I have to tell you about one more Thanksgiving dish, and then I promise to move on. As usual, I was indecisive about what dessert should be, and I considered everything from a chocolate and caramel tart to various pumpkin creations. In the end, fall fruits won. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I saw a crumb tart that was originally made with summer fruits, and the crumb topping and crisp-edged crust are what won me over. Crammed away in my files, the page with this tart had been cut from the June 1999 issue of Living magazine, and the recipe is online. I decided to switch out the raspberries and plums from the original version and use granny smith apples and cranberries instead. The important thing here, though, is really the crust. It was made with ground hazelnuts and cinnamon, and it was pressed into a spring-form pan and up the sides. I was sure that as soon as the tart finished baking, cooled, and the ring was loosened, the tall sides of the crust would crumble and fall into pieces. I was thrilled to be wrong. The lacy, crisp edges of crust held their shape perfectly even after the tart was cut for serving. There is one other interesting detail about this tart, and that’s the custard in the filling. After adding cranberries and apple pieces to the blind-baked crust, some custard was poured over the top to settle its way in and around all the fruit. With crust edges that didn’t crumble, a custard and fruit filling, and the golden crumb topping, this dessert scored well in all categories.
First up was toasting the hazelnuts and rubbing them in a towel to remove the skins. Then, they went into a food processor and were pulsed until medium fine. The ground nuts were transferred to a stand mixer bowl, and flour, sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt were added. Cold pieces of butter were added next, and it was mixed until crumbs started sticking together. Three cups of the crumb mixture was pressed into a spring-form pan, and the rest was set aside. The crust was then baked for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the apples were sliced, and the cranberries were washed. The custard was made with flour, sugar, an egg and an egg yolk, heavy cream, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. The fruit was placed in the baked and cooled crust, and the custard was poured over it. The remaining crumb mixture was sprinkled on top, and the tart baked for 50 minutes. I wasn’t completely happy with the color of the crumb topping after that amount of time, so I turned on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the crumbs a bit more. For serving, I topped each piece with whipped creme fraiche.
The custard in the filling is just enough to hold the fruit together well. The flavor and texture are really all about the fruit. But, it was the nutty, golden crust and crumb topping that stole the show in my opinion. The crust edges held their shape so nicely, and the buttery, golden crumbs on top were just right with the sweet-tart filling.