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The best laid plans, and a Linzer tart

I started with the best of intentions. When I set out for Oklahoma a week ago, I planned to return with rapturous photos of a bronze-skinned turkey; my mother’s tried-and-true gravy secrets; the complete, unabridged tale of Brother Timothy’s stuffing and the decades-old Junior League cookbook from which it springs annually in full glory, with pork sausage, chicken livers, toasted almonds, spinach, Parmigiano Reggiano, and brandy; and at least a few presentable photos. All for you, dear reader. But I got a little distracted. There was plenty of rapture, yes, and the turkey and stuffing were certainly up to snuff, but when I dragged my suitcase back into Seattle on Sunday night, all I had to show for myself was a bargain-priced 10” All-Clad skillet, a half-dozen predictably failed photos with Brandon, and a lone recipe. Luckily for all of us, the recipe in question should make up for my shortcomings. I started with the best of intentions, and by god, I’ve brought you a cranberry Linzer tart.

I hope you’ll see fit to forgive me.

This delectable thing has been making regular appearances on our holiday table for a decade now, since a very snowy, fortuitous, and fateful getaway to the Wooden Goose Inn in Cape Neddick, Maine. I was only 17, and obviously very impressionable. The innkeepers, two unabashed gourmands by the name of Tony and Jerry, treat their guests to elaborate breakfasts and teas each day, and we quickly fell under the sway of their kitchen. I’ve already written a paean to their elegant but buckle-busting breakfasts, but tea-time left us equally wide-eyed and weak-kneed. I wasted no time in choosing a favorite among the array of homemade tarts and pastries, and ten years later, I haven’t budged an inch. For me, each afternoon in Maine meant a rich, black cup of coffee and a hefty wedge of cranberry Linzer tart, sweet, sour, and almost spicy, in a sandy almond crust fragrant with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. And today, for my mother and me, each holiday season means an afternoon of measuring cups and a full, hefty pan of cranberry Linzer tart.

So this Thanksgiving, I got my fix of Mom, man, and tart. My mother kindly cast a blind eye to all our cutesy carrying-on, and in return, Brandon—bless his huge, thumping heart—charmed her with brown-butter mashed potatoes and daily doses of his trademark fennel salad, weeded out her old pots and pans and a few dead electronics, and plowed through her pantry full of old, rancid oils and crusty vinegars. Were I less susceptible to so much delicious distraction, I would have chronicled every second. But instead, I sat back, gave a lot of thanks, and ate a lot of Linzer tart.

Cranberry Linzer Tart
Adapted from the Wooden Goose Inn

This beauty may look like a lot of work, but it comes together quite simply. First and foremost, keep in mind that the lattice top is only as complicated as you want to make it. We don’t usually bother with a lot of fancy weaving; just lay a few strips of dough in one direction, and then lay a second layer on top, perpendicular to the first. If you’re feeling especially festive, you could even try topping the tart with a mosaic of cookie-cutter shapes instead of a traditional lattice. It’s the holidays, after all, so you’re allowed to get a little schmaltzy.

For the filling:
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cold water, divided
12 ounces fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
½ cup golden raisins
1 tsp grated orange peel
2 Tbs cornstarch

For the crust:
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups toasted almonds, finely ground
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated orange peel
¼ tsp ground cloves
A pinch of salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 Tbs water
Water, as needed

Whipped cream, for serving

To make the filling, combine the sugar and ½ cup water in a medium saucepan. Put the pan over medium heat, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. The mixture will look cloudy. Stir in the cranberries, raisins, and orange peel. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until the cranberries pop, about 6 minutes. In a small bowl, blend the cornstarch with the remaining ¼ cup water, and stir it into the cranberry mixture. Set the saucepan aside, and allow the filling to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.*

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, combine the flour, ground almonds, sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, and salt. Add the butter, and process until the mixture is crumbly. With the machine running, add the egg yolks mixed with water, and process until combined. Squeeze a handful of the dough in your fist; if it is still on the dry, crumbly side, add little splashes of water—about a ½ Tbs at a time—with the machine running, continuing to pulse the dough until it coheres nicely to itself when squeezed. This dough is pretty forgiving, and you need not really worry about overworking it. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the dough for the lattice top. Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9” removable-bottom tart pan. Bake it for 15 minutes.

To assemble the tart, spoon the cooled cranberry filling into the crust. On a clean surface, pat and roll the remaining 1 ½ cups crust dough into a flat circle about ¼ inch thick. With a pairing knife, cut the circle into rough ¾-inch strips. Working carefully—the dough is delicate—overlay the strips to form a lattice on top of the filling. Bake the finished tart for 30 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, preferably with lightly sweetened and loosely whipped cream.

