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Start the Holidays with a Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Oh, Gawd – the Holidays are here. I can tell because I’m getting weepy and nostalgic over the silliest things. Starting with the Cranberry Shortbread Tart I’m preparing for our Thanksgiving celebration and ending with Charlie Brown. Shortbread and Charlie Brown might seem like an odd partnership I know (I know), but whenever the holidays begin their approach I always find myself thinking about good ole Chuck. And Chuck was a fan of shortbread. This I know for sure.

Yes, Charlie Brown will always be a part of my Christmas mindset. But it’s not Christmas and yet I still find myself thinking about young Charlie Brown as I crumble the shortbread topping for my Cranberry Shortbread Tart.

When I was a kid there was no “on demand” TV, so Charlie Brown and his pathetic bent over Christmas tree always waited until after Turkey Day to hum their way into my heart. Nothing could get me wound up for the Holidays quite like Lucy refusing to eat “November snowflakes” and that cute as heck Schroeder pecking away at his keyboard (I bet he’s a hottie today). I still can’t get into the Christmas spirit until I’ve heard the songs from that show. Of course, Netflix and the like have changed all that. I can stream A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I like. Holiday nostalgia is just a click away 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

But there are some Charlie Brown memories that, for me, can’t be binged on a flat screen television. Which means, these days, it takes a little more Charlie Brown to get my holiday juices flowing.

Lucy's Lemon Bars

Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Whenever I get weepy and nostalgic (especially at the Holidays) my mother is is usually the culprit. She passed away quite a long time ago. In fact, I’ve now lived longer than she ever did.

Her time was short but her talent and quirks were epic. I’ve gone into them far too often on this blog. So today, I’ll just say that my mom was a great cook. She was highly influenced by Julia Child and classic French cuisine. Despite her talents with anything labeled Cordon Bleu, my mom wasn’t much of a traditional-suburban-mom-baker as far as I recall. To her credit, she made really good oatmeal cookies and she accurately considered chocolate fondue an acceptable replacement to birthday cake. Still, the most memorable meals from my childhood almost never included something sweet at the end – unless it was wrapped in a crêpe.

However, I do remember one time about a week before Thanksgiving when I convinced her to make lemon bars using a recipe straight out of the Charlie Brown Cookbook. It was a prized possession of mine and somehow “just this once” I got her excited about a recipe containing absolutely no French grammar.

I can still picture the generous way she read the recipe aloud to me as we gathered all the ingredients together. I’m sure, thanks to Charlie Brown, this was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase mise en place uttered.

The recipe must have come together quickly and easily, I have no real memories of the actual cooking. You see, the thing about a vintage 1970 Charlie Brown Cookbook is this: every recipe must have been quite simple to prepare. So I’m surprised that my mother gasped and decried the whole thing a failure before we ever got those lemon bars into the oven. The thing my mom found so distressful about the recipe was how much extra shortbread dough there was leftover (she believed a lemon bar should have a thin, delicate base). She couldn’t just throw the excess away – so she did the first thing that made sense to her. She crumbled the extra dough on top of the lemon bars giving them a crumble-top that Charlie Brown never intended.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t seem to stop myself from crumbling a bit of extra shortbread on the top of my Cranberry Shortbread Tart. GREG

Cranberry Shortbread Tart

PS If you come back after thanksgiving I’ll post a picture of a slice of this Cranberry Shortbread Tart with its nostalgic crumble topping.

Slice of Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Cranberry-Almond Shortbread Crumble Tart

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Jill O’Connor for Fine CookingPublished
Cranberry-Almond Shortbread Crumble Tart

Ingredients

  • 2 cup granulated sugar (divided)
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 12 ounce fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoon apticot jam (optional)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter )cut into 16 pieces and softened)
  • 2 teaspoon inely grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tea teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Cooking spray
  • Confectioners’ sugar for garnish (optional)

Directions

Make the filling: Combine 1‑cup sugar, lemon juice, and ½ cup water in a 3‑quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes. Add the cranberries and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the cranberries have popped and the liquid is syrupy, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the apricot jam and simmer until the jam melts (if using), about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Make the shortbread: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until warm and fragrant but not yet brown, about 5 minutes; let cool completely.

In a food processor (with at least a 10-cup capacity), combine the nuts with 2 Tbs. of the flour. Pulse until very fine but not powdery, 20 to 25 short pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the remaining flour, the cornmeal, and salt.

In the food processor, combine the butter, remaining 1‑cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and almond extract.

Pulse until creamy, 10 to 20 short pulses. Add the egg yolk and pulse a few times to combine. Add the dry ingredients and pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, just until a soft dough forms, 30 to 40 short pulses. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic and divide.

Lightly coat a round 9½ x1-inch fluted metal tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Press half of the dough evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap. Form the remaining dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough and the tart shell until very firm, at least 30 minutes.

Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork and bake on a heavy-duty baking sheet until firm, dry, and just starting to turn golden brown around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. The shortbread will have puffed up during baking, so use the back of a spoon to gently press down the bottom of the crust to create enough space for the cranberry filling. Spoon the filling into the tart and spread evenly.

Crumble the remaining shortbread dough over the cranberries in pebble-like pieces, covering the filling. Bake until the topping is firm and golden-brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Carefully remove the tart rim. Slide a long, flat spatula between the pastry and the pan bottom and transfer the tart to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using, just before serving.

 

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