Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cranberry Pecan Tart

I like pecan pie as much as the next guy, but I've always thought that it was a teensy bit one-dimensional. I mean, you have that gooey, delicious buttery brown sugar filling... and nuts. That's it. And there's nothing to balance the sweetness. Sure, you can throw in some dark chocolate chips or some brandy or rum, but sometimes I just want a little bit of something extra.

Well, this year, I found it.

This beauty, this Cranberry Pecan Pie, is perfect for entertaining and perfect for a night in. Not only is it really easy to make--just throw everything into the food processor!--but it also has just the right balance of sweetness, nuttiness, and slight tartness, with all the warmth of a proper holiday dessert.

My family liked this recipe so much that after I made it for our Thanksgiving dinner, it was gone the next day (remember, this was just for my little family of four), and I was asked to makethree more tarts the next day. Three. This is definitely a winner.

This tart has all the deliciousness of a traditional pecan pie--yes that buttery, gooey, filling--with the added bonus of some fruity, sweet, tart deliciousness from the cranberries. If you want to go with nuts on top, you can (you can see that I did for one of my pies, above, and neglected to add them for the pie below), or you can just decorate with some pretty red berries.

Either way, if you have a holiday party coming up, or some guests on their way over, or are just going to spend the night in and want a delicious but easy dessert to fix for yourself, this is the way to go. This tart is also delicious the next day, so it's great to make ahead of time (my family actually debated whether or not it was better the next day).

And since the holidays aren't the time to worry about your waistline, I just want to add that this is heavenly when served with lightly sweetened, fresh whipped cream. Just take some heavy whipping cream, some sugar and maybe a pinch of salt. Extra points if you use vanilla sugar or some good vanilla extract.

Cranberry Pecan Tart
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup pecans
½ cup cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour
zest from 2-3 clementines or 1 orange
½ tsp ground cinnamon
dash of ground ginger (optional, for a kick)
dash of ground cloves
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tbsp rum
1 large egg
1 large egg white
9 tbsp (1 stick + 1 tbsp ) softened butter
handful whole, fresh cranberries
handful whole pecans
1 pre-baked tart shell

Finely grind pecans, cranberries, and sugar in food processor. Pulse in flour, zest, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and rum till smooth. Add egg and egg white and blend. Blend in softened butter. Transfer filling to medium container, cover, and chill at least 3 hours. (This can be done up to 2 days in advance.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread pecan filling evenly in baked tart crust. Arrange cranberries and pecans decoratively on top. Bake tart on middle rack until golden, about 45 minutes. Cool.

Important note: Only bake your tart shell until just done. Do not wait until it is golden. For example, packaged pie crusts say to bake for 10 minutes at 400°F. I baked mine for only 8-9 minutes. This will prevent your crust from over-browning later and you having to cover it with tin foil.

*Additional note: I used salted butter. I find that it provides a rounder flavor. I tend to think that people who talk about using unsalted butter to "control the salt content" are a little silly.

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