Way back in December – doesn’t that feel like an eternity ago? – I woke up early one Friday morning, dressed in darkness, and tiptoed out the front door. I needed two pounds of butter (for the cookies that kept on giving) and another of margarine, and my friend Nachama was in town, fast asleep on the sofa. It was Alyson’s birthday and she had invited both of us over for shabbat dinner. As usual, I offered to make dessert.
Just a few weeks shy of the winter solstice, sundown (the start of shabbat) was around half-past four and with at least a thirty minute drive up to Alyson’s new place in Riverdale, and a downtown physical therapy appointment, I wanted to get dessert into the oven early. This is all a long-winded way of saying that I was tired and in a rush.
Back home from the store, I ground fresh beans and made a pot of coffee. Either the sound or the smell dragged Nachama out from under the covers. She sat on a pouf that she dragged across the floor to my kitchen doorway – the kitchen’s barely big enough for one, let alone two bodies – and we caught up on each other’s travels, work, and lives.
The day before, I had found a few tart recipes to use up a bag of cranberries left over after Thanksgiving. While Nachama and I chatted, I compared three printouts and calculated how to mix and match the recipes in the right proportions. I was convinced that the area of a circle was 2πr which slowed down the process considerably. Once I remembered it was πr2, things went a bit more smoothly.
Math all figured out, I set to work, mixing together a dough and pressing it into little tart pans (how cute are they??).
While the crusts baked, I started in on the curd. Melting down the cranberries into a compote. Pureeing. Cooling. Adding the eggs and yolks. While the cranberries cooled and I cracked and separated eggs, Nachama squeezed past me and sliced up some onions for an omelette to use up the four egg whites leftover from the curd.
I did double duty at the stove – stirring the cranberries with eggs, lemon, sugar, and a pinch of salt and slowly caramelizing the onions with the other. Once the curd set, I strained it. Once the onions caramelized, I added the eggs. I filled the tartlet crusts with curd and popped them in the oven, and Nachama and I sat down to breakfast.
When the timer went off, I pulled the tartlets out of the oven and put them on the counter to cool. Right next to a stick of margarine. The stick of margarine that I forgot to add to the curd. Shit!
Too late to do anything about it, I trotted off to PT and rushed back home. After an hour or so in the fridge, the tartlets firmed up and though the curd was a little looser and the texture a little less decadent than I’d have liked, Nachama and I decided that no one would know that an ingredient was missing.
And so I have for you some winter tartlets. Just in time for spring.
(If you want to be all seasonal about it, fill the crust with rhubarb curd instead.)
Cranberry curd tartlets
The idea for these tartlets came from the New York Times, but eventually I used the crust from my lemon bars (originally from Alice Medrich) and a slightly less sweet (and lower fat if you forget the 1/2 cup of margarine/butter) cranberry curd from The Kitchn. If you do want to add margarine/ butter, stir it into the strained cranberries. Now that it’s Spring, you can make the curd with rhubarb instead (double this recipe from Not Derby Pie) for an slightly less pink dessert.
Make sure to line the bottom of your tart pans with rounds of parchment paper. If you don’t want to make tartlets, you can make two 8- or 9-inch tarts or a 9X13-inch pan. The recipe makes 2 cups of curd.
Makes 10 4-inch tartlets.
– 1 1/2 C sifted flour
– 1/2 C yellow cornmeal
– large pinch salt
– 1/4 t baking soda
– 1/4 C unsalted butter or margarine (room temperature)
– 2/3 C sugar
– 2 egg yolks
– 2 T light mayonnaise or yogurt
– 1/3 t vanilla extract
– 12 oz (about 3 C) fresh cranberries
– 1/2 C water
– 2/3 C granulated sugar
– 4 eggs
– 4 egg yolks
– 2 T lemon juice
– 1/4 t salt
Prepare. Preheat oven to 350ºF and put rack in lower 1/3 of the oven. Cut 10 circles of parchment paper the size of the removable pan bottoms, and then grease and line the pans. Pick out any squished or blemished cranberries and remove any stems and then rinse the berries.
Mix. Stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. In a stand mixer, beat the mayonnaise/yogurt and margarine/butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about a minute. Beat in egg yolk, mayonnaise/yogurt, and vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. It will be crumbly. Scrape bowl and knead briefly with hands.
Press. Press a generous 1/4 cup of dough into each tartlet pan, making sure to cover the sides. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to smooth everything out and nudge the dough into the fluted edges. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
Bake. Arrange the pans on a cookie sheet for easier transport. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges just start to brown.
Cook. While the crusts are baking, place the cranberries and water in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat and stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries have popped and become mushy, about 5 minutes. Puree the cranberries with an immersion blender until as smooth as possible.
Cool. Remove the pot from the stovetop and allow the cranberry puree to come to room temperature. This is an important step because if it’s too hot, it will cook the eggs.
Mix. To the pot with the cranberry puree, add the sugar, eggs and yolks, lemon juice, and salt. Stir thoroughly.
Heat. Return the pot to the stove. Stir the curd continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan. Cook until the curd starts to thicken, coats the back of a spoon, and registers about 150° on an instant-read thermometer if you have one, about 10-12 minutes.
Strain. Pour the curd through a strainer into a clean bowl – this will get rid of any tough cranberry bits or cooked egg. This is when you should stir in the 1/4 cup of butter or margarine until it melts.
Put it all together:
Bake. Pour the strained cranberry curd (it’s OK if it’s warm) onto the baked crust, a scant 1/4 cup per tartlet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until the curd has set. It shouldn’t wobble when you tap the pan. Cool completely and refrigerate before serving.
Store. Keep refrigerated. The crust will soften after a day, so these are best eaten the day they are made.