Cranberry Meringue Tart
My holiday baking season began with this simple but very surprisingly good tart to cap Thanksgiving.
It’s a wonderful combination of crumbly, buttery crust, tart cranberries and jammy strawberries, plus a fluffy cloud of melt-in-your-mouth meringue.
The shell is basically a shortcrust, similar in texture and taste to shortbread, though not nearly as sweet. Ground oats are my whole grain replacement for traditional white flour. A small amount of butter gives the dough richness. Airy meringue reminiscent of lightly toasted marshmallows is dotted with pops of fresh cranberry. And strawberry jam swiped over the base is a sweet surprise — reiterating the holiday red!
What’s in it for me?
Cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C, with one half-cup providing nearly 20% of your daily needs of fiber and only 23 calories. They also contain vitamins E and K, manganese and potassium. Studies show that active chemical compounds called proanthocyanidins found in rich supply in cranberries, may lower cholesterol and reduce risk of atherosclerosis, promote dental and urinary tract health, help fight infections, and may protect against certain cancers.
The white of 1 egg is 16 calories, zero cholesterol, and has negligible amounts of fat, sugar, carbohydrate and sodium. It also contains about 4 grams of complete protein, containing 18 different amino acids, including all 9 of the essential amino acids, which helps maintain and build muscle.
Oats are a good source of fiber, providing more than 10% of your DV in a third-cup serving. Research suggests that its soluble fiber aids not only with digestion and regulation of blood sugar levels but can also help control your appetite, lower cholesterol, and reduce risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Oats are one of the richest known sources of manganese (nearly 50% DV per serving), a trace mineral with antioxidant properties and important roles in skeletal development, wound healing, and metabolism. Manganese is a prenatal power nutrient, particularly in the second trimester as it promotes proper hearing development. (Did you know a baby can be startled by loud noises and sense your voice in conversations as early as week 18?)
Strawberries are packed with antioxidants and naturally occurring plant chemicals that help protect the body from harmful free radicals, combat inflammation, and offer cancer-preventing properties. For less than 50 calories per 1 cup, strawberries provide 1 gram of protein, roughly 5% each of your DVs for vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium, over 10% of your fiber, and add to the vitamin C bill — nearly 150% of your daily needs.
As is the tart is gluten-free, and you could use solidified coconut oil instead of butter to make it dairy-free and vegan. I pulled a jar of homemade roasted strawberry vanilla bean jam out of the freezer for this, but any other red fruit jam or even melted chocolate would be an excellent alternative to brush over the base.
Loaded with fresh cranberries, whole-grain goodness and protein-packed egg white, this tart is healthier than most holiday sweets, yet glamorous and delicious enough to steal the dessert show.
Happy holiday baking season, Friends!
Tell me… Do you hoard cranberries this time of year like I do? (So cheap, and great to keep in the freezer!)
- 1 recipe Shortcrust Dough (recipe in HGN Notes), or store-bought pastry dough
- 2 Tbsp Simplest Strawberry Jam (see HGN Notes), or store-bought chunky strawberry or other favorite red berry jam or preserves
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (about 150 grams) fresh cranberries -- if frozen, do not thaw
- Butter a 9-inch pie pan (I use a Pyrex pan) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Sandwich the dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper and roll it out until it is a scant 1/8 inch thick. Don't worry about making a beautiful circle, because you're going to trim the dough.
- Fit the dough into the pie pan, allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Gently press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan and then, using a paring knife, a pizza wheel or a fluted ravioli wheel, trim the dough to about one third down from the rim of the pan. Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes. (The leftover dough makes a nice turnover.)
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line the crust with a piece of parchment or a buttered piece of aluminum foil and weight it down with rice, dried beans or light pie weights. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and weights and bake for 8 to 12 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. The crust will have shrunk, but that's fine. Set the crust on a rack to cool to room temperature.
- When you're ready to fill and bake the tart: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Spoon the jam into the crust and spread it evenly over the bottom. Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed just until they turn opaque. With the mixer going, add the sugar in a very slow, steady stream, then keep beating until the whites are shiny and form peaks with pretty, droopy tips; they will look like marshmallow.
- Pour the cranberries into the bowl and, using a flexible spatula, fold them into the meringue. Try to distribute the fruit evenly, but don't try too hard-- you want to keep the meringue fluffy. Turn the meringue over the jam and spread it to the edges, making it swirly if you'd like. The jam will sneak up around the sides of the meringue, and that's fine.
- Bake the tart for 1 hour, at which point the top will be light beige and most probably cracked here and there. (If you'd like more color, you can bake it longer or put it under the broiler.) Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. If you'd like, dust the tart with confectioners' sugar before serving.
- Serving: Just before serving, it's nice to sprinkle the top of the tart with confectioners' sugar. In France, I've seen some meringue tarts served with whipped cream and some with ice cream. I thought that adding whipped or ice cream would be too much--I was wrong.
- Storing: The tart is best served the day it's made, although it's still pretty nice a day later. Leave the tart at room temperature, covering only the cut part with a piece of wax paper or plastic film.
Don't be tempted to substitute dried cranberries. You're looking for that characteristic tart flavor and pop of fresh cranberries here. They're typically on sale around the holidays, so stock up and fill your freezer for healthy snacking all year round!
+ Try raspberry, cherry, cranberry, currant, plum, blackberry or other red fruit or berry jam/preserves in lieu of the strawberry jam. Why not marmalade?
+ If cranberries aren't your thing, swap in any of the above fruits or others you enjoy. Opt for frozen pieces, if you have them, and consider dried fruit pieces as well.
+ Chocolate lover? Turn this tart into a black-bottom by swiping the bottom of the pre-baked crust with melted dark chocolate or dark chocolate ganache. Top this with the jam, or omit the jam entirely.
+ Add a few pinches of cinnamon, powdered ginger, grated nutmeg or fresh orange zest to the meringue in the last moments of whipping. Alternatively, you could stir any of these into the jam before spreading it over the tart base.
+ Substitute the butter in the shortcrust dough for solid coconut oil in equal amounts to make the recipe dairy-free.
SHORTCRUST DOUGH (gluten-free) -- makes one 8- to 10-inch pastry crust
+ 1 1/2 cups oat flour
+ 1/2 tsp salt
+ 1/2 cup cold butter, chopped into about 8 pieces
+ 1/4 cup ice water
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the cubes of butter, cutting in with a fork, pastry cutter or two butter knives until it resembles a coarse meal, and the butter pieces are slightly smaller than pea-sized. (You can also use a food processor, pulsing in the butter to incorporate.)
2. Sprinkle in the cold water 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring with a fork until the dough comes together and begins to form a ball. You might not have to use all the water, or you may need a few drops more.
3. Transfer the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a rough disc. Wrap it tightly in the plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to a couple of days before attempting to roll or press out.
Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan on The Splendid Table.
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