Christmas Baking: Cranberry Maple Nut Tartlets

raised-eyebrow-babyWhen 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.

Cranberry Maple Nut Tartlets

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

Filling:

  • 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

Decor:

  • 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**

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Wrap dough disk tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.

Step 2: Make Shells:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Place a sheet of parchment or waxed paper underneath cooling rack and drizzle icing sugar mixture over tartlets to your personal taste.
  3. Serve at room temperature.

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