A Tart for the Holidays


This year I had two Thanksgivings – the formal one, on Turkey day, with my husband’s family, and a second one with my family over the following weekend.  As this is the first year RJ and I are going into the holidays as a married couple, there have been many discussions about how best to handle the division of our time and pay proper homage to each family.  Our solution involves a lot of shuttling around the greater Boston area, but we think we have found a good balance of time spent, meals shared, and presents exchanged. 

A colleague said to me last week that Thanksgiving is what Christmas should be – a day of fun feasting, collaborative cooking, and quality family time without the stress of holiday shopping and credit card debt.  RJ loves Thanksgiving but dreads Christmas for all the aforementioned schlepping to fit everything into the 2-day window of official Christmas.  It was nice to see that we could do a second (smaller) Thanksgiving on Saturday, November 29th without a loss of sincere holiday feeling.  Plus we had twice the turkey, twice the pies, and twice the family face time.  Perfect!  I think for once we made it through a holiday with everyone happy!

I had such a great time on (proper) Thanksgiving, cooking with my mother-in-law at her house.  When the boys went to sit in the freezing cold at a high school football game they were sure to lose, we basted the turkey, prepped the vegetables, and armed ourselves for the onslaught of relatives that would come through the door at 2.  Unfortunately, as I’ve already confessed, we did not take photos on that day, and I regret that.  Thankfully the internet has provided many of them for us, as you can see here.  On Saturday, however, I remembered to pull out the trusty Panasonic and snap away, bringing you the beauty that is the “Festive Cranberry-Pear Tart.”  I would very highly recommend this delicious tart for your next holiday meal or potluck party.  It was a huge hit, and tastes just as good at breakfast as it does for dessert.  Then again, I’m a pie-for-breakfast kind of girl.

Festive Cranberry-Pear Tart in a Walnut Shortbread Crust, from Fine Cooking Issue No. 74

For the Shortbread Crust:Shortbread tart crust

1 large egg yolk
1 Tbs. half and half
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/4 lb. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/3 c. walnuts, toasted and finely chopped 

For the Cranberry-Pear Filling:
3 large ripe pears, like Anjou or Bartlett
2 c. fresh cranberries, picked through and rinsedRaw Cranberry Pear Tart
1 Tbs. brandy
2/3 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. table salt

For the Buttery Brown Sugar Streusel:
1/3 c. plus 1 Tbs. unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. table salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Make the crust: Position a rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk, half and half, and vanilla.  Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are no longer visible.  With the processor running, add the yolk mixture in a steady stream and then pulse until the moisture is fairly evenly dispersed, 10 to 20 seconds.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Using your hands, mix in the chopped walnuts to distribute them evenly.  The dough will be a mealy, crumbly mass.

Cranberry-Pear Tart

Pour the crumb mixture into a 9 1/2 in. round fluted tart pan with removable bottom.  Starting with the sides of the pan, firmly press the crumbs against the pan to create a crust about 1/4 inch thick.  Press the remaining crumbs evenly against the bottom of the pan.  Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.  Bake until the sides just begin to darken and the bottom is set, 15 min.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Make the filling: Peel the pears, quarter them lengthwise, core, and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices.  In a food processor, coarsely chop the cranberries.  In a medium bowl, mix the pears, cranberries, and brandy.  In a small bowl, mix the sugar, flour, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt; add to the cranberry-pear mixture, tossing to combine.  Spoon the filling into the par-baked crust, leveling the filling and packing it down slightly with the back of a spoon.


Make the streusel and bake: In a small bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, and salt.  Add the melted butter and vanilla.  Combine with your fingers until the mixture begins to clump together in small pieces when pressed.  Sprinkle the streusel over the filling, breaking it into smaller pieces if necessary.  

Bake at 350 degrees F until the fruit is tender when pierced with a fork and the streusel and the edges of the crust are golden brown, about 50 minutes.  If the tart begins to get overly brown at the edges, cover with foil.  Let the tart cool on a rack until it’s just barely warm before serving.  The tart will keep, covered and at room temperature, for two to three days.

**The issue from which I pulled this recipe, the October/November 2005 issue, is a very strong one – it contains one of my favorite cookie recipes (white chocolate, cranberry and oatmeal), a great pot roast recipe, and a mushroom soup with sherry that I love!  You can buy back issues of Fine Cooking here.

Cranberry Pear Compote

Making this recipe I had plenty of leftover cranberries in the bag, as well as leftover spiced pear-cranberry mixture.  I put both of these, maybe 1 1/2 c. of fruit total, in a small saucepan and added about a 1/2 c. of water and 1/2 c. of ruby port.  I cooked the fruit over medium-low heat until all of the cranberries had popped and the pears were tender.  The final product was sweet and flavorful – I can see it would be good over ice cream, but we used it as a second cranberry sauce with our turkey.

Cranberry Pear compote