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Cranberry Curd Tart, a garnet-hued delight

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Cranberries are the under-appreciated fruit of fall and winter.

They’re often relegated to a sad cylinder of canned cranberry sauce at the edge of the Thanksgiving table, an afterthought to the apples and pumpkins taking up the dessert space.

Cranberries scattered on a blue background

Which is a shame, because when strategically deployed, cranberry desserts not only bring a welcome burst of color, they bring a lovely puckery acidity to punctuate a big meal.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a classic apple pie. But it’s not the only way to celebrate fall and winter.

This cranberry curd tart is the cold-weather dessert you didn’t know you needed.

Easy Shortbread Tart Crust

The curd itself is a deep-red garnet color, with a silky smooth texture and the tart cranberry flavor gets rounded out with vanilla and orange (and not a small amount of butter and sugar and eggs). 

It comes together in a few minutes on the stove, and it doesn’t even require you to set up a double boiler.

Cranberry Curd Tart on a cake stand

And honestly, the curd itself is worthy of licking off the spatula.

But this dessert gets even better.

It sits on a super-easy press-in shortbread crust that doesn’t need any resting time, making this even easier than most pies. 

Cranberry curd tart with Italian meringue, untorched

And, because the curd leaves a couple of egg whites behind, I like to top it with a bit of Italian meringue that I hit with a blow torch.

Which, honestly, is a totally unnecessary bit of showing off and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.

(You know you want to.)

Cranberry Curd Tart with toasted meringe, vertical orientation
Yield: 8 servings

Cranberry Curd Tart

Cranberry Curd Tart with toasted meringe, vertical orientation

This cranberry curd tart uses a press-in shortbread crust inspired by one Alice Medrich uses in everything. This one has a bit of orange zest and powdered sugar to keep it tender. The cranberry curd itself is a riff on one I've been making for years that's rounded out with a generous splash of vanilla, some freshly squeezed orange juice from the orange you just zested, and an optional splash of any orange liqueur you like (but don't bother going out to buy Grand Marnier or Dry Curacao just for this). The tart crust can be made and baked up to two days ahead, and the curd can be cooked and chilled up to a week in advance, you can then assemble and bake the tart on the day (or day before) you want to eat it. The meringue is totally optional, but because the tart leaves you with extra egg whites from the curd, it's easy to go that extra step and add the meringue. The amount of meringue isn't as much what you would typically do for a towering lemon meringue pie, but it's plenty for piping decoratively on the top (and enough to cover the whole top with dots like you see pictured if you wanted to do that). You'll need a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one orange

For the cranberry curd

  • 12 ounces cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier (optional)

For the Italian meringue

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

Make the crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Add the flour, powdered sugar, and salt to a small bowl and whisk together. Melt the butter in a small saucepan (or in the microwave), add the vanilla extract and orange zest to the butter and stir, then pour into the dry ingredients and stir together until thoroughly moistened. 
  2. Press the dough evenly along the bottom and sides into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Make the cranberry curd

  1. Heat the cranberries and orange juice in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the cranberries split. Strain through a food mill or fine mesh sieve and discard the skins.  
  2. Return the strained cranberry mixture to the saucepan and add the sugar, eggs, egg yolks, butter, vanilla, and orange liqueur (if using) to the pan and give everything a good stir. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and registers 170°F on an instant read thermometer (this usually takes about 8-9 minutes). Immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl (ideally with a pouring spout) and then pour into the prepared crust. Bake (still at 350°F) until the curd is set (it should jiggle but not slosh), about 10 minutes.
  3. Let cool at room temperature for about 1 hour, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill. You can serve this chilled or at room temperature.

Make the Italian meringue topping (totally optional)

  1. Add egg whites and cream of tartar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. When the sugar mixture registers about 220°F turn on the mixer and begin beating the egg whites on medium speed. When the sugar mixture registers 240°F remove from heat and carefully pour into the mixer over the egg whites. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag (or zip top bag) and pipe onto cooled tart as desired. If you want, torch the meringue with a kitchen torch. (But since it is cooked, this is totally optional).

Notes

Tart is best on the day it is made, but keeps well, refrigerated, for up to two days.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 203gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 164mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 3gSugar: 56gProtein: 9g
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dawn

Tuesday 24th of December 2019

i have made this tart twice and it’s amazing! although i find that the crust is never enough dough. i tried the recipe as is twice and had to make 50% more each time. anyone else?!?

Mary Kasprzak

Wednesday 25th of December 2019

When it seems like there isn't enough dough, you just need to keep pressing it thinner. Just keep pushing and spreading it with your fingers and it will cover the whole pan eventually, I promise! It's supposed to be quite thin!

R Armstrong

Tuesday 24th of December 2019

Can I make the tart shell ahead of time and refrigerate it?

Mary Kasprzak

Tuesday 24th of December 2019

You can make the tart shell ahead of time and keep it at room temperature for a day or two. There's no need to refrigerate just the shell.

Alex

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

Thinking of making this recipe for a Christmas dinner in a week. How think should the curd be before pouring it into the shell?

Mary Kasprzak

Monday 23rd of December 2019

The curd will be the right thickness if you cook it to 170°F. It should coat the back of a spoon.

Alicia

Saturday 21st of December 2019

I think it would be good to specify what amount of orange juice to use in the curd since all oranges have a different amount of juice. I'm in the middle of making this. I think my orange had about 1/2 cup of juice. Thanks! Can't wait to try it!

Mary Kasprzak

Saturday 21st of December 2019

The curd is flexible enough to work with the typical range of juice in most oranges. Anywhere from a 1/3 cup to about 3/4 cup is fine.

Jenn McVay

Friday 20th of December 2019

I can’t wait to try this recipe, but I’m concerned because my tart pan does not have a removable bottom. Why is that type of pan recommended?

Mary Kasprzak

Friday 20th of December 2019

I recommend a tart pan with a removable bottom because it makes it easy to remove the tart from the pan.

It's tough to remove a tart from a one-piece pan.

That said, you could serve it in the pan if you want to go ahead and make it in the tart pan you have.