Isn't this Cranberry Linzer Tart just beautiful? You know, as if it came from a European bakery, the places where the pastries taste as good as they look? But I made it and you can too!
The crust is made with toasted almonds and – get this – pressed into the tart pan. That's right, no rolling! The recipe comes from a brand-new European tart cookbook published by my friend Helen, a long-time professional baker and the "goddess of pastry". Her bakery Truffes is the source of the recipes but you'll see, they're not the "hard" bakery recipes, they're the "easy" bakery recipes that home cooks can handle with ease. Helen's cookbook has given me so much confidence, we're hosting a holiday dessert party this weekend!
At age 18, I arrived in Finland tall and slim, the way nearly all girls that age once were. That year as an exchange student, I discovered European bread, European yogurt, European cheese and oh my – European pastries, especially the European tarts that taste as good as they look. No surprise that when I got on a train to Moscow with friends nine months later, I ignored my father’s strict orders to not sell blue jeans, and sold two pairs to a sleezy guy near Red Square, destroying the size-small evidence.
So I was thrilled when my friend Helen S. Fletcher shared the news that she is documenting her bakery’s recipes in a series of cookbooks. Just the first title might make bakers tremble: European Tarts: Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking.
Let me tell you about Helen. For two decades, she owned a high-end bakery called “Truffes” here in St. Louis. She was a professional “home baker” in a commercial setting, crafting wholesale handmade small-scale pastries, developing recipes and refining techniques for St. Louis’ best hotels, restaurants and caterers.
Along the way, she published the New Pastry Cook: Modern Methods for Making Your Own Classic and Contemporary Pastries. Rose Levy Berenbaum, herself author of The Cake Bible, The Bread Bible, the Pie and Pastry Bible calls Helen the “goddess of pastry”! (Rose's cookbooks.)
And of course, this week she launches her first book in 16 years – documenting Truffes’ recipes and techniques in a hardcover book, an e-book and a companion website with step-by-step photos.
You’ll love-love-love Helen's Cranberry Linzer Tart, I think. It took me an hour to make the first time, I bet that with experience, I could put this together, start to finish, in 30 minutes! The tart dough is easy to handle, no rolling required, and thanks to all toasted almonds, tastes nutty instead of floury!
More information about Helen and her books:
The Ardent Cook – Helen’s blog, not just sweets, real food, all good! Regular readers will remember it was Helen who shared recipes I published here as Snickers Cookies and Fried vs Baked Zucchini Sticks.
Amazon.com – Where you can buy a copy of Helen’s book.
EuropeanTarts.com – Check here for step-by-step photos for Helen’s European Tart cookbook recipes.
St. Louis Magazine – An in-depth and personal profile published this week.
CRANBERRY LINZER TART RECIPE
Hands-on time: 1 hour, start to finish
Time to table: 9 - 24 hours
Makes a 9-inch tart to serve 12 or 16
- 12 ounces (340g) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (my addition)
- 1 cup (5oz/155g) toasted almonds, skins on
- 1-2/3 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 205 grams
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon or my favorite, nutmeg
- 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks, 170g) cold salted butter, cut into small bits
- 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- Powdered sugar
CRANBERRY JAM Rinse the cranberries under running water in a colander, discard any unripe or blemished berries. Combine cranberries, sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the cranberries “pop”. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until thick, stirring often, about 5 – 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Set aside to cool while finishing the tart shell.
TART SHELL While the cranberries cook, heat oven to 350F. Lightly spray a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pay special attention to the sides.
In a food processor, process the almonds, flour and cinnamon until almonds are powdery. Add butter and process until butter is fully worked in, then add sugar and work in. Add egg yolks and process until a ball forms, this can take 1 – 1-1/2 minutes. (I needed to split the dough in two for this to work.) Patience!
Now separate the dough into four pieces. Follow along, these few steps are easier to do than to write!
LATTICE First, remove 3/4 cup (200g) of the dough and divide into 10 equal balls. If the dough hasn’t been chilled, place these on a plate and refrigerate until ready to use.
DIVIDE Divide remaining piece of dough into two equal pieces.
WITH ONE PIECE, FORM THE SIDES Place the tart pan in front of your work area for a measuring guide. With the fingers of both hands outstretched, roll one piece into a rope long enough to encircle about half the pan. Arrange the rope along the inside edge of your pan; with your fingers, press the dough up the sides and a tiny bit onto the bottom, keep the dough an even thickness.
WITH THE OTHER PIECE, FORM THE BASE Press the remaining piece into the bottom of the tart pan, forming the base. To seal the tart, press the base and sides together so no line is visible.
ADJUST THE EDGE With your fingers, even out the top edge of the tart against the edge of the tart pan, filling any crevices, flattening so a bit that it doesn’t extend over the top of the tart pan.
FILL Spread Cranberry Jam evenly across the base.
FORM LATTICE One at a time, remove lattice balls from the fridge. Roll it into a rope the diameter of the tart pan, arrange it across the center. Roll four more ropes, put two on each side of the center rope, pinching off any excess. On the diagonal, repeat with the remaining five ropes, one in the center, two on each side.
BAKE For even baking, place tart pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely. Let tart sit for at least one day before serving.
TO SERVE Remove from tart pan and arrange tart on a serving plate. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS The Cranberry Jam may be made 1 – 2 days ahead, just cover with plastic wrap, touching the berries to avoid formation of a “film”. Helen says the dough can be made a day or two ahead, just cover well and chill. But I didn't have luck with this and won't do that again. Helen says that the whole tart, baked and cooled, may be double-wrapped in waxed paper and frozen. Bring to room temperature before slicing.
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