This is an adaptation of two wonderful recipes from The American Baker: a Walnut Caramel Tart and Cranberry Caramel Tart. We combine them because the sweet of the caramel and tart of the cranberries results in a festive tasty treat. This pie has become a treasured tradition at our Thanksgiving and Christmas tables.
When I met Jim Dodge, his love of pastry is very evident. To cook lunch for him was an honor and great fun. He was very surprised to learn of our 20 year family tradition based on his recipes.
Adapted from and with permission of: Chef Jim Dodge
The American Baker: Exquisite Desserts from the Pastry Chef of the Stanford Court
Simon & Schuster, New York 1987
by Jim Dodge
Begin by making Chef Dodge’s 10-inch Short Dough tart shell, blind baked
INGREDIENTS For 1 pie or tart shell
8 tablespoons (1/4 pound) unsalted butter (cold)
1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup cold water
Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces
In a mixer, blend the butter and flour at low speed until they resemble coarse meal.
You can always do this by hand with a pastry cutter or two knives
Mix in the sugar, salt, and add them to the flour mixture, then add the cold water
Stop once, to scrape the bowl and paddle.
Blend only until the dough just comes together.
The dough will be moist, soft, and smooth.
Chill the dough
METHOD TO ROLL THE DOUGH
Equipment: a rolling pin, a flour brush and your baking pan, I use a removable bottom tart pan
Work on a well-floured table, board, or I use marble because it is cold
Place the dough on the board and sprinkle a little flour on top
Shape the dough into a thick circle, about 6 inches in diameter.
Then roll out until the circle is 13 inches in diameter or a size to fit your tart pan.
Place the circle of dough in the tart pan with it slightly overlapping the edges of the tart pan
Create a lovely edge with hand crimping or using a tined fork
Or roll a rolling pin around the edge to make is completely smooth
Refrigerate until firm, about 20-30 minutes
Chef’s note: In his book, Chef Dodge has a wonderful description of exactly how to make and roll dough correctly for a perfect result. He says that the way you handle the dough makes all the difference in the texture and appearance of the finished shell.
THE SHELL- BLIND BAKE
Preheat the oven to 400 ° F
Line the chilled dough with a piece of aluminum foil that is at least 1.5 times the size of the baking pan.
Fill the foil lining with pie weights or dried beans. The shell should be nearly filled.
Fold the aluminum foil over to the inside
Bake for 20 minutes, the shell will be pale.
Then remove the foil and the beans and bake for another 20 or so minutes until golden brown
INGREDIENTS FOR THE TART
2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1 ½ cups whipping cream – this is optional
2 cups walnut pieces (toasted in the oven)
2 cups cranberries (fresh)
Preheat the oven to 350° F
Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook without stirring until all the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is a light mahogany color – 350° F on a candy thermometer.
You can gently swirl the pan during cooking if the syrup is not darkening evenly.
Remove from the heat and very carefully pour in the cream – IF you are using cream
Be careful the hot syrup may splatter.
Carefully add the walnuts and the cranberries to the hot caramel
Stir again to thoroughly mix the fruits and nuts
Pour into the prepared tart pan
Bake for 20 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool
This pie seems to get better overnight.