Apple and cranberry spice tart

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Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, cranberries, oranges, vanilla… all these spices, fruits, tastes and scents define the holiday season. I found fresh cranberries at La Grande Epicerie in Paris, basically the most chic food store in town, which happens to be just 5 minutes away from my place so I do wander in quite often :-). This is the place where the chic Parisians shop for their groceries and where tourists flood to find special French delicacies to take home as gifts. It’s more expensive than other food stores but totally worth the experience. There’s hardly anything that you can’t find there and it’s the perfect place to go when you’re searching for inspiration or for some special ingredients that are otherwise hard to find.

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Cranberries are a super-food, packed with anti-oxidants, so including them into a dessert is basically transforming it into a super-dessert. I’ve never worked with fresh cranberries before so I decided to give it a try. I love the tartness of these berries that goes together beautifully with orange and spices. I usually use dried cranberries in porridges and muffins. I make sure to buy the ones that are sweetened with pure apple juice and not sugar. To balance the tartness of the fresh berries, I paired them with sweet apples and sweetened everything with lots of maple syrup. The result was deliciously fruity and oh so full of all the holiday tastes. Combined with a gluten-free toasted hazelnut crust, this tart is light and christmassy, perfect for the holidays.

For the hazelnut crust
150 g buckwheat flour
50 g hazelnuts + 1 handful to use during the assembling of the tart
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
60 ml of coconut oil, chilled to solid
3 tablespoons of iced water

Preheat oven to 150°C. Toast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes, then transfer 150 g to a mixer or food-processor. Pulse them a few times to get a rough flour but be careful not to over pulse them or else they will turn into hazelnut butter. Let them cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 180°C. Prepare a 24 cm tart tin – use coconut oil to grease it well, then put in the refrigerator while you prepare the crust. I found it easier to work with the crust dough in the cold tin because it prevented the coconut oil in the crust to melt too much. I used the ceramic Le Creuset tart pan that I absolutely love because it bakes wonderfully and looks beautiful when serving.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, salt, spices and cooled hazelnut flour. Add the maple syrup and iced water and mix. Finally, add the chilled coconut oil and mix everything together with your hand to get a ball of dough. The heat from your hands will gradually soften the solid coconut oil and this will help bring the dough together.

Transfer the dough to the chilled tart tin and use your hands to spread it evenly to cover the bottom and the edges. Use a fork to puncture the dough evenly all over the bottom. this will prevent it to rise during baking. Bake for 20 minutes.

For the cranberry-orange filling
300 g of fresh cranberries
the juice from 2 oranges
the zest from 1 orange
4 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

While the tart crust is pre-baking, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer covered until a thick jam forms. Try not to eat it before assembling together the tart… honestly, it’s not easy!

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For the apple topping
2 sweet apples, peeled, deseeded and quartered
juice from the remaining half of orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Thinly slice the apple quarters and place them in a medium bowl. Add the orange juice and spices and mix everything well, to coat the apples uniformly. I chose Pink Lady apples for 2 reasons: number 1, I love the name, it reminds me of the Pink Ladies in the movie Grease!, and number 2, they’re deliciously sweet.

To assemble the tart
Spread the cranberry-orange jam evenly over the pre-baked tart crust. Chop the remaining toasted hazelnuts and sprinkle them evenly over the jam (leave 1 tablespoon to sprinkle on top of the assembled tart). place the apple slices evenly in a circular pattern, starting from the outer circle and moving towards the inside. If there’s any spice-orange juice mix left in the bowl, just sprinkle it evenly on top. Finish off by sprinkling the remaining chopped hazelnuts evenly over the top of the tart. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 180°C and simply enjoy the heavenly smells coming from your kitchen!

The tart is delicious, if eaten warm, maybe with some vanilla ice cream on top… just a suggestion ;-). It can also be made in mini versions by using either small tart sins or even muffins tins.

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