the guest who’s coming to dinner – maple-walnut cranberry tart

by hungryrabbit on November 16, 2012

Maple-Walnut Cranberry Tart

I knew in September that it was going to be a busy autumn–an interior design project that’s expanding, vacation planning, Pie Party Live, cooking, baking, and blogging (here and on The Boys Club).

It was all balanced until blown apart by Hurricane Sandy pummeling the tri-state area. Compared to others, M and I had an easy escape to an hotel, but a week without power and the depressing chore of disposing of just about everything from the refrigerator and freezer threw me off. Not only was I behind on several personal tasks, but the storm sent delays through my project when lack of mass transit kept workers from getting work, trucks couldn’t get through to Manhattan to make deliveries, and gas shortages affected everybody else.

Now, Thanksgiving is less than a week away, which is good and bad. M and I are spending Thanksgiving at friends’ home in Miami, and we’re looking forward to the warm sun, beach, and dinner outside in their backyard. The downside to going away is to putting everything in order before you get on that plane.

Being a house guest, I always gets to play kitchen elf for the host–a little chopping here, some stirring there, and then there’s always the last-minute request for a dessert.  I can’t say no when my friends know I have a blog and make desserts on a regular basis. It’s not the easiest thing, though, for the Virgo in me to cook in someone else’s kitchen. I don’t know what equipment is available or what ingredients are in the fridge and pantry. So, for these last minute call-to-duty situations, I armed myself with a few simple recipes. Desserts that can be made at the last minute, or close to the very last minute. Of course, the flavors must compliment the Thanksgiving feast.

Cranberries have played a supporting role in the holiday food parade. We all make our favorite cranberry sauce and we continue to search for new recipes, secretly hoping to create the new family favorite of the evening.

The lovely cranberry has been wrongly typecast in the side dish/condiment category, therefore it will never get it’s deserved acknowledgement. I say, if it’s sweet, showcase it as in a dessert. Like entertainment industry award shows, selecting the right category is the road to acclaim.

Maple-Walnut Cranberry Tarts are easy to make, and the ingredients can be found in any supermarket, even if you have to drive to one on Thanksgiving eve. Their glistening ruby red color will pop amongst the fall earth tones of pumpkin, apples, sweet potatoes. Even chocolate won’t stand a chance in getting attention.  You can make individual tartlets, large tarts, or cocktail-size one bite sensations for a zippy end to the Thanksgiving meal.

Maple-Walnut Cranberry Tart

yield: five 4-inch tarts

Walnut Crust


6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
6 ounces of Animal Crackers
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons walnuts
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown, about 5-8 minutes; remove from heat, and let cool.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350℉. In a food processor, pulse crackers sugar, walnuts, salt and cinnamon until finely ground. Add butter and pulse until combined.

3. Divide crumb mixture into 5 4-inch removable bottom quiche pan. Firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides. Bake until crust is golden brown and set, about 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Maple Cream Filling


8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup grade B pure maple syrup
! teaspoon brandy
1/8 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add maple syrup, brandy and salt; beat until smooth. Pour mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

2. Wipe mixing bowl clean and beat cream and sugar on high until soft peaks, about 3 minutes. With a rubber spatula, stir about one-third the cream into cream cheese mixture, then fold in the rest. Divide maple cream between the prepared crust and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Maple Cranberry


12 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 cup  grade B pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons brandy
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt


1. Place cranberries and maple syrup in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until cranberries begin to pop and mixture looks foamy. Continue to stir until thickens but some cranberries still holds their shape.

2. Remove from heat, add butter, brandy and salt; stir to combined. Pour into bowl and cool completely. Remove tart from refrigerator and op each tart with the cranberry mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, serve.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Meeta November 16, 2012 at 8:37 am

This is stunning Ken. I had you and M very much in my thoughts during the whole sandy ordeal. So glad you both were OK and back at creating such beauties. Just love the look and flavors of these. Can I have one?

Brian @ A Thought For Food November 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

Have a wonderful time in Miami! I can honestly say that I’m jealous (it got cold up in here!)… you are smart to head south.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Margaret November 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Thank you for giving me a piece of this tart. I had it last night, and it is absolutely delicious! I loved the tartness of the cranberries and the cream cheese was so light. One of my favorites from you, and it’s perfect for Thanksgiving! 😉

marla November 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

Absolutely gorgeous tarts!

Janis November 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I’m making these for T-Day dinner and am off to get more tart forms. Thank you Ken!

{Gail} a stack of dishes November 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Love this Ken! Gonna make it for T-day!!! (and I wasn’t planning on making a dessert….)

Laura November 22, 2012 at 4:41 am

Those are absolutely stunning. Here’s hoping I can find some fresh cranberries somewhere!

Jamie November 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

These are so beautiful, Ken… catchy and zippy indeed! The tang of the berries and the cool luscious filling pop out and now I want to make something like this. I am glad you guys got through Sandy unscathed and had a joyous holiday in the sun. I can’t wait to see what you bake up for Hanukkah and Christmas! (oh and animal crackers? I love it!)

Kristen January 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Just wanted you to know that this recipe and your photos have been “stolen” and can be found here:

I love the tart and wanted to find the real source!

hungryrabbit January 30, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for looking out for me Kristen. There’s is a link of my post at the bottom of that post, so I suppose it’s OK. -Ken

EstherO December 25, 2013 at 8:51 am

Everyone should try this, best cheesecake recipe I’ve came across thus far. I made this for this Xmas and everyone loved it… Thank You for sharing… blessed Xmas to all!!

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