18 November 2012

Cranberry Tart with Coconut Graham Crust

Nothing says holidays like cranberries.  I feel they are the market equivalent to the first snow flakes, a tiny and beautiful reminder that the seasons are changing and good things are on the horizon.  I love winter, and ipso facto, love cranberries.  I buy their dried counterparts by the industrial-sized bag and chow down on a small handful every night after dinner.  I like to think they contribute to my zippy attitude and bolster the redness of my hair.  Long live red heads!

Now if you love dried cranberries, you might be tempted to pop a fresh cranberry into your mouth and give it a try.  Please be sure to be standing near a loved one or mirror when you do so, for the faces you will make will be truly grotesque and hilarious (ahem, senior year of college).  For tiny little berries, they pack a heck of a wallop.  They are Tart, capitol-T intended.  So in order to eat them, you have to add sugar.  Lots of it.  So much, it kind of makes you feel guilty.  Until you remember that they are insanely high in vitamin c, fiber and manganese.  (I consider it a wash.)

Cranberries are wonderful because they make such a delicious syrup.  Sweet, tangy and gorgeously vibrant, it can be eaten on everything from turkey to cookies.  I love them in pies and tarts in particular. Usually I'll do an apple cranberry combo in a traditional pie crust, but a few months ago I went a different route with a graham cracker crust.  For some bizarre reason, I ended up with three boxes of crackers in my pantry and was gifted a fourth from a co-worker.  The change was from sheer necessity to reduce the graham volume in  my household, as the hubs, pup and I were outnumbered (never a good thing).  

The traditional graham cracker crust combines melted butter and sugar with the crumbs.  But I really love using coconut oil instead of butter.  It is my absolute new favorite fat to cook/bake/sauté/play with because of its versatility.  In its solid form, it makes a rocking substitute for shortening, and as a liquid is perfect in lieu of melted butter.  It adds just a touch of sweet coconut flavor, thereby reducing the amount of sugar that you need to mellow out the cranberries in the topping.  

Being the frugal foodie that I am, rather than buying mini tart pans, I opt to use mason jar lids.  They are basically a tiny little spring form pan, so why not?  Their one downfall is their tendency to stick, so you do have to grease them up pretty well.  

So back to the cranberries and graham cracker crust.  I loved this tart.  I loved it so much, I made it a second time.  I loved it so much, I shared it with friends.  And they loved it so much, they asked for the recipe.  So here it is.  Ta-da!  It truly is a delicious combination.  The sugary syrup from the cranberries soaks into the crust as it cooks, and is phenomenal.  I echo the coconut oil in the crust by adding shredded coconut and a bit of coconut extract, but if coconut isn't your bag (baby) you could absolutely leave out the shreds and sub vanilla.  It's lovely when served just sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs, but even better when topped with vanilla yogurt.  

Cranberry Coconut Tart (6 individual tarts)
  • 3/4 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbs white sugar
  • 2 tbs shredded coconut (optional)
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 c cranberries
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1/2 tsp coconut or vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs red wine 
  • 1/3 c + 2 tbs sugar (you can use a full half cup if you want a sweeter tart)
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch or 1 tsp flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 6 mini tart pans.  In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons of sugar and the shredded coconut.  Add the melted coconut oil and mix until well combined.  Press firmly into mini tart pans.  Bake for 4-5 minutes until crust is fragrant.  Remove and let cool wile you prepare your filling and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.  

Place a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the cranberries, water, coconut extract and red wine (to omit the wine, just increase the water).  Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring every minute, for about 4-5 minutes, until the berries begin to pop.  Remove the pan from the heat and add in the sugar and flour.  Stir together for a minute to cool the mixture slightly.

Top the pre-baked tart crusts with with the cooked cranberries, distributing evenly amongst the pans (ours were about 3 tablespoons of filling each).  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.  Remove to a cooling rack. Let the tarts cool completely before removing from the pans.  Top with vanilla yogurt, whipped cream or additional graham cracker crumbs.  

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