Wednesday, October 31, 2007

cranberry, caramel and almond tart

cranberry, caramel and almond tart

It’s taken some time, but I have finally come to the conclusion that I am simply not very skilled at tart doughs. Yes, me, the girl who loves making bread and pasta and pretty much anything in the world that starts with kneading and gathering. Hey, I never said I was good at it.

These shrunk too much, these tore and crumbled, these not only shrunk but got tattered, this had to be pasted together in scraps and, you guessed it, this one went on a big diet in the oven as well. The thing is, you might look at the pictures and not know that the recipes were teetering on the edge of disaster, but that’s because you don’t know about all the filling that went to waste because they no longer fit after a par-baking. I’ve tried everything–pricking the doughs and weighting the doughs and freezing the doughs and sacrificing countless boxes of butter and hours of my life to the doughs and closing my eyes in a brief prayer before checking on their baking status but still, they fight me every time.

tartlet pansarranging the tart doughgorgeous, golden caramelcranberries

Typically, I blame the recipe. I mean, wouldn’t you? It’s not like it can fight back (unless you get those commenters who say ‘but I made that recipe and mine came out perfectly!’ and I’m all ‘shhh! I don’t want to know that!’). But eventually you get to the point where you know that if you post another entry about the shoddy tart dough that someone is going to have your number. It might as well be me.

After my last cry for pate brisee help after my biggest disaster to date, I decided it time to, once and for all, stop fighting the tart dough timeline. Take it slow, stop lopping corners off the chilling and re-chilling time, following a recipe from a respected tart-maker to the exact letter.

I hope you are not here for happy endings, because I’ve got two cups of carefully-prepared filling in the fridge waiting for a tart shell that doesn’t shrink. Oh, and it turns out it’s not just me that faced a horribly shrunken crust on this recipe. (Why, why why does he not call for the shell to be weighted when par-baked?)

cranberry, caramel and almond tartletscranberry, caramel and almond tartletcranberry, caramel and almond tartletcranberry, caramel and almond tartlet

Fine, I lied when I said there would be no happy ending. These tartlets are one of the best things I have ever made. Seriously, it goes in the top ten, no, top five. This caramel, cranberry and almond tart from Maury Rubin at the City Bakery, a place I love more than anybody should (but I’ll get to why on a day that I am not boring you with incredibly shrinking crusts) is pure holiday decadence. If you’re bored of standard Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts, or you just want to show off a new instant classic, you have to make it this winter.

The caramel is to die for and plays off the tart/sour cranberries and nestles against the almonds and I guarantee your first thought after you are done sighing with delight will be (no, not “this would benefit from some chocolate chips” as you just know my husband said) “why haven’t I thought of this before?”

But you’re on your own with the crust. Or, you will be until some of those helpful commenters start chiming in with tart advice. No pressure, people, but future of flawless Thanksgiving desserts rests in your hands. And… GO!

cranberry, caramel and almond tartlet

Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart
Adapted Maury Rubin, City Bakery

Yields: 1 9-inch tart or 12 4-inch tartlets

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

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. Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, cut it in half, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat, until you have 16 equal pieces. Work quickly with the dough so that it remains chilled. Sprinkle your work surface with a thin layer of flour. Knead the pieces of dough together until it forms one new mass and shape it into a flattened ball. Flour a rolling pin and sprinkle flour again on the work surface underneath the dough. Roll out the dough into a circle one-eighth-inch thick.

8. To easily transfer the dough into the ring or tart pan, fold it in half gently, then in quarters. Move the folded dough to the tart ring or pan, with the point of the dough in the center, then unfold it, gently patting the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring. Trim the edges so that they are flush with the top of the ring. Dock the dough with a pastry docker or prick the dough all over with a fork.

9. Put the baking sheet and pastry ring into the freezer for 1 hour.

10. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the baking sheet and ring in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before filling.

Filling and assembly

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 cups unblanched sliced almonds

1. Keep (or preheat) the oven to 350 degrees. Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.

2. To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.

3. The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added (long sleeves are a good precaution). If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.

4. Stir the frozen cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart dough mounding toward the center.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour, then gently lift the tart ring off the pastry.

6. Carefully transfer the tart to a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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