It is that time of year again. Om nom nom.
We try to do something new every year for Thanksgiving. This year, Ben will be figuring out how to time a smoked venison roast and a grill-roasted turkey to be ready at the same time. I will be trying to get over my disbelief in bread pudding long enough to produce a good stuffing, since my mother won’t be bringing hers all the way from Arizona. We’ll see how that goes.
In the meantime, have some tasty, proven recipes in case you’re looking for something to add to your holiday meal. (Yes, I know those of you outside the U.S. aren’t having your harvest festivals this week. You can still eat well.) This one I made for our friends’ fall pig roast a month ago.
This is based on this Smitten Kitchen recipe but modified for my tastes and to get around annoying processes. It produces 10 tarts that are highly flavorful but not too sweet.
The crusts have to be chilled, then rolled, then frozen, then baked, then cooled. Then the filling goes in and the tarts are baked and cooled again. It isn’t as much work as it sounds, but make sure you leave enough time.
Making the Crusts
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
kitchen scale (preferred)
10 4-inch tart pans (or one large tart pan or a pie tin; it’s all good)
parchment paper or silicone sheets (highly recommended in general for baking)
1 lb. pie weights
Follow steps 1-6 of the Smitten Kitchen recipe:
1. Let the butter sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until malleable.
2. 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.
3. Add the egg yolk and combine until no longer visible.
4. 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.
5. Flatten the dough into a thick pancake, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before preparing to roll out the dough.
6. Lightly butter a 9-inch pastry ring (or fluted tart pan) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick Silpat pad.
7. Take your dough out and weigh it. Grams works best for making the math simple. Cut the dough into 10 sections. Use the scale to get them even. Roll each piece back into a rough ball.
8. Roll each ball of dough out into about a 7-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper or flexible cutting board. Flour liberally as you’re rolling it out to keep it from sticking.It should transfer easily to a tart pan. If it doesn’t, use the board or paper to fold it over in half. Fold again into quarters and transfer to the pan, point in the center. Unfold the dough.
9. Once the dough is in the pan, press it down gently into the “corner” of the pan. Some dough will stick out above the rim of the pan. Fold this gently back into the pan and press the dough into the fluting on the sides of the pan. Freeze for one hour. (Now would be a good time to make some caramel sauce. See below.)
10. Preheat the oven to 350F. Distribute the crusts on the baking sheet and the pie weights in the crusts. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The crusts should be only lightly browned. They’ll cook more with the filling. Place the baking sheet on a rack to cool. When cool, gently remove the pie weights. The crusts will be fragile.
If you ever have to use caramel sauce in a recipe, as you will in this one, just use the Alton Brown recipe. It requires attention, but caramel always does. Every other caramel sauce recipe I’ve come across has caused one sort of headache or another. This one has not. Nothing will go wrong with the recipe if you don’t stop to make the doodads.
You can make it ahead of time or while your crusts are in process or cooling.
1 lb. fresh cranberries
2 cups sliced almonds
2 navel oranges
about an inch of fresh ginger root
grater (my favorite for this task)
If you turned the oven off, reheat it to 350F.
1. Rinse and pick over the cranberries. Dump them and the almonds into a bowl. Zest the two oranges into the bowl using the grater. Peel the ginger–a spoon will work just fine–but leave a little bit of skin to hang onto. Grate about half an inch of ginger into the bowl.
2. Roughly mix the filling and split it between the crusts. The filling will be heaped, but it will settle considerably during cooking.
3. Drizzle generously with caramel sauce. This is the only sugar that goes into this filling to balance out the cranberry. Don’t skimp, but don’t completely drown the filling.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Contents will settle and bubble and smell wonderful. They may also spill over the side, which is why the silicone sheet is there.
5. Allow to cool completely. Remove from the tart pans just before serving. Be gentle. The tarts are more stable with the filling, but they can still be broken.
6. Enjoy on their own or with ice cream.