By Gabrielle. Photos by Liz Berget for Design Mom.
Cranberries! I’ve been craving them. I love the tart flavor. They’re gorgeous to look at. But outside of cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, and maybe a handful of Craisins when we make granola, I never use them in recipes. I mean never. I buy them to put in vases for flower arrangements, but I don’t have a single recipe that calls for cranberries.
So I thought, why not use this holiday baking season to up my cranberry game? I went straight to Liz Berget and asked her to share a cranberry-focused recipe that would be perfect for holiday entertaining.
Look how cute these mini-tarts are?! I adore what she came up with. I love that the sugared cranberries look like they have a coating of frost. So cute! I can’t wait to make these.
Before we jump into the recipe, I’d love to hear your take on cranberries? Do you like the taste? Do you ever buy them fresh? Or has your relationship with cranberries been largely focused on the juice (and perhaps it’s magical abilities to heal a uti)? Do you have any favorite recipes that feature cranberries? Please share!
Here’s what Liz says:
While kids everywhere race to finish their wish lists, food lovers everywhere are already smacking their lips as we stand at the start of the holiday food season. Once again, it’s that magical time of year when good crackers, even better cheese, and some fancy-pants proscuitto can count as dinner. We wake up and dip a Christmas cookie or four in our coffees; we kick our mid-afternoon sugar crashes with Mexican hot chocolate, all in the name of holiday cheer.
Our workplaces are graced with what seems like new goodies each day as we discover that that one receptionist really has a thing for baking. And don’t even get me started on the explosion of chocolate and mint combinations that December brings. It really is the most wonderful time of the food year. I imagine that dentists and personal trainers experience a similar euphoria come January 2.
I’m sure that you, like me, have a handful of holiday parties to attend and graze at, and these little mini tarts should be your contribution to the table. First, there is possibly nothing more festive than a sugared cranberry. Christmas red and glistening like country snow, sugared cranberries give you a pop of crunch and tart, followed by a soft and sweet interior. Second, they grace the tops of these tarts beautifully but also would be happy as part of a cheese plate or just out being beautiful and tasty in a bowl at your next festivity.
And these tarts? They are cute and hand-held and delicious. The crust tastes a bit like a sugar cookie — a very buttery sugar cookie. And the filling is a simple sweetened cream cheese mixture that you may, like me, sample eat straight with a spoon.
Together, these three components make the perfect holiday dessert. Held in one hand, your decaf coffee or cocktail in the other, these little desserts offer sweetness with that cranberry pop for balance.
So, Merry Christmas and happy eating, one and all! Enjoy this season with every bite!
Sugared Cranberry Mini Tarts
(yields 24 mini tarts)
12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 ½ additional cups white sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (¾ cup or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and sliced
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Pick through cranberries and discard any that are soft or misshapen. Place the keepers in a large bowl.
2. Heat 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir for 2-3 minutes until sugar has dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool until warm (not hot!). Pour the simple syrup over the cranberries.
4. Allow cranberries to cool completely (easily done with an hour in the fridge or on a snowy porch with the bowl covered).
5. Once cool, remove cranberries with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack. Be sure to place foil underneath to catch the drips. Allow to dry for 1 hour.
6. Then, roll a few cranberries at a time in the remaining sugar. You might need to gently press the sugar on to the cranberries to get it to adhere. (This was a little tedious — turn on a podcast and get your sugar on :).
7. Once they are sugared, place cranberries in an air-tight covered container in the fridge.
1. Combine the powdered sugar, flour, and butter in a food processor. Pulse until the dough forms a ball.
2. Place a scoop of dough into each mini muffin cavity and press down in the center with your thumbs to form a mini pie shell. (I used a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop for this step.)
3. Press each crust edge a few times with the tines of a fork and bake for 8-10 minutes until just slightly golden brown on the edges.
4. The bottoms will rise (forming more of a cookie than a crust, so as soon as they come out of the oven use the back of a spoon to press down the center of the tart so there will be room for the filling. Allow to cool completely.
5. Once cool, carefully loosen the edge of each crust with a spoon and gently lift out once loosened. They’re a little fragile; the edges might break a little, just go slowly!
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until no lumps remain.
Place cream cheese into a ziploc bag. Cut off one corner of the bag and use it to pipe the filling into the cooled crusts. Place one sugared cranberry on the top of each tart.
– The cranberries take a while – about 2.5 hours total, though most of it is hands-off time. I’d suggest making the sugared cranberries ahead of time, even days before.
– You will have far more cranberries than you need for the tarts. These keep well and make a great holiday table snack or cheese plate addition.
– Store tarts in the refrigerator, removing about 15 minutes before serving. These were good to eat the next day (store in refrigerator overnight), but their texture wasn’t great much beyond that.
Thank you so much, Liz! And thanks for being real about how long the cranberries take to sugar. I’ll queue up a podcast now!