Editor's note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn't. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
This tart practically shouts "Happy Holidays!" Sweetened cranberries are baked in a crunchy, flavorful crust that features almonds, orange peel, cinnamon and chocolate and tastes like a linzer cookie. Both its festive looks and its ingredients are as traditional as holly and mistletoe.
It's a good recipe for this busy time of year, for it requires very little active time. The crust is made entirely in a food processor and the filling takes around 10 minutes on the stove top. After about 45 minutes in the oven and some time cooling, it's ready to serve.
We think it's best the day it's baked, but it's still quite good the day after it's made. We serve it cool, with a topping of sweetened whipped cream.
Cranberry tart with a linzer crust
(Make in a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.)
1 cup almonds
11⁄2 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar, preferably Baker's
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 cup cold unsalted butter (two sticks)
2 large egg yolks
3 generous cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1⁄4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
11⁄4 to 11⁄2 cups granulated sugar, preferably Baker's
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 to 3 teaspoons Grand Marnier, optional
Powdered sugar, optional
Sweetened whipped cream, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the lowest position.
Make the crust: Put the almonds, flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are ground. Add the cocoa, cinnamon and orange peel and pulse to combine. Cut the cold butter into small pieces, add them to the processor and pulse until fine crumbs are formed. Add the egg yolks and process until large, moist clumps of dough are formed and almost make a ball on the top of the blade. Dump the dough out on a sheet of waxed a paper and gently knead until combined and smooth. Form the dough into a disc and refrigerate until it firms up.
Make the filling: Sort the cranberries, discarding any imperfect ones (add more if needed to make three generous cups). Wash and dry them. Place them, with the cranberry juice cocktail, one and a fourth cups of the granulated sugar, and the orange peel in a large saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring, until some of the berries pop and the filling thickens to the consistency of soft jam. Give it a taste and add more sugar, if desired. Remove from the heat and, if using, add a little Grand Marnier to taste. Set the filling aside to thicken further and cool to close to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Lightly grease the bottom of your tart pan (don't include the pan sides or the dough may slide down as it bakes). Remove the dough from the refrigerator. You can either pat it in the pan or roll it to make the tart shell. If using a rolling pin, roll it into a circle about eleven inches in diameter and place it in the tart pan, fold the sides in on themselves, press to make a uniform edge, and trim the top even with the sides of the tart pan. To pat the dough in the pan, pinch large pieces of the dough off the disc and pat them into the sides and bottom of the pan and trim the top. Whichever method you use, you want the shell to be about a quarter of an inch deep on the bottom and a little wider on the sides (three-eighths of an inch). Form a ball from any extra dough. Refrigerate or freeze the lined tart pan until the dough is quite firm.
Remove the dough-lined tart pan from the refrigerator/freezer and place it on a baking sheet. Spoon the filling into it, leveling it as you go. Remove the chilled extra dough, pinch it into tiny pieces (you probably won't use it all), and sprinkle them over the filling, but not covering it completely. Bake until the filling bubbles and the sides of the tart shell puff, are set, and brown a little at the edges. This can take from 40-55 minutes, depending on your oven and how cold the tart shell was when put in it. Cool the tart on a rack until room temperature. Store covered loosely in the refrigerator. If you like, sprinkle powdered sugar decoratively over the tart before serving (the contrast between the sweet sugar and the cranberry filling is a nice one). Serve slightly cool with sweetened whipped cream, flavored with a bit of orange peel or Grand Marnier.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.