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Cranberry-Orange Cream Tart

This recipe for an elegant holiday dessert was created by Diana Sturgis of Food and Wine Magazine, and was adapted from her recipe published in the November, 1982 issue. This recipe looks complicated. It isn't, although it is time-consuming. The pastry shell is extremely easy, and the use of cornstarch instead of flour makes the pastry cream filling almost foolproof.

Making this recipe takes about 3 hours. Most of the preparation can be done a day ahead if you're facing a busy schedule. In addition to the normal pastry-making impedimentia, you will need a 10 1/2 inch tart pan with removable bottom. (in desperation you might use a large pie pan.) You will also need the following ingredients:

Cranberry-orange cream tart

Here's the cranberry-orange cream tart we had for Thanksgiving at Pawley's Island, 2008. In the background is the (mostly) boneless turducken that was the entrée.

For the Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour (or unbleached flour)
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter
3 tbsp cold vegetable shortening or lard
ice water

For the Cream Filling:

1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
4 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
(or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 1/2 tbsp orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier,
1/2 cup whipping cream, chilled

For the Topping:

2 or 3 large oranges (or several smaller ones)
1 cup sugar
12 oz. cranberries (1 package) picked over
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
blended with 2 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Make the Crust

You can make the crust a day ahead and store it in a zip-lock bag, or you can just make the dough in advance and save the rolling and baking until the day you intend to serve the tart. Begin by combining the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl (or a food processor bowl!). Cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. This is duck soup with a food processor; if you don't have one, you'll need a wire pastry blender. Sprinkle in 3 tbsp ice water and toss until the dough begins to mass together. (You can do this in the food processor, too. Just use very short pulses.) Add 2 or 3 more tbsp ice water if necessary, until the dough forms a loose ball. Form the ball, flatten it into a six-inch disk, and refrigerate at least one hour (or over night). You are allowing the gluten in the flour time to relax, so you can't try to hurry this along.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll the dough out on a pastry cloth or lightly floured surface until you have a circle about 1/8 inch thick and about 13 inches in diameter. Pick the dough up by rolling it up on your rolling pin. Unroll it over the tart pan (10 1/2" pan with removable bottom). Form the dough to fit the bottom and sides of the pan. Run the rolling pin over the top to trim off any excess. Prick the bottom with a fork in several places and refrigerate until chilled (about 20 minutes).

Line the inside of the pastry crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, beans, rice, or whatever. Bake on a cookie sheet (so the removable bottom stays where it belongs) for 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375. Remove the foil and weights. (If you omitted the foil, you are now faced with the arduous task of picking grains of uncooked rice out of your pastry; take heed!) Continue baking until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove the side pan. Let the crust cool completely before filling or it'll be soggy.

Make the Cream Filling

This can be done on the day the tart is to be served or late the night before. The main thing to remember about making a pastry cream is not to cook it too fast or too long; if you mess up, the result will be very sweet scrambled eggs, so be careful.

In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks until thick and light colored and the mixture forms a ribbon instead of a stream when you lift the beater. (An electric mixer is essential for this unless you have forearms like Popeye the Sailor.) Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth. (Keep using the electric mixer, but turn it down a notch.) Whisk in the orange liqueur.

In a small sauce pan bring the milk and the vanilla bean (or extract) just to a boil. Remove the bean. Whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture.

Scrape the mixture into a heavy medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over low heat stirring constantly with a wire whisk. The mixture will start to thicken as soon as it reaches the boiling point; you may never see a bubble. When this blessed event occurs, start timing. Cook for one minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Scrape into a medium bowl and whisk until cool, about 10 minutes. (You may use the electric mixer for this, or just work out your arms.)

Beat the cream until stiff (but no more or you'll have butter) and fold it into the cooked custard. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the tart.

Make the Topping

Remove the zest (colored part of the peel) from the oranges. Cut it into julienne strips. Squeeze the juice from the oranges; you need about 1 cup. Add water as necessary to make 1 cup.

In a small, heavy saucepan, simmer the orange zest with water until softened, about 3 minutes. Drain off the liquid. Add 1 cup cold water and the sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the syrup is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes. Remove the zest with a slotted spoon and spread on waxed paper.

Add the orange juice to the remaining syrup and bring to a boil. Add the cranberries, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and clears, about 1 minute. Pour the topping into a shallow bowl, cover loosely, and allow to cool to room temperature. If you refrigerate this, it will solidify. Beware.

Assemble the Tart

A few hours before serving time, slide the baked tart shell onto a serving platter. Fill the shell with pastry cream and spread evenly. Sprinkle the (optional) chopped walnuts over the surface. Spread the cranberry mixture on top. Arrange the candied orange zest around the edge as a border. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.

Last updated: 2013-03-04 4:17
Orignially posted: 2009-09-13

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