When I was learning how to bake professionally at college, I had the opportunity to participate in an auction that was being held by one of the Marketing students. And by “participate”, I mean “donate stuff to the raffle” for no remuneration whatsoever.
However, I liked the person who asked me, and since I was a poor college student myself, all I had to offer was my baking skills, but they seemed to be plenty good enough, to the point where I understand that the winner of the auction bid up quite high in order to win my my services! I had included a shortlisted menu of baked goods and quantities that the “prize” was valid for, and these tartlets were the choice made by the recipient. Granted, I didn’t make the below with nuts, as per the choice of the recipient, but they are very nice either way! Just add a handful more cranberries when making the filling if you’re making it nut-free.
Lastly, I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe is a little fussy, but c’mon…it’s Christmas! These little guys are a perfect special treat for the holidays.
Yield: 16-20 tartlets
Note: to make tartlets, I recommend a non-stick mini muffin tin.
Sweet pastry dough:
- 11/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp table salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, very cold, cut into ½“ cubes
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1½ tbsp ice water
- 1 ¼ cups fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans
- ½ cup icing sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Enough hot water to make a drizzle (approx. 2 tbsp) OR equivalent amount of whipping cream, warmed slightly
Step 1: Make Sweet Pastry Dough
**TIP: Keep butter in fridge until just before you need it**
- Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips, two knives, or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together the egg yolk and ice water with a fork and stir into flour mixture until combined well.
- Gently knead mixture in bowl with floured hands just until dough forms. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 4 or 5 times more. Form dough into a ball, and then flatten into a roughly 5” disk.
- Wrap dough disk tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.
Step 2: Make Shells:
- Roll out dough about 1/8” thick on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Use a round cutter that is a little larger than the opening of your tartlet pan/mini muffin tin; the tart edges should be level with the top edge of the tartlet depression.
- Cut as many circles as possible without having to re-roll the dough (it will get tougher every time you re-roll). Gently fit rounds into tartlet pan openings that have been coated with a small amount of non-stick baking spray. Lightly prick bottoms of each tartlet with a fork, then pop tray into fridge for 30 minutes to rest and chill.
- Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Line small shells with parchment paper squares slightly larger than the shells themselves, and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake until pastry is set and pale golden on rim, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil/parchment paper squares and weights and bake shell/s until pale golden all over, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer shell/s (still in the pan) to a rack to cool slightly. Leave oven on for Step 4 and move oven rack to middle position, and reduce oven temperature to 350°F .
Step 3: Make filling:
- Meanwhile while tartlet shells are baking, add walnuts or pecans to a dry frying pan on stove and toast gently over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darker in colour. Remove from heat, let cool, and roughly chop. Set aside.
- Place cranberries and water into a medium sized pot and heat over medium-high heat until cranberries pop and become soft, about 8 minutes. Turn heat down to medium and add maple syrup and corn syrup to pot; stir to combine thoroughly and continue to stir (preferably with a silicone spatula to prevent sticking) for another few minutes until mixture starts to get thick.
- Add vanilla extract and butter and stir to combine. Remove mixture from heat, add the chopped nuts to the mixture and combine thoroughly.
Step 4: Assemble Tartlets:
- Carefully spoon still hot filling into shells (1-2 tbsp per tartlet) and bake tart until filling is set and golden, about 15 minutes for tartlets. If pastry edge darkens before tartlets are done, cover edge with a pie shield or foil. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on cooling rack, then gently remove each tartlet and allow to cool completely on rack.
Step 5: Finish Tartlets:
- Combine icing sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl, and whisk in hot water or cream, a tablespoon at a time, until a drizzle consistency is achieved.
- Place a sheet of parchment or waxed paper underneath cooling rack and drizzle icing sugar mixture over tartlets to your personal taste.
- Serve at room temperature.