Cranberry Meringue Tartlets

cranberry meringue tartlets
cranberry meringue tartlets

These tartlets were inspired by a lengthy discussion between me and my dinner companions last weekend on whether lemon meringue pie is appropriate Thanksgiving fare. We never came to consensus on the topic, but my general attitude on Thanksgiving is, the more pies the better! So, I think I'll probably sneak one in next year's dessert line up for the lemon meringue lovers in our group, but I also might make a case for these cranberry meringue tartlets instead. They hit all of the right sweet, tart, and creamy notes that a great lemon meringue pie does with the bonus that they are a bit more seasonally appropriate.

The cranberry cream I filled the tartlets with is a riff on Tartine's Lemon Cream, which is a fairly simple (but genius) recipe for lemon curd enriched with a goodly amount of butter. For my cranberry version, I swapped the lemon juice for unsweetened cranberry juice and reduced the sugar and butter to cut the richness just slightly because I knew I wanted to top these tarts with a Swiss meringue cap which can be quite sweet. The cream was a delicious success. In fact, I had to hide the leftovers from myself because I couldn't stop going at it with a spoon.

p.s. I hope you all had a nice holiday weekend! I'll be back soon with a few photos of my Thanksgiving celebration, but in the meantime I'd love to know what you all made this year. Share in the comments below!

Cranberry Meringue Tartlets

Sweet Tart Dough

adapted from Dorie Greenspan

for 1, 9'' tart or 6, 4'' tartlets

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

9 tablespoons cold, cubed butter

1 egg yolk (save the white for the meringue)

1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)

1. In the bowl of a food processor or with a pastry blender, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the yolk and zest and pulse until the mixture begins to clump a bit.

2. Lightly butter your tart pan or pans and gently press the crumbly dough into the pan. Make sure to evenly coat the bottom and the sides while being careful to not compact the dough too much. Alternately, you can pat the dough into a circle, wrap it in plastic, and chill it for 2 hours. After 2 hours, roll the dough in between two lightly floured pieces of parchment paper into a 12'' circle and gently lay it into the pan, making sure to press the dough gently into the sides and bottom of the pan.  You may have a bit of extra dough, save it just in case you have to repair any cracks later on. Freeze the tart shell(s) for 30min.

3. Preheat your oven to 375º and bake the tart shell(s) on a baking sheet (no need for pie weights) until it is lightly golden 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil repair any cracks that may have formed with your leftover dough, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool the shell on a rack while you prepare the rest of the tart.

Cranberry Cream

adapted from Tartine's Lemon Cream

3/4 cup 100% unsweetened cranberry juice 

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk (save the white for the meringue)

3/4 cup sugar

5 ounces unsalted butter

1. Add a few inches of water into a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer.

2. In a large bowl that will sit securely on the rim of the saucepan without touching the water underneath, combine the cranberry juice, eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine.

3. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly until it is very thick and reaches 180º on a thermometer. If you do not have a candy thermometer, cook the mixture until it is very thick and a whisk leaves a trail through the curd. Remove from the heat and let cool until it reaches about 140º.

4. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and when the mixture has cooled slightly pour it into a blender. With the blender running, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition. The cream will thicken slightly and turn light pink. You can also do this with an immersion blender. Chill the cream in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the tarts.

DIY 100% cranberry juice

yield about 1 cup

In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries with 3/4 cup water. Cook over medium heat until the cranberries are soft and their skins have burst. Press the mixture firmly through a sieve and discard the skins and seeds.

If you aren't up for making your own cranberry juice you can find it at Trader Joe's and most natural food stores.

Swiss Meringue

If you don't like regular meringue, you might like it made this way. It is smooth and marshmallowy in texture. These tarts would be excellent without the meringue cap, but I think the addition of pillowy soft Swiss meringue is the perfect compliment to the tart cranberry cream.

2 egg whites (ideally, the 2 egg whites you saved earlier)

1/2 cup sugar

pinch salt

1. Add a few inches of water into a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer.

2. In a large bowl that will sit securely on the rim of the saucepan without touching the water underneath, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt. Cook, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is very warm to the touch.

3. Remove from the heat and whisk the mixture with an electric mixer on high until stiff and glossy.

To Assemble

Fill each pre-baked tart shell with a few tablespoons of cranberry cream, top with a few tablespoons of meringue then use a spatula to create a swirly, peaked pattern. Gently brown the meringue under your broiler, or with one of those fun kitchen torches. Be Careful! It only needs to be under the broiler for about 45 seconds so keep an eye on it the whole time. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for a few hours. These tarts are best on the day they are made.

cranberry meringue tartlets