Apple Cranberry Caramel Tarts
Fact: I do not like pie crust.
Shocking, I know, but if there is one thing you will never see on this site, it’s a perfect pie crust. Or any traditional pie crust, really. I just don’t like the stuff. Oh sure, I will eat pie if you put it in front of me, but I will most likely just eat the filling and skip everything else. It’s nothing personal. Unless you are pie crust, then it’s totally personal.
Fact: I love cranberries.
I eat them all the time and I can’t get enough of them. Apples are pretty tasty too, and the combination of apples and cranberries? Wow.
Fact: Caramel is delicious.
Right? It’s hard to go wrong with sugar, butter and heavy cream.
These Apple Cranberry Caramel Tarts have been floating around in my head for weeks now. I was craving something like apple pie, but not actually apple pie because of my previously mentioned pie crust issues. Once I got my hands on some apples at a local orchard and found a non-traditional pie crust recipe I thought would taste good, I got to work. Only I had no idea what I was actually making until I was done. I just kept adding flavors and things I liked until I felt like it was done.
Lucky for me, it worked. These tarts are everything I hoped they would be! First of all, they smell heavenly while baking, a warm apple cinnamon and nutty aroma that I wish I could bottle and sell. I’d be a millionaire. Second, they taste fantastic. The crust is crisp and salty sweet, which pairs so well with the softened fruit and sweet caramel. It’s a bit like eating an upsidedown fruit cobbler, in a way. I can’t wait to make this recipe again to share with my family for Thanksgiving!
Apple Cranberry Caramel Tarts
Crust adapted from Shiny Cooking
Makes four 4-inch tarts OR one 9-inch tart
This recipe will also make one 9-inch tart, but you may want to add an extra apple to the filling. I’ve used local Fuji apples and Honeycrisp apples, but any other firm cooking apple should work too. I don’t recommend Granny Smith – they get mushy. You can substitute walnuts for the pecans in the crust, if you prefer.
1 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lb apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
pinch of salt
Caramel Sauce (recipe below, optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread chopped pecans and oats evenly on an ungreased baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and just lightly browned. (Don’t over brown!) Cool at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Combine oats and nuts with brown sugar, salt and melted butter in food processor and pulse until dough is finely ground and sticks together. Divide equally among four 4-inch tart pans, pressing firmly into bottoms and up sides of pans. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook apples, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted and a sauce forms, about 5 minutes. Stir in cranberries. Cook another 5-10 minutes, until apples are softened and cranberries are just starting to pop. Remove from heat. Stir in heavy cream. (Be careful – it may splatter!) Divide filling equally among prepared tart pans.
Set tart pans on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, until apples are soft and cranberries have burst. Serve warm drizzled with caramel sauce (recipe below), or cool to room temperature, cover lightly with plastic wrap and store in fridge. (Reheat when ready to serve.)
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes about 1 cup
Be sure you have all ingredients ready to go before you begin – making caramel happens very quickly! Also make sure you use a saucepan with deep sides (at least 2-3 quarts) and wear long sleeves in case of spattering. Whatever you do, resist tasting the caramel until it has cooled to room temperature. Boiling sugar is much, MUCH hotter than boiling water so be cautious.
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
In a 2 or 3- quart heavy bottomed saucepan, heat sugar over moderately high heat. Stir regularly with a whisk or wooden spoon as the sugar melts to promote even browning, but once the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring.
Once the sugar is boiling and has turned a rich amber color, remove from heat and add the butter. (Warning: the sugar will bubble up – be careful!) Stir until butter is melted. Add heavy cream and stir until smooth. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then pour into a glass jar (jar will be hot!) and cool to room temperature.
Once the caramel has cooled, if you find it has a burnt or bitter taste, the sugar was overcooked. Don’t worry – it can be salvaged! Rewarm caramel until it’s stir-able, then add vanilla extract and cocoa powder, stirring to incorporate.
Cover and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.