I made swirls for you. The holidays call for showmanship, and a lemon tart bejeweled with bright red cranberry delivers. Not to be outdone by its looks, the tart’s creamy lemon filling, cookie crust, and tangy cranberry dollops taste beyond incredible, like key lime pie that’s come back home for Christmas.
With the holiday so close, it seems like everyone has switched into elf mode, baking cookies and braising brisket for the Christmas Eve party, buying presents and wrapping them in brown paper, concocting a few homemade gifts too, because you can never have too many packages in the pile. With this tart, I’ve entered the workshop too. You should have seen me by the counter when I made this–you would have giggled at my careful deliberations on the swirls and my serious judgment of the cranberry color’s vibrancy. It was a case of holiday-onset perfectionism.
I got inspired to bake this tart from a flavor of mike’s hard that comes in the drink company’s “mike’s hard party kit,” which has four flavors—hard lemonade, hard black cherry lemonade, hard limeade, and today’s muse, the hard cranberry lemonade. The colors of the bottles are, like the tart, so bright and festive and warm (though the drink—like the tart—is cool and refreshing). Those colors, and the drink’s sweet-tangy flavor, emerge in my cranberry-lemonade tart, in the sweetness and tanginess, and in the swirls. Both just feel like the holidays—like gifts. Which means the two also pair beautifully. If you’re heading to a friend’s place with the tart in hand, bring a party pack too (and, vice versa).
Any food we bake for our loved ones is a gift, really. Right? Right. It’s just that this beautiful tart really looks like one. And when you’re a cook, that’s just how the holiday spirit manifests…in swirls.
I should add that this dessert has an impossibly high ratio of glamour to ease. The crust needs no rolling, and the custard-like filling requires no tempering of eggs. That part is my gift to you.
Cranberry Lemonade Tart
Though the active time on this tart is almost negligible–maybe 10-15 minutes at most–there are two sets of chilling time, so be sure to account for those when you plan to make this.
For the crust:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
For the cranberries:
½ cup cranberries
A pinch ground cloves (optional)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
For the lemon filling:
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
5 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the crust and stir to distribute evenly. It will be quite a soft dough. Press into a 9 1/2″ fluted tart pan. Make sure to distribute evenly, thickening the crust a bit up the sides. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Bake for 15 minutes until firm and a deep golden brown. Cool completely.
Make the cranberries: bring the berries, cloves, sugar, and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the berries pop. Blend until smooth, then press through a sieve.
When the tart is completely cool, make the filling: in a small saucepan, place the cream and the sugar and heat it over medium heat until boiling, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, watching very carefully, as the cream boils over really easily.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Place 1/4 cup of the lemon mixture into the bowl with the cranberries and stir to combine. Let both mixtures cool for 5 minutes.
Clear a space in the fridge where a baking sheet can sit perfectly flat. Place the cooled tart crust on a baking sheet and pour the filling in, leaving a little bit of crust showing above the filling (you’ll have a ½ cup left over; pour it into a small bowl and save in the fridge to indulge in later).
Use a teaspoon to spoon the cranberry filling on top of the lemon. You’ll want about a dozen cranberry “spots”. Then, take a paring knife or offset spatula and run it around the tart, swirling the cranberry into the lemon. You can do this til it looks pretty to you, but don’t overdo it!
Keeping the baking sheet even, carefully place it in the spot you cleared in the fridge. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until set. Serve cold, or take the tart out about 30 minutes before serving to let it come to room temp.