Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Best Laid Plans (Cranberry Apple Tarte Tatin)

UPDATE: I've made some updates to the blog header and colors. I know a lot of you liked the bold red, but I was ready for a change. I'd love to know what you think of the new design!

Baking with friends is best...
I'll tell you straight up...I'd expected and hoped to be writing a different post today. A post dedicated as much to recounting a fun-filled reunion with my best friend N as to the delicious tarte tatin we'd have baked together. But Mother Nature clearly had other plans. Snowy slick wintry weather plans that crippled London's Heathrow Airport to a surprising extent and are thus keeping N and me just as far apart as we've been for the last 2 years.

While I agree safety should be their top concern, I can't help but feel an intense frustration for not only N and myself but also the thousands of other families and loved ones who're losing the precious time they'd planned to spend together. It boggles the mind a bit that such a major airport would be so ill-prepared for a little snow (at least compared to my area's "Snowpocalypse" last winter 8p).

Apple Cranberry Tarte Tatin
But before you think I've gone Debbie Downer for good, let me assure you that the force the holiday spirit remains strong in this one ^_^. I trust the airport staff and British government are working their hardest to remedy the situation. On top of that, life is simply unpredictable and the essence of the holidays to me is to appreciate what we do have. For me that includes a delicious dinner with Mom tonight, Christmas with my boyfriend and his fun and generous family, then a long weekend visiting Dad and my adorable baby sisters.

Though I'm still desperately hoping to meet up with N for even a few hours, I clearly have a lot to be thankful for and look forward to. So with a warm and cheerful heart, I still made this lovely tarte tatin on the day N had planned to join me. As I took my first taste, I knew she'd have loved its warm spices and little bursts of tartness. I'll definitely be saving this recipe for whenever we do meet up, whether in a week or a year.

Do you also have someone you love but won't be able to see this winter? If so, is there something special you cook or bake to remind you of them?

Cranberry Apple Tarte Tatin [Printable Recipe]

Adapted from Waitrose and Good Housekeeping

Serves 6

XIAOLU'S NOTES: The original recipe called for 1 tsp of British "mixed spice." I don't have access to this, so I used some of its component spices instead. Feel free to use mixed spice if you have it. If you have a 9-inch ovenproof pan, you can use it to cook the fruit then spread the pastry directly on top. Dried cranberries will also work if you don't have fresh.

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, soft

2 to 3 large firm apples, peeled, cored, and quartered (I used Ambrosia and Gala)

1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries

1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/8 tsp ground allspice

Pinch each of ground nutmeg, ginger, and cloves

Pastry Dough (Recipe below)

Melt the butter in a large frying pan until foaming. Add the sugar and apples, and cook gently over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the apples begin to soften and the sugar is dark and syrupy. Stir in the cranberries, pecans and spices and continue cooking for another 5 minutes (some cranberries will break open).

Transfer the buttery apple mixture to a 9-inch round shallow cake pan (not springform) or tarte tatin pan. Allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the pastry dough into a disk, roughly 10 inches in diameter, to fit the top of the pan. Lay the pastry over the top of the apples, trim away any excess and tuck the pastry in around the sides. Chill for 5 minutes.

Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. To turn out the tart, place a serving plate over the top of the still-hot pan and invert, taking care to protect your hands from the extremely hot liquid caramel. Cut into wedges and serve with scoops of vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened cream, sour cream, or Greek yogurt.

Pastry Dough

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut up

2 Tbsp trans-fat free vegetable shortening

1 tsp lemon zest

4 to 5 Tbsp ice water

In a food processor, with knife blade attached, blend flour and salt. Add butter and shortening, then pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pulse in lemon peel. Sprinkle in ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until large, moist crumbs just begin to form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, 1 hour to overnight. (If refrigerated overnight, let dough stand at room temperature 30 minutes before rolling.)


  1. A gorgeous tatin! I love your twist on that classic.



  2. I'm so sorry that Heathrow is keeping the two of you apart! This tarte tatin does look beautiful and delicious though. Happy holidays, Xiaolu!

  3. I often think that airports cancel flights without any real need for it. SOmetimes even at the THREAT of snow. Crazy, especially after so much planning has gone into so many vacations.

    Your tarte tatin is gorgeous though! Way to be optimistic!

  4. Ugh, I'm so sorry to hear that the weather has interfered with your plans! Hopefully it will clear up soon... and in the mean time, this dessert both sounds and looks lovely. It should certainly keep your spirits up until then! :)

  5. Oh wow, love how "clean" all the shots r! Great styling Xiaolu n that tatin is SO good :-)

  6. Oh my. Your photos are amazing and this couldn't look any more delicious! Are finals over now? i hope so. I hope you enjoy the holiday.

    And, yes, there are tons of people I won't see this year. We're staying home to wait for baby, but that's a good thing :)

  7. Hang in there Xiaolu! You'll make it before Christmas yet!

  8. Very pretty indeed. Happy holiday to you and yours.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story. The horrible weather can indeed be a damper! :(

    gorgeous presentation you have.

  10. I guess I'm lucky in that pretty much everyone I love lives in the same state - and we don't really get much snow down here :)

    Gorgeous tart!

  11. Thanks, everyone!

    Joanne - yea it is crazy the precautions they take sometimes. I know it's for good intentions though...

    Robin - aw thanks. yep, they're over and I did pretty well my first semester back in school XD.

    Chanel11 - you're lucky to have them all close. the holidays must be great fun :).

  12. Awe, that's heart-breaking!! I really feel for you. Beautiful tart, though. I always find baking comforting when I'm frustrated or feeling down.

  13. Great idea to combine apples and cranberries for a tarte tatin. It looks beautiful too. Nicely done!

  14. I know EXACTLY how you are feeling. I am waiting to hear from my BF also who was supposed to be coming in from London

  15. Xiaolu, this tart looks delicious...perfect fort he the combination of cranberries and apple. Beautifully done!

  16. I hope that you will get to be together with your friend after all! Hang in there! I remember that at my daughter's and son-in-law's wedding, his grandma missed it due to bad weather and a cancelled flight. My sister-in-law missed it too, for the same reason:( I hope you have a Merry Christmas and that your friend will get to share your tasty treats!

  17. I will give anything for fresh crans right about now!!! I didn't buy them fresh this year... whahh The tart sounds, and looks every bit delish... I love tarts, fantastic photography as well!

  18. Sorry to hear about that! Mother Nature has been especially moody these past few years hasn't she! Your tarte looks marvellous though! :)

  19. This tart would be perfect at Christmas. Red fruits and their festivity..yay!

  20. Looks great! Beautifully done - the tart and the pictures!

  21. Sorry you didn't get to see your friend.

    Beautiful looking tarte tatin though - you have outdone yourself again!

  22. This looks so pretty! I've never made a fruit tart like this, and have always wanted to. Yum!

  23. Very interesting recipe! Love the cranberry twist!

  24. Love the look of your tatin, very festive! Hope you get to spend time