Red love – cranberry, apple and date winter tart

Cranberries are my new big love. Their bright red color cheers up any dull winter day, and their tartness is wonderfully refreshing.  They’re a great companion for brown sugar, apples or oranges. Up until a few months ago I only used dried ones in muffins and scones, but I’m completely converted now and have a bag of fresh cranberries in my fridge all the time. So far my best recipe for them is a tart that I came up with for last year’s Thanksgiving dinner. After making a roasted cranberry and orange sauce for the turkey, I kept looking for a way to use the rest of them.

Margo\'s Cranberry Tart

My first reference book for baking is Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. I fell for it the very first time I put my hands on it and since then have never parted with it. Two of my friends got it because of my constant nagging. If you like baking tarts – sweet or savory – this is the book to start with. I found a recipe for an apple and cranberry tart, which I used as a base for my recipe. The result was an amazing sweet-tart pie that looked great and tasted even better, and which has become a huge successes with friends and family. The number of fans grows each time I make it. Next step will be to turn the filling into a jam to keep the energizing taste of this winter classics – cranberries, apples and dates – for longer.

Tart crust makes every home baker a little nervous, but it shouldn’t. Once you get your gear and temperature right, it’s not scary at all. The most important thing is to have very cold butter and a rather cold kitchen when making the dough. This is why you shouldn’t turn the oven on before you finish making it. You can make the pastry a few hours in advance and keep it in the refrigerator. I roll mine out and put it in the tart pan, and keep it in the freezer if I’m going to bake it within a half an hour or so.

The crust:

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 sticks and 1 tbsp unsalted butter (230 g) – cold, cut into small cubes
  • a small glass of water with few ice cubes in it
  • 9-inch tart pan (or 11-inch) with removable bottom

I make the crust by hand, as my kitchen has been absolutely glacial over the past few weeks and I have a pastry chef’s cool hands. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the butter cubes and using a pastry blender (if you’re lucky like me to have one) or two small knives held parallel to cut the butter into the flour. Work fast until crumbs form and the butter is roughly worked into the flour. You can use a food processor with a metal blade to mix the dry ingredients and butter into crumbs – pulse, don’t run the processor – you don’t want the flour and butter to mix completely.

Dump the crumbs into a bowl, sprinkle 4 tbsp icy water over them, and start bringing the dough together. Add more water, one tablespoon at time if it’s hard to get it together, but don’t panic and don’t add too much – the dough shouldn’t be sticky, it should still be quite crumbly. I never give it more than six tablespoons of water, and usually four or five are enough. Cut the dough in half and flatten it into two discs on wax or parchment paper. If too warm to be rolled, put them into the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Take out, place plastic foil or another piece of parchment paper on one of the discs and roll it about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Wrap it around a rolling pin dusted with flour and transfer to the tart pan. Fit it in, cut the excess dough, patch the places where it needs more (usually the edges) and place the tart pan back in the fridge. Proceed with the second disk – you’ll need it to cut strips to decorate the top of the tart. Put it into the fridge until you make the filling.

The filling:

  • 4 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and diced
  • about 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, one 12 oz package (350 gr)
  • 2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • about 2 oz (60 gr) dry dates – I use pulp ready for baking (available in Middle Eastern stores – saves time)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (about 4 cloves – powdered in a mortar)
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 tsp milk for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) with racks positioned in the middle.

In a saucepan mix the apples, cranberries and dates with the spices and sugars over medium heat and cook until the cranberries pop-up – stirring occasionally, about 10 min. Don’t let it boil. Cool the filling to room temperature and spoon it into the prepared tart shell.

Cut strips from the second disc about ½ inch (1 ½ cm) wide. Lay them in parallel over the tart, with another set of strips in the opposite direction. This is elegantly called lattice crust and is used to make even plain desserts look better. Brush the strips with the egg wash using a brush or even a paper towel, and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Take out, let cool slightly and remove from the pan (best to use one with a removable outside ring) placing it on a big can and sliding the outside part off. Put the tart on the counter and slide off the form bottom, being careful not to break it.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The taste and smell of this tart is entirely addictive.

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2 Responses to “Red love – cranberry, apple and date winter tart”

  1. Sunshinemom Says:

    What a treat!! Looks great:)

  2. Margo’s Feast » Blog Archive » Crisis luncheon – tomato and eggplant tart Says:

    […] and on that sunny March morning even the temperamental gas oven wasn’t a match for me. Tart crust is easy if you don’t panic, and is ready in a breeze. This tart calls for a pre-baked shell […]

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