell with plastic wrap and freeze it for one hour. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Butter a large piece of tinfoil and press it securely against the dough, forming it to the shell. This will prevent the dough from puffing up during baking.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to brown and the bottom is dry.
Let the tart shell cool completely in the tin.

Date Filling Recipe
adapted from joyofbaking.com, http://www.joyofbaking.com/DateSquares.html

395g dried whole dates, preferably medjool
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean

Carefully pit the dates, then roughly chop them and place in a small saucepan. Scrape in the seeds of one vanilla bean. Cover with 1 cup of water.

Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, just until the dates have absorbed most of the water. Once the mixture has cooled completely, blend in a food processor to form a slightly chunky paste.

Oatmeal Crumb Topping Recipe
Note: My basic crumble recipe makes more than is needed for this tart. Freeze the remaining crumble in a plastic bag and use to top your next batch of muffins.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (188g)
2/3 cup packed light brown or golden yellow sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cinnamon
4.5 oz unsalted butter
6 tablespoons quick oats

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and quick oats. Use your fingers to break up any large chunks of brown sugar.
Melt the butter and let it cool slightly.
Stir the butter into the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time to disperse evenly. Pour the butter over dry spots in the bowl and use a fork to toss, until all the liquid is absorbed and you have a nice blend of large and small clumps.
Spread out on a large tray to avoid mass clumping, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Assemble and Bake

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Spread the cooled filling evenly into the partially baked and cooled tart shell. To ensure that the edges of the tart do not overbrown, cover with a pie shield or long strips of tinfoil.
Sprinkle the frozen crumble over top the filling in a thick and even layer.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the crumble is a nice golden brown.
Cool completely before removing from the pan.
The tart will keep covered in the fridge for up to one week.