This year's Thanksgiving tarts


Thanksgiving is fast approaching and now’s the time to decide what you’d like on your holiday dessert table! Visit the menu page for all the details for this year’s tarte offerings. For those of you in the greater Grand Rapids area, orders will be accepted through Saturday, November 17 so don’t forget to add it to your to-do list!

This year I’m offering pumpkin custard with sesame crunch, pecan caramel chocolate truffle and apple cranberry with brown sugar crumble in both 9-inch and my “sharing” 5.5 inch size (seen in the photos above and below) for those of you who might prefer petite portions or are hosting or joining a smaller group for the holiday this year.


Let’s take a look at how these babies are put together, shall we? BTW - even though the images depict smaller tarts, the discussion is for making standard 9 inch tarts.

First up is pumpkin custard. Use your favorite pate sucrée recipe and add about 30 g toasted sesame seeds at the end of the dough prep. Blind bake the crust at 350ºF and set it aside while preparing the filling. Note: tart dough recipe is enough for two 9” tarts - wrap and freeze any extra for another time.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF.

Make your favorite crème pâtissiére, adding 1-2 teaspoons or so of pumpkin pie spice mix (I use my own made-up mixture of spices) to the milk base. At the end of cooking blend in 1 cup pure pumpkin purée, 4 tablespoons of butter and two teaspoons vanilla extract. This base is more than enough for one 9 inch tart but you can use leftovers to make a bunch of mini-tarts or fill cream puffs. You can even divide what’s left into ramekins and bake them in a water bath for a lovely pumpkin custard for after the holiday.


Fill the blind baked tart shell with the warm pastry cream, just barely shy of the rim and bake for about 20 minutes until set with a hint of a jiggle in the center. I did several test batch sizes as you can see below.


Let cool then store covered in the fridge until ready to serve. In my case I garnished with whipped honey mascarpone cream and a sprinkling of sesame crunch. For a slightly different approach, change out the sesame seeds in the tart dough with toasted, finely chopped hazelnuts, almonds or pecans and use the same nut as a simple garnish with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Or simply leave out any dough additions and create your own version of topping.

Pumpkin custard tart

Pumpkin custard tart

Next up - pecan caramel chocolate truffle tart. And remember - this is for a nine inch tart. The approach is much the same: blind baked pate sucrée, cooled and waiting on the sidelines. For a chocolate crust, just add 30 g (~1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder to the flour in the recipe.

Toast 100 g/scant cup pecans and either leave the halves whole or break them up coarsely. Blend them with a scant 2/3 cup caramel sauce (I make my own, although you can use a good quality purchased product from your local supermarket or specialty food shop).

Place 85 g dark chocolate (I use Guittard 61% discs) and 21 g unsalted butter in a heat proof bowl. In a separate heat proof container (I use a pyrex measuring cup) bring 120 ml heavy cream to a boil. Pour over the chocolate/butter and blend gently until smooth. Blend in 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Note: double or triple your recipe to have more ganache on hand for your next truffle tart project!


Layer the nut caramel mixture in the bottom of the baked shell. Once again I made some small trial versions - for taste testing, don’t ya know?!


Pour the ganache over - start slowly to let it nestle into all the nooks and crannies and continue pouring until it’s to the rim edge. Some bubbles will invariable pop up to the surface - just pop ‘em with the tip of a paring knife.


Leave at room temperature until the ganache has set and cooled. If you put it in the fridge before that, there’s a greater chance that beads of moisture will form on the surface - you don’t want that! Once cooled you can go ahead with any garnish or cover/refrigerate and garnish later.

I top mine with chocolate shortbread cookie crumbs, a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar and a few pecans in the center. Pull the tart from the fridge 30-60 minutes before serving to let it temper and bring out the flavors more fully. Feel free to add a dollop of lightly whipped cream atop each portion.

Pecan caramel chocolate truffle tart

Pecan caramel chocolate truffle tart

Last but not least - apple cranberry! A straight forward pâte brisée dough filled with a mixture of lightly sweetened sliced apples and dried cranberries and topped with a brown sugar crumble.

Heat the oven to 425ºF.

I typically line my tart rings, fork-prick the dough and hold them in the freezer while preparing the fruit. For a nine inch tart I plump 100 g dried cranberries in warm apple cider for 20 minutes or so while I peel, core, halve and thinly slice 4-4.5 cups of Jonagold apples (another good mix is Macintosh and Granny Smith). Drain and paper towel dry the cranberries and mix the fruit with a squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4 cup sugar (use brown if you’d like) and 2 tablespoons of flour. Then I mound the fruit into the lined ring. In this case Mr. Steve had reduced down a bunch of apple cider for me, creating a delicious apple cider caramel. I drizzled some of that on the fruit once the lined ring was filled. Yummy stuff.


You might notice the scrap of rolled out dough on the sheet pan - I bake one every now and again just to see how the crust tastes au naturel. (In case you’re wondering, it was flaky, buttery and melt-in-your-mouth good.)


Top with a standard crumble mixture of equal weights flour, brown sugar (light or dark is fine) and diced butter and cover the fruit with the mixture. Not a very thorough covering job on those small tarts, eh? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts over time, I like to make a bunch of crumble, bag it up and stash in the freezer where it’s at the ready to be used.


Bake on the bottom rack for 10 minutes then reduce oven temp to 400 and move up to the middle rack. Give it another 10 minutes then ratchet down to 375 and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes (all ovens are different so pay attention!) until the crumble has browned and you see some bubbling around the edges. Cool a bit and serve slightly warm or at room temp with your favorite ice cream or whipped cream. Yippee!

apple cranberry tart

apple cranberry tart


And there you have it! A delightful trio of seasonal tarts just waiting for the Thanksgiving table. Have a calm and peaceful holiday everyone.

Meanwhile here in west Michigan there are lots of rustling leaves along the pathways and the burning bushes are still burning brightly, even though many trees are now bare. Tis the season - and we may even see our first snow this weekend. Oh boy, oh boy!