Except for the fact that the tart uses fresh (or frozen) cranberries, the only tie it will have to our American Thanksgiving it will get on Thursday, when I serve it. At its heart, it’s French. It’s also simple and, of course, delicious.
The base is sweet tart, galette or pie dough. Although I bake the dough in a pie pan, by the time it’s baked and unmolded, it’s half its size – and that’s just the way it should be. (No mile-highers for the French, even when they’re feasting.) I fit the dough into the pan and then cut it down so that it only comes about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. After it bakes – and shrinks (inevitable) – it’s more a platter for the filling than a container and that’s perfect.
The filling is a few tablespoons of chunky jam (I use cherry) and then a fluffy layer of sweet meringue and tangy cranberries. Slowly baked in a low oven, the meringue dries and colors just slightly on top – that’s the crackle – and remains white and marshmallowy underneath.
I love it and I hope you will too.
Wishing all of you peace, love and sweetness this Thanksgiving.
CRANBERRY CRACKLE TART
Makes 6 servings
Sweet tart, galette or pie dough, ready to roll
For the filling:
2 tablespoons chunky cherry, raspberry or strawberry jam
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (if they’re frozen, don’t thaw)
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)
Butter a 9-inch pie pan (I use a Pyrex pan) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Sandwich the galette dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, wax or parchment paper, and roll the dough until it is a scant 1/8-inch thick. Don’t worry about making a beautiful circle because you’re going to trim the dough drastically.
Fit the dough into the pie pan, allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Gently press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan and then, using a paring knife, a pizza wheel or a rick-rack-edged ravioli wheel, estimate about one-third down from the rim of the pan and trim the dough to that point. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with the tines of a fork and slide the pan into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. (The leftover dough makes a nice turnover.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place a piece of parchment or a buttered piece of aluminum foil over the crust and weigh it down with rice, dried beans or pie weights. Bake the crust for 25 minutes, carefully remove the paper and weights and continue to bake for 8 to 12 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. The crust will have shrunk, but that’s fine – with this tart, it’s the base that’s most important. Set the crust aside to cool to room temperature.
When you’re ready to fill and bake the tart, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Spoon the jam into the crust and spread it evenly across the bottom.
Working in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed just until they turn opaque. With the mixer going, add the sugar in a very slow, steady stream. Keep beating until all the sugar is in and the whites are shiny and form peaks with pretty droopy tips – the whites will look like marshmallow. Pour the cranberries into the bowl and, using a spatula, fold the fruit into the meringue. Try to distribute the fruit evenly, but don’t try too hard – you want to keep the meringue fluffy. Turn the meringue into the crust and spread it to the edges, making it swirly if you’d like. The jam will sneak up around the edges of the meringue and that’s fine.
Bake the tart for 1 hour, at which point the top will be light beige and cracked here and there. Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and allow it rest for 15 minutes. If you’d like to unmold the tart – it’s pretty when it’s freestanding – poke a blunt knife between a small section of the crust and the pan to create a little air pocket, and then turn the tart over onto a rack. Carefully pull away the pan and, using another rack, turn the tart right-side up without pressing down on the meringue. Cool the tart to room temperature. The tart can be served now or you can chill it – I like it both ways.
Serving: Sprinkle the top of the tart with confectioner’s sugar, if you’d like, and serve. In France, I’ve seen some meringue tarts served with whipped cream and some with ice cream. Despite my thinking that the cream was too much, I polished it off and enjoyed it.
Storing: The tart is best served the day it’s made, although it’s still pretty nice one day later.