Last year at about this time, I learned 1) just how easy it was to make sugared cranberries, 2) that they are essentially edible holiday decorations, and 3) they are addictively sweet-tart and I love them. While cranberries are widely available, I find myself coming up with more and more reasons to use sugared cranberries. I think I’ve made three batches of them in the past week. Most recently I used them to garnish these cranberry hazelnut tartlets for my holiday party this weekend. Essentially these are a simple hazelnut cookie cup shaped in a mini-muffin pan filled with a dollop of cranberry curd and topped with a few of the sparkly pretties. As much as I love the classic holiday treats, I’m always glad to find something new to switch things up a bit. If you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path to bring to a holiday soiree or cookie exchange this year, these might just be the perfect option.
My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!
For the curd:
- 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- ½ cup water
- 2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 5 pieces
- 1¾ cups sugar
- Pinch of coarse salt
- 3 large egg yolks plus 1 large whole egg
For the hazelnut cookies:
- 1½ cups whole hazelnuts
- 8 tbsp. (½ cup) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
- Pinch of coarse salt
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
Combine the cranberries, water, and orange juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst, about 30-35 minutes. Press through a fine sieve, scraping the bottom of the sieve to get as much pulp as possible (you should have about 1¾ cups). Discard the solids.
In a medium saucepan, combine the pulp with the butter, sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved, about 7 minutes. In a bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg. Then whisk in cranberry mixture, 2-3 tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Return the egg-cranberry mixture to pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of curd to cover, and refrigerate until cold, about 30-60 minutes. (This will be more curd than you need to fill the cookies, but it is great stuff to have around for many things. Spreading on a biscuit or muffin, stirring into yogurt, topping ice cream, pancakes, waffles, etc. So many possibilities!)
Meanwhile, to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Place the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground to the texture of coarse sand. Add in the butter, salt, brown sugar and flour to the food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms a cohesive dough.* Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 hour before proceeding.
Take a small portion of dough (about 1 tablespoons) and press into the well of a mini muffin pan, creating a well with your thumb. Repeat with the remaining dough. 2 teaspoons dough into a ball and press into tart cup, creating a well for the filling with your thumb. Repeat with remaining dough mixture. Bake the cookie shells 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and just set. If the center has puffed up some during baking, press down gently. Let cool completely in the pans before carefully removing to a serving platter.
Fill each cookie shell with a small spoonful of the cranberry curd and garnish with a few sugared cranberries. Serve within 4-6 hours.**
*The dough can be mixed in a regular mixer, but the hazelnuts need to be pretty finely ground for this recipe so a food processor or other grinding mechanism is necessary.
**These are best within a few hours of assembly, but all the components can be made in advance.