I know, I know. My pie for the Great Canadian Baking Show’s “elegant pie or tart” challenge fell short of the “elegant” mark. So we’re calling this my redemption tart. I can do elegant darnit!
All joking aside, that pear/hazelnut/chocolate pie was delicious and I’ll post the recipe soon, but I wanted to show that I could in fact do elegant, and I’m pretty sure this is elegant enough for any holiday table.
Tart cranberries, milky sweet white chocolate, and hazelnut crumb crust. I made this elegant and delicious tart for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, and it would be just as good for Christmas.
One of my favourite things about this tart is that it compliments almost any dinner and dessert. It’s light but satisfying, sweet but not cloying and tart enough to undo the damage of that pumpkin pie or cheesecake. It’s a great ‘add-on’ to a big dinner.
A good rule of baking is that the simpler your bake, the more important each individual ingredient will be. In something like this, where each element stands on its own and will be clearly tasted in each forkful, the quality of the ingredients is going to make a big difference. I’ve made this a few times, both with fresh cranberries and frozen, along with Valrhona’s Opalys white chocolate, and hazelnuts in their skin, ready for roasting.
You don’t want to cut corners on the white chocolate with this recipe. Use Valrhona if you can. If not, whatever other best-quality white chocolate you can get, especially one which leans to the milky, rather than sweet, will work.
The other tool you’ll need here is a food mill. I know what you’re thinking: “Another gadget? Really?”
Trust me, you want to buy a food mill. Since I’ve got it, I use it at least once a month. Tomato sauce, apple sauce, pear caramel, nectarine curd, cranberry curd. This thing does it all, and it does it efficiently. They’re all more or less identical, and I got one at St. Lawrence Market for $35 which works wonderfully. If you want something a bit nicer, the OXO version (available on Amazon) has legs which would likely come in handy.
FOR THE HAZELNUT CRUST:
180 grams raw hazelnuts
125 grams AP flour
¼ teaspoon salt
56 grams granulated sugar
- 56 grams light brown sugar
100 grams softened butter, more as necessary
- 1 egg
- Heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant and just starting to darken.
- Let nuts cool.
- Rub the nuts between two pieces of paper towel to take off the skins. You don’t need to get all the skin off (you’ll be there forever), but you’ll be able to get the bulk of it off pretty quickly this way.
- In a food processor, grind nuts with half the flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add remaining flour and salt and pulse briefly.
- Cream sugars and butter in stand mixer for a minute or two until pale and thick.
- Add nut mixture and combine until dough comes together. If it seems crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons softened butter or a little cold water.
- Press dough evenly into a 9″ round tart pan (pans with removable bottoms work great here); use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom. If you’re using a tart pan with a removable bottom, place it onto a baking sheet, to catch any butter that drips.
- Press parchment paper over crust, leaving an overhang on all sides and fill with weights. Chill at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Remove the pie weights, and bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden, fragrant, and mostly dry.
- Let the crust cool.
White Chocolate Ganache
190 grams White chocolate (Valhrona Opalys is best)
95g heavy cream
14 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 3 pieces
- Chop the chocolate into small, even pieces and put it all in a small heatproof bowl.
- Heat the cream until it is barely boiling, and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then, using a heatproof spatula, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles. You don’t want to stir too vigorously or use a whisk, as both will introduce air into the mixture, which will give you bubbles. Bubbles are bad.
- When the ganache is smooth, add the butter one piece at a time, stirring until it is melted and fully incorporated.
- Immediately pour ganache into cooled tart shell, to fill approx ¼ of the tart.
- Allow chocolate to set (in fridge is fine).
FOR THE CRANBERRY CURD:
- 340 grams cranberries
- 50-150 grams granulated sugar*
- Juice of half a medium orange, zest of one whole medium orange
- 113 grams softened butter (1 stick)
- 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- Put cranberries, sugar and orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a food mill with the finest plate installed and smush (that’s the technical term) the cranberry liquid into a clean bowl.
- Once you’ve smushed all the cranberry through the food mill, you will be left with a very watery pinkish red liquid.
- Whisk the butter into the warm cranberry liquid.
- Put eggs and egg yolks into a clean bowl and beat just to combine.
- Slowly whisk a cup of warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper (warm) the eggs, then add the egg mixture to the pot with the rest of the cranberry, and whisk together.**
- Return liquid to pot and cook over low heat until nearly bubbling and thickened, about 10 minutes. It is okay if the curd is still slightly loose, it will set in step 10.
- Let the curd cool slightly (it doesn’t need to be cold, just not piping hot). Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell, over the chocolate, and smooth top with a spatula.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes to set curd.
- Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
This looks great decorated with candied cranberries, like these.
*In the recipe, I call for 50-150g sugar. I started my curd with 50g, and ended up adding another two tablespoons (25g) or so after tasting it at the end of step 2. This is a pretty sweet dessert generally, so only go up to 150g if you’re really not into tart flavours.
** This “tempering” stage is basically to prevent your eggs from cooking. If you added the eggs directly to the hot cranberry liquid, you’d end up with scrambled eggs. This way, you raise the temperature of the eggs slowly, so it can incorporate fully into the cranberry.