*Note: The cooled filling should have the consistency of a chunky chutney or jam. If you find it a tad loose, as we did this year, simply spoon out some of the excess liquid until you reach the desired consistency; then spoon the filling into the crust.

Yield: 8-10 servings


Blogger tara said...

However "prefictably-failed," that photo is completely adorable. Even if the best laid plans rarely work out, they seem to make way for absoutlely wonderful, spontaneous weekends. It sounds like a lovely holiday. The description of this cranberry tart's crust is mouth-watering.

6:44 AM, December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Molly - this looks like my kind of dessert, can't wait to try it. Sometimes regular Linzertarts can be a bit cloying with all the raspberries and sugar, but with cranberries it sounds splendid. Thanks for the recipe and the lovely write-up!

6:56 AM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

Glad you had a good Thanksgiving!

8:29 AM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger Dawna said...

That sounds like a lovely holiday - full of kitchen renewal, delicious food, and kisses. The best kind of holiday, really. Sadly for me, cranberries are somewhat problematic to the other member of my household. I may have to coax my sister into making one of these, so that I can have a slice...

9:01 AM, December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Sher said...

Yummm. I'm having my morning coffee and wish I had a slice of that!! I think this would taste better to me than traditional Linzertart, which can be a little overwhelming. Thanks for the recipe.


9:25 AM, December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly, you take the best photographs of food!

1:22 PM, December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Heather said...

Molly, now I am afraid that you are reading my mind. First, I had a hankering for brussel sprouts, and *poof!* you post a recipe. Yesterday, I was vaguely wondering what to do with the extra bag o' cranberries I have (Bread? Boring! Muffins? Predictable!) and here this is.

It's getting a little creepy.

3:37 PM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger michelle said...

Looks fantastic, and I forgive you completely because that gorgeous picture and the accompanying recipe are well-worth every bit of drooling from your other descriptions. I'm definitely going to try this one.

4:38 PM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger Brian Gardunia said...

I bet that the cranberry filling would be a great addition to coffee cake. Especially with a crumb topping. Breakfast needs more crumb topping and cranberry filling.

7:04 PM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

First off, I agree with Brian's comment about breakfast needing more crumb topping and cranberry filling.
Secondly, I'll agree with everyone else about the cranberries being a wonderful choice for a linzer tart.
And finally, Happy Thanksgiving, Molly.

7:46 PM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Tara, I see that you too have recently found your best intentions foiled! But between your palmiers and my tart, you know, I think it turned out alright after all. Hope you're having some wonderful, spontaneous times yourself, my dear.

Luisa, you're very welcome! I agree with you about the too-sweet mediocrity of most Linzer tarts, so I'm happy to confirm that between the cranberries and the fragrant, nutty crust, this is a different animal entirely. Oh, and incidentally, my mother also has a very good recipe for Linzer cookies that uses a not-too-sweet almond dough. I've eaten many Linzer cookies over the years, and hers are my favorite, hands down. I may have to dig the recipe out for my holiday baking, which officially starts this weekend. It too is an exception to the usual so-so Linzer fare.

Foodiechickie, thank you. It looks as though you had a wonderful weekend too!

Dawna, yes, when you strip away all the other stuff, it's mainly about the kitchen, the food, and the kisses. I hope your holiday weekend brought plenty of the same. And as for cranberries, yes, call your sister into action! This tart really is not too be missed.

Sher, you're welcome! This tart is surprisingly delicious with coffee. I wouldn't have guessed it from the ingredients list, but there's something about the chocolately bitterness of a cup of black coffee that pairs wonderfully with the rich, nutty, sweet-sourness of the tart.

Awww, Anonymous, thank you! I do think my little camera does a pretty good job, but truth be told, what I really need is one of those monstrously expensive SLR cameras. With one of those at my disposal, nothing could stop me. But first, I need a benefactor...

Well, Heather, I do what I can! I would attribute these coincidences to an amazing psychic connection, but I'm afraid, my dear, that it's just a simple matter of seasonality. Winter arrives, and poof! Time for Brussels sprouts and cranberries! The question is, what's next?

Michelle, thank you--for the compliments and the forgiveness! I see that my little plan worked...

Brian, I second you on all counts. More cranberry and more crumb topping, in all things.

And Nic, baker extraordinaire, I'm so glad that you're with me when it comes to cranberries in Linzer tarts! It looks as though you must have had a wonderful Thanksgiving yourself, what with all those terrific-sounding recipes you've been posting. I haven't been commenting as frequently as I'd like, but know that I always love tuning in for your recipes and baking advice. Happy holidays to you.

9:55 PM, December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What kind of fairy tale family did you grow up in? Vacationing at Inns owned by delightful culinary couples? Tea times and linzer tarts at the mere age of seventeen? Go thank your parents while I go question mine. Sounds like a delightful and delicious youth.

8:05 PM, December 02, 2005  
Blogger Shauna said...

Molly, as always, you dazzle me. Your self-deprecation at the lack of brilliant photos is, of course, needless. The linzer torte shot makes me want to experiment with a gluten-free version of this immediately. And the shot of you and Brandon? Those are the kind of predictable failures I love. Splendid.

11:11 AM, December 03, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a celebration of delights...and be sure to have a look at my sister-in-laws delights at her website her sweets are out of this world...


4:10 PM, December 03, 2005  
Blogger kickpleat said...

i'm always afraid to make pie and this recipe (a tart!) seems do-able. i could wait until someone buys me a food processor or i could just bone up and try my hand at making it on my own. this recipe give me something to think about. i'd really love a slice!

6:52 PM, December 03, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

It was pretty delightful and delicious, Anonymous, although I must admit that my youth certainly wasn't all fairy tales, all the time. I did grow up in Oklahoma, you know. But yes, I am eternally grateful to my parents, who had--and still have--the generosity and the good taste to make sure that I had some wonderful experiences.

Shauna, ma cherie, you're pretty splendid yourself! And as I mentioned today, I think this tart would lend itself quite handily to a gluten-free variation. Yum.

Anonymous, thanks for the tip.

And kickpleat, we've got to get you a food processor immediately, my dear! I don't know what I'd do without mine. If you want to give this a go sans Cuisinart, though, I think you'd be alright, as long as you have some other way of grinding almonds to a fine meal...or maybe buying almond meal? Keep me posted!

7:42 PM, December 03, 2005  
Anonymous Julie said...

Awww, Molly...there's nothing like the spice of love to make our holidays absolutely delicious. I'm so glad that you're enjoying them! And I'm so glad to know that you too are a linzer lover. I'd love to see your mom's linzer cookie recipe -- and check out my linzer biscotti, posted for Cookie Swap.

8:20 PM, December 03, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Awww, yes, Julie, the spice of love is mighty delicious! And your linzer biscotti look pretty damn fine, too. I like your idea of making some with raspberry preserves and some with apricot--and with a little nip of liqueur in each! Sounds wonderful. As for my mom's cookies, I had planned to make them this weekend but got sidetracked with macaroons and chocolate-capped fruit-and-nut balls. Next weekend, I hope...

6:21 PM, December 04, 2005  
Blogger T said...

Wow that looks gorgeous and sounds delicious, Molly! By the way, my favorite line of all is "I got my fill of Mom, man and tart." You're hilarious :-)

5:43 PM, December 06, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I'm glad to see you spent your Thanksgiving doing what really mattered! ;) And I'll echo all your other admirers - gorgeous photo and beautiful writeup. I'm usually more on the raspberry side of the fence than the cranberry, but any tart that has held you captive for ten long years sounds awfully tempting...

4:42 AM, December 07, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Tanvi, thank you!

And Melissa, thank you. It was a pretty dreamy little holiday. [Sigh.] And I'd dare to bet that your sophisticated palate would approve of this tart, no question...

8:11 PM, December 08, 2005  
Anonymous christina said...

hi molly,

don't know if you'll get this question on an old post, but i'm wondering about the ground almonds for the crust: should i measure 1-1/2 c. whole almonds before toasting in the oven, or 1-1/2 c. of the ground mixture? maybe the difference is subtle but i want to be sure to get the measure right!

many thanks for a beautiful and inspiring blog. all the best for a warm holiday season and a very happy new year to you & yours!

11:11 AM, December 23, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Christina, please accept my apologies for not getting back to you sooner with a reply! The pesky but lovable beast of Christmas had me waylaid for a while there.

At any rate, your question is a very good one, and actually, it is one that my mother and I puzzle over each time we pull out this recipe. The way I have typed it here is exactly the way it was given to us by our friends at the Wooden Goose Inn, and frankly, I'm unsure myself of what it means! This year, Mom and I chose to measure 1 1/2 cups whole almonds, but as I mentioned in the directions, our crust then needed a bit more water. Perhaps it would be better to do 1 1/2 cups ground almonds? Either way, you can't go wrong; it really is a very forgiving dough.

I hope that helps, and happy holidays to you!

1:18 PM, December 27, 2005  
Blogger Amy said...

Delicious and a great new addition to our Thanksgiving table.

11:06 AM, November 25, 2011  

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