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Cranberry-Almond Shortbread Tart

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Serves 8 to 10

  • by Jill O'Connor from Fine Cooking
    Issue 119

Inspired by fregolatas (large, crisp Italian cookies flavored with almonds and cornmeal), this sturdy bar-cookie-disguised-as-a-tart features a tangy cranberry filling between two tender layers of almond-cornmeal shortbread.

For the cranberry filling
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 12 oz. fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 3 Tbs. apricot jam
For the shortbread
  • 3-1/2 oz. (1 cup) sliced almonds
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.) fine yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tbs. packed finely grated lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • 3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Cooking spray
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional)
Make the filling

Combine the sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 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, 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, 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 91/2 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.

Make Ahead Tips

The dough disks can be refrigerated up to 2 days, wrapped tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap.

The dough can be frozen for up to 2 weeks: Put the plastic-wrapped dough in a zip-top bag, seal, and freeze. Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

The finished tart can be wrapped in 2 layers of plastic wrap and stored for up to 2 days at room temperature.

The finished tart can be frozen for up to 2 weeks: Transfer it to a 10-inch cardboard cake round, wrap tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap and then in foil, and freeze. Up to 10 hours before serving, remove the foil but not the plastic wrap from the tart and thaw at room temperature. When completely thawed, remove the plastic wrap. For freshly baked flavor, warm the tart in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 520; Fat (g): 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 220; Saturated Fat (g): 12; Protein (g): 6; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 74; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 95; Cholesterol (mg): 65; Fiber (g): 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This was FABULOUS and mine looked just like the picture! The crust was so delicious and a compliment to the filling.

A big hit at T-day with my family - it's a great combo of sweet and tart. I used almond meal and forgot to toast it separately and it still turned out great.

Made this for Christmas. Watched a video from Joy of Baking which showed how to put the tart dough into the pan- very helpful. Unsure what temperature to bake it at. The recipe has 325 to cook the almonds and does not mention increasing it to cook the tart. Joy of Baking had 425 for tart shell, 13-15 minutes and down to 350 once the filling is in. I think that is what I did. Next time will not put so much dough on the top. Loved that it was not too sweet. Perfect!

Made this for T-Day and it was a hit. I liked it because it was not to sweet. I also really liked the toasted almond flavor. I had no problems getting mine to work in the 9 1/2 inch tart pan. I will make this again. For those who like things sweeter maybe they should look at the recipe for "Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars" by fine cooking.

I thought this was excellent! Easy to make ahead, transports easily, keeps well, not too sweet, pairs wonderfully with apple pie.

This was a big Thanksgiving hit! I made a few small modifications: 1) prepped the pan with butter, not cooking spray (yech); 2) no apricot jam in the house, so I flavored the cranberries with an orange's worth of segments, zest and juice; 3) instead of crumbling on the top crust, I grated it.

I made this for T-day; I followed the recipe exactly. I agree that the cranberry filling would have been too tart, so I did adjust it by adding some brown sugar. I agree the amount of crust seems excessive for the size tart pan, but that is all I have. There was extra crust/crumbles left over in the end. The finished tart gets 5 stars for presentation; it looked so pretty, sliced into near perfect wedges, and tasted very very good. I only give four stars as it was still tart and did seem to polarize the group gathered for our annual turkey fest. I am keeping this recipe, quite selfishly, for Xmas and will adjust the filling some more to see if I can get it to be a complete crowd pleaser.

Agree completely with doggerham's review. Too tart, too dry, too mealy. I also used an 11.5" pan (I don't think a 9.5 exists) and upped all ingredients by about 15% to make up the difference. Aside from the results being disappointing, the length of time to make this is absurd. I'd invested aout an hour in prep work when I realized I still had 1.5 hours to go with the chill time and 2 baking periods. For that much time and effort the result should be one of the best things you've ever eaten. This was far from that. Won't make it again.

I love cranberries, almonds and cornmeal, so this was a winner for me, especially accompanied by some homemade French vanilla ice cream. However, are you SURE about the 9.5-inch tart pan? I looked at the volume of ingredients I had created and couldn't believe they'd all fit. Like another reviewer, I used an 11.5-inch pan with excellent results.

I was disappointed with this recipe. As others said, the filling was very, very tart -- but that is easy enough to fix. Maybe I just don't care for cornmeal in desserts, but I found it too...crunchy or mealy. Maybe if I had pulverized the cornmeal with the nuts, I would have liked the results better. Also, the crust wasn't tender enough for my taste -- a little too sturdy. Most of these things can be tweaked, but it might just be easier to move on to a different recipe.

This is quite tart, so it was a bit polarizing. It was received better by my co-workers who ate the leftovers in the morning with coffee than the previous day's lunch guests that had it for dessert. I personally prefer something sweeter. Made in 11" tart pan since that's all I have and used scant 2/3 of dough for crust and 1/3 for topping based on other reviews. Looked just like the picture, though I had to cook a little longer to get the golden brown top.

Loved everything about it except the cornmeal. I would either cut it out next time or at least half it. Not a fan of cornmeal in my desserts. Other than that, it was excellent.

Tart - 5 stars, Recipe (as far as clarity is concerned) 4.8 - there were just a few vague moments in the recipe, but it was also the first time I'd ever made anything with shortbread. I was really happy with how it turned out, though mine was thicker because I put in all my filling. I cooked the bottom layer a bit too long, but I'll adjust that next time I make one - and there will be a next time, because this turned out so tasty in spite of my flubs. :) I will definitely be revisiting this recipe.

YUM!! Just made this as a test for Thanksgiving and it passed! Presentation is beautiful, it cut perfectly and was delicious. I added a cinnamon stick to the cranberry mixture while it was cooking otherwise I followed exactly. I thought it was an easy recipe to follow. It will be added to my Thanksgiving menu!

YUM!! Just made this as a test for Thanksgiving and it passed! Presentation is beautiful, it cut perfectly and was delicious. I added a cinnamon stick to the cranberry mixture while it was cooking otherwise I followed exactly. I thought it was an easy recipe to follow. It will be added to my Thanksgiving menu!

Made this for a picnic and everyone raved. Recipe was a little hard to follow, but results were outstanding.

found the recipe easy to follow. was concerned initally as the dough didn't hold together, but refrigerating for one hour did help with roll out process. Only used 1/2 the topping. Would have liked more filling! that being said, taste was excellent!

Great sounding receipe, however, it said what temperature to toast the almonds at but didn't say what temp to cook the crust or the rest of the tart....I guess I'll wing it...

Spectacular flavor and presentation. Recipe was a little hard to follow as presented in Magazine in addition to small white print on black background. Try printing from computer.

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