The Antidote to Pumpkin Pie: Cranberry Linzer Tart
Anyone who knows me well knows that pumpkin pie just isn’t my jam on Thanksgiving Day.
But “Cranberry Linzer Tart,” which actually has a jam-like filling most certainly is.
Over the years, I’ve become partial to cranberry desserts for the big holiday. With their vivid color, the berries add an especially festive look. And after a groaning meal, their wonderful tartness refreshes and resets the palate like nothing else.
This recipe is from the archives of Bon Appetit magazine. It was created by food writer Claire Saffitz, author of the cookbook, “Dessert Person” (Clarkson Potter, 2020), and a former contributing editor at the magazine.
As far as pies and tarts go, this one is fairly easy to do. Best yet, you can make not only the dough and filling ahead of time — always a plus when time is short during the holidays — but the entire tart can be baked the day before, then served at room temperature or reheated in the oven for serving.
The filling is just fresh or frozen cranberries cooked with sugar, ginger, a little butter, and little lemon zest until their natural pectin is released to thicken everything up like jam.
The crust is made in seconds in a food processor. Toasted walnuts, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg give it an especially nice autumnal warmth and toastiness.
The dough is quite soft. In fact, you can easily press it into the tart pan just using your fingers. However, that does make it a little fiddly to work with when it comes to creating a lattice top to go over the filled tart.
When the recipe advises not to fuss with it too much to try to create the most perfect interwoven lattice, take heed. This is not the time to patiently weave every strip under and over. Nope, these strips of dough soften up quickly. You need to work fast, as they can easily tear as you transfer them from the parchment paper to the top of the tart. Mine sure did. So, I ended up laying out a few strips, then transferring the rest (with parchment paper and all) to the freezer for 5 minutes or so to firm back up. Meantime, I returned the tart to the fridge. When the strips solidified again, I laid them across the top of the tart, brushed them with egg wash, and popped it into the oven.
Even if you had to patch your dough strips back together here and there because of tearing, your tart will still bake up like the beauty that she is.
In fact, your friends and family are sure too “ooh” and “ahh” when you bring it to the table, with none the wiser.
This tart is like a giant Linzer cookie — with two layers of crumbly, buttery pastry encasing a sweet-tangy jammy filling that still has some whole berries intact for an added chunky texture.
You can dust it with powdered sugar — or not, if you prefer to to put the golden pastry lattice on prominent display on its own, as I did. A small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a cloud of softly whipped cream make a nice accompaniment if you want to dress it up more or add a counterbalance to the zing of the fruit.
Here’s to cranberry desserts. As for pumpkin, I’ll save that instead for baking in bread, cake or muffins in the days ahead.
Cranberry Linzer Tart
For the filling:
1 pound fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled ginger
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
For the dough and assembly:
1½ cups walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons. finely grated lemon zest
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
14 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
Powdered sugar (for serving)
To make the filling: Bring cranberries, sugar, ginger, butter, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often to prevent scorching and help dissolve sugar. Continue to cook, stirring often, until cranberries burst, mixture is syrupy, and pot is visible when a wooden spoon is dragged across the bottom (mixture should be reduced to about 1¾ cups), 10–12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Chill until cold, at least 1 hour.
Do Ahead: Filling can be made 3 days ahead. Transfer to a nonreactive container; cover and chill.
For dough and assembly: Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350° degrees. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool.
Pulse walnuts, granulated sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, salt, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, and 2 cups flour in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Add butter and pulse until largest pieces are pea-size. Add 1 egg and process in long pulses until dough forms a ball around the blade. Divide dough in half. Wrap one half in plastic, flattening into a ½-inch-thick disk. Press the remaining half into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom, working it across bottom and up sides with floured hands to create an even layer. Chill the dough in the pan and the wrapped dough until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Scrape filling into crust and spread into an even layer.
Unwrap remaining dough and roll out on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, dusting with more flour as needed to prevent sticking, to a ⅛-inch-thick round.
Cut dough into 8 strips.
Arrange strips over top of tart in a crosshatch pattern (this dough is delicate, so don’t fuss with strips too much once they’re on the tart). Pinch off excess dough and press strips into edges to adhere. If dough strips get too soft to handle, stick the entire parchment paper with them on it into the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up. Meantime return tart to the fridge until you’re ready to add the rest of the strips overtop. Pinch off excess dough and press strips into edges to adhere.
Once the strips have all been arranged over top, chill the entire tart for 15–20 minutes.
Beat remaining egg in a small bowl and brush over crust.
Bake tart until crust is golden brown around the edges and golden across surface and filling is bubbling, 45–55 minutes. Let cool.
Just before serving, remove ring from pan and dust tart with powdered sugar.
Do Ahead: Tart can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
Adapted from a recipe by Claire Saffitz, published in Bon Appetit magazine, Oct. 16, 2018
Another Claire Saffitz Recipe to Enjoy: Cranberry-Pomegranate Mousse Pie
More Cranberry Recipes to Love: Sally Schmitt’s Cranberry and Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce
And: Cranberry Roly Poly