Sunday, March 21, 2010

SMS - Caramel Apple-Cranberry Tart

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe was chosen by Susan of Baking with Susan. She picked the Double-Crusted Apple Pie, however, I decided to bake a tart instead. No messing around with 2 layers of pie dough and consequently less calories. To add more flavor to the apple filling, I added orange zest, dried cranberries, and cinnamon.

For the tart crust, I used an adaptation of the press-in tart dough from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. The dough is made in the food processor and can be used right away without rolling out the dough. Just make walnut-sized balls of dough and scatter them into your tart pan and press it in. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Pre-bake the tart shell covered with aluminum foil and pie weights (aka dried kidney beans) for 30 minutes in 375F oven and it's ready for the filling.

In the last couple of years, I've taken to pre-cooking the apples until fork tender before using them in a pie or tart. The major advantage of this method is that you don't have to worry about the apples shrinking and causing the big gap between the filling and the top crust.

I only had Jonathan apples in the house, which are somewhat tart, so that's what I used. My only pet peeve with the recipe was that I wished it specified the weight of the apples instead of the number of apples. After looking at some other apple pie recipes, it looked like most used 5lb of apples for a 9" pie. Since I'm making a tart with only 1 layer of apples, I used 2lb of apples. I used a little gadget that cores and slices the apple into 8 equal pieces. Each piece I cut in half lengthwise. The sliced apples are cooked covered in a non-stick pan on medium heat with sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and dried cranberries for about 15-20 minutes. The apples became fork tender, not mushy and held their shape really well. The cranberries plumped up nicely in the hot juice released by the apples. I cooled the apple mixture outside while the tart crust was pre-baking.

Arrange the apple slices like shingles on the tart crust and use the cranberries to fill the gaps between the two sections of apples. I made half of the caramel sauce in the recipe, and added splash a lemon juice to it at the very end to cut down on the sweetness. I carefully poured the caramel sauce over the apples/cranberry filling and put the tart in a 375F oven which baked for 35 minutes, uncovered.

A big thanks to Susan of Baking with Susan for choosing this recipe. We enjoyed it very much! If you would like to try the double-crusted caramel apple pie, you can find the recipe HERE.

Final thoughts/tips:
  • Hubby and I absolutely loved this tart. He gave it a "good 9 out of 10". The apples were juicy, had the right amount of sweetness, and a great aroma from the orange zest and the cinnamon. The cookie crust was buttery, held its shape where you could even eat a slice out of hand, "pizza-style", yet it was tender and melted in your mouth. There was only 1 Tbsp of sugar in the crust which allowed the apple filling and the subtle caramel flavor to come through.
  • Instead of lemon zest, I used the zest of one navel orange because I like orange zest and cranberries together. I threw in a handful of dried cranberries into the apples while they were cooking.
  • Pre-bake the tart shell for 30 minutes at 375F. Then arrange the apple filling on top, and bake for another 35 minutes at 375F, in a convection oven.
  • Don't forget to the check out the other SMS bakers.


  1. This is so awesome looking. I love it!

    The cranberries and apples look awesome arranged like that.

  2. Pretty as usual, Hanaa, and I could really go for something like a slice of this tart right now with some hot tea-yum!

  3. How beautiful your tart is! I love the way you tweak with different additions, like orange zest, cranberries, and cinnamon. Mmmm!

  4. Your tart is beautiful. Sounds like adding cinnamon was a good call as it seems like most missed it in the final pie. Thanks for sharing your adaptations! I've never thought of pre-cooking the apples, but will have to try it next time.

  5. Very pretty Hanaa! What a delicious sounding combination.

  6. Nice job on adapting this one Hanaa! I love that you used apples and cranberries together - they're a delicious combo! Your tart is very elegant and I'm glad it was a hit for you guys :)

  7. I like your recipe better! Great job. It looks fabulous! Thanks so much for baking along with me this week. :)

  8. Hanaa,

    Very all the info you provided and the beautiful pictures.

    I also believe in cooking the apples as well...


  9. Your goodies are always so beautiful and this tart is no exception. I've been precooking my apples for years (caramelizing) ever since I saw an article in the NY Times food section. I like that there is no need for thickeners and no empty dome.

  10. What a creative adaptation, your tart looks wonderful. My favorite apple pie is a cranberry-apple pie from Cook's Illustrated and that one microwaves the apples before - it works well.

  11. Beauty Hanaa! The apple layer looks so nice and even, and caramel on top? Yum!

  12. Love your tart version! The orange zest and cranberries sound like the perfect add-ins :) and I think the consensus on this one is we all missed the cinnamon so good call to add some.

  13. Your tart is calling my name! :) It's been a long time since i baked tarts! I have this book too but never got round baking anything from it. I think perhaps this tart would be a good start?

  14. This looks amazing!! I love all the changes you added. And I love your tart pan, i've been on the lookout for one for quite a while and still haven't found one. I'm going to keep looking because your tart look wonderful!

  15. Nicely arranged and great tasting tart, it's a good idea of you making a tart instead of a pie, that means less carb, less fat, and more fruits and cranberries, adding cinnamon is definitely an ideal choice whenever apples are used for baking.
    I'm glad your hubby liked it!
    Good job!


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