Happy 2010, everyone! I’m not much of a resolution-maker, but I do have two for this blog:
1) To take better photographs. I’ve mostly been using my little Canon point-and-shoot, which doesn’t offer the greatest images. Sometimes I use Terwilliger’s fancy Nikon, but I don’t know anything about the settings. So, I’m resolving to learn more about the settings and find some better lighting for better photos.
2) I hope to post more dinner items on this here blog in the coming months. For one thing, Terwilliger and I do manage to eat dinner on a regular basis, and I would like to document the recipes I’m using. Especially because I’m learning to modify things and make tweaks with tasty results, and that’s exciting to me. I’m finding that I actually like to *cook,* not just bake, and I want to nurture that.
And, okay, there’s another thing: as you know, I really, really love the baked goods, but, well, my wardrobe doesn’t. And the thing is, I’ve been baking like a fiend because “I can put it on the blog later.” And that’s just giving me an excuse to bake every day. (Which is not a bad thing in itself, but it can be bad when there are only two people in the household and one of them doesn’t have an overwhelming sweet tooth and the other one will eat every brownie in sight. You will easily guess which one I am.) So basically what I’m saying is that I’d like cut back on the baking obsession, just a little bit. Plus, I think T is getting tired of me force-feeding him desserts.
But before I get all “this is not solely a baking blog,” I have to share the dessert I made for Christmas with you guys. Because it is good, oh, it is good. It’s a cranberry pecan frangipane tart from Smitten Kitchen, and it will knock your socks off.
Are you wondering what “frangipane” is? I was too when I first noticed this recipe more than a year ago. I still don’t know how to pronounce it, but apparently frangipane is sweetened, creamy almond paste. This one is made with pecans, though, so maybe it’s not a true frangipane. But whatever. It’s fantastic, and that’s what matters.
I’m not singing the praises of this treat just because it’s sweet and buttery and therefore delicious. No, there’s more to it than that: the rich, distinctive bite of the pecans is heightened by a hint of orange zest, and the sharp whole cranberries mellow out into the perfect foil for the sweet frangipane. Also, the crisp shortbread crust is heavenly.
I made this for Christmas night dinner, which included T and me and our friends Jake & Steph. I also made real food: roast chicken with lemon, traditional mashed potatoes, and green beans with sauteed shallots. While that wasn’t the first full meal with sides that I’ve made, it was the first official holiday dinner I’ve prepared. And that’s pretty nice, friends. I don’t know why cooking still seems like this club I never thought I’d be in, but every time I eat a meal of my own making, and it’s good, I’m a little amazed. I guess I’ll get used to it, won’t I? Especially if I hold on to resolution #2.
Here’s your Christmas tart, or Friday tart, or really Any Day of the Week tart…
*There are some do-ahead elements of this recipe, so plan your baking around that. The tart dough needs to be chilled for a total of 2 and a half hours (minimum), and the frangipane also needs to be chilled for at least 3 hours. The frangipane can be made two days in advance and kept in the fridge until needed. Same with the tart dough, come to that.*
For the tart crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 T. (9 T.) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
For the filling:
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 & 1/2 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 3 T. sugar
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 & 1/2 tsp. orange zest
3/4 cup whole, fresh cranberries
To make the tart crust:
I used my food processor to make the crust, and it was incredibly easy. If you don’t have a food processor, just cut in the butter using two knives or a pastry blender. My instructions are going to assume you have one, though.
Place flour, sugar and salt in bowl of processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Scatter butter pieces over dry ingredients and pulse until butter is coarsely cut in (with some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas). Beat egg in separate bowl; slowly add beaten egg to processor bowl a little at a time and pulse. When the egg is added, process in two long 10-second pulses. Turn dough onto a work surface and gather dough into a ball, very lightly kneading just to get any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper or wax paper, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using wax paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Tuck dough against the sides of the pan. Trim overhang to half an inch and use extra dough to patch any cracks or thin spots. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork, including the sides. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
Now it’s time to fully bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 minutes.
Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until it’s firm and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.
Make the frangipane:
Place pecans and flour in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add sugar and pulse to mix. Add butter and orange zest and blend until smooth. Add egg and egg white and process until mixed. Transfer filling to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Can be made ahead and kept in fridge for two days.)
To assemble & bake the tart:
Preheat the oven to 350.
Using a spatula, smooth the frangipane filling into the baked tart crust. The frangipane will be thick, almost like frosting. I piled the filling in the middle of the crust and smoothed it out from there. The tart crust should be filled to just under the edge of the crust — you may have a little frangipane left over.
Arrange the whole cranberries however you wish over the frangipane. (I pressed them in a haphazard pattern, one at a time, into the filling.)
Place filled tart pan on a cookie sheet to catch any spillage (the cranberries will probably bubble a bit when they’re baking). Bake tart until golden on top and until a tester inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean, about 45 – 55 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push the pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. (The tart can be made 8 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.) Cut tart into wedges (8 – 10, depending on how big you make them), and serve.