A few of weeks ago, I attended a dinner party at a friend’s place. Knowing I was an avid baker and pastry-maker, the hostess asked me to bring the dessert. She being a chocolate and peanut butter fanatic, I had the perfect recipe in mind: Nancy Olson’s (pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern) Crunchy Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layer Cake from the current November, 2007 of Food + Wine.
Three days before the party, I received an email from the hostess about a trip I was helping her plan to New York. In the post script was this:
“Have you seen the cover of the latest issue of Martha Stewart? Living? My husband has fallen in love with the dessert on the cover. I’ll buy the ingredients if you could make it sometime.”
Well, no, I hadn’t seen the latest cover of Martha Stewart Living. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever bothered to notice an issue of the magazine other than in passing. Furthermore, to be quite honest, I had no idea why my friend, who is not particularly domestically -inclined, nor why her husband, who is even less so, would pay particular attention to Ms. Stewart, or her magazine.
For whatever reason, I won’t believe that my friend was hinting that I should make this for her dinner party, but I took the queue, whether it was there or not, and decided to surprise her and her husband with the cranberry tart. Well, they were both surprised and pleased – as were the other guests. In return, we were rewarded with the gripping (and a little unbelievable) tale of how the host managed to orchestrate a meeting with Martha Stewart in person.
The recipe seemed easy, but has a few flaws.
1. They may sell cranberry preserves up in Connecticut, or wherever Martha lives, but it’s not exactly your common breakfast aisle ingredient here in Kansas City. I ended up making my own (recipe follows). Note: my friend made this recipe using red currant jelly (go figure – they have red currant jelly, but not cranberry preserves) – I wouldn’t recommend it – the layer of jelly ends up melting, soaking the crust, absorbed into the frangipane filling, and, when you cut it, it runs out all of the place.
2. Ms. Stewart may know how to baste her turkey while upholstering her couch, but she needs to work on her baking times. The baking time for this tart (including the crust par-baking) needs to be severely decreased… both times I made the tart (the second time with an adjusted-down baking time), the crust came out slightly charred. The top of the frangipane also was overly dark, although it was fine on the inside.
Martha Stewart’s Cranberry, Almond, and Cinnamon Tart
Adapted from the November, 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. “A stunning fall tart with a towering frangipane filling is crowned with cranberry jewels.”
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
4 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
1 ½ cups (5 ¼ ounces) fresh cranberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
8 ounces cranberry jam or preserves (recipe follows)
½ cup granulated sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces (about 1 ¼ cups) whole almonds, finely ground in a food processor
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
For Pate Sucree Tart Shell:
1. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.
2. Lightly beat yolk with ice water. With processor running, add yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube, and processuntil dough just holds together (no longer than 30 seconds).
3. Turn out onto a work surface, and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days), or freeze for up to 1 month).
For Cranberry Jewels:
Put fresh cranberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and the water into a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring to dissolve sugar, until cranberries have just softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch circle, 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. Transfer to an 8-by-2-inch spring form pan, pressing crust into bottom and sides. Trim excess flush with rim. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick tart crust all over with a fork. Cut a 12-inch round of parchment paper and place on top of chilled crust. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment, and brush crust with egg white. Return to oven and bake until pale golden, about 20-15 minutes. Refrigerate remaining egg white. Let crust cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
3. Maintain the oven at 350 degrees. Spread jam over bottom of tart crust.
4. Beat butter and ½ cup sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to medium. Slowly add ground almonds, cinnamon and salt, and beat until just combined. Spread mixture over jam-covered crust.
5. Bake tart until filling is set and has darkened slightly, 35-45 minutes. (If top darkens too quickly, cover loosely with foil).*
6. Remove tart from oven, brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Return to oven, and bake for 5 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and top (dot randomly) with candied cranberries. Serve warm.**
* I have adjusted the baking temperature and time for the tart down (from 375 for 45-50 minutes), as I have found the tart to darken much too quickly and the crust burns. To be cautious, check the tart 20 minutes into baking. If the top is already brown, loosely cover with foil. I have also adjusted the second par-baking time for the crust down (from 25 minutes) to help mitigate burning.
** Since the tart seems to brown quickly, I skipped the final egg wash/sugar glazing step. Instead, I let the pie cool, top with the candied cranberries, and dust lightly with powdered sugar. The effect looks very wintry – like a dusting of snow with little gems of red. Also, the white powder covers up some of the darkened top.
Makes approx. 2 cups
1 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1. Combine ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer for approximately 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the bottom from burning.
2. Remove from heat, let cool, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Cook’s Notes: For the Cranberry, Almond, and Cinnamon Tart, I prefer to leave the preserve chunkier, however, if a smoother consistency is desired, mash the cranberries with a fork, or puree the mixture with a immersion blender half-way through cooking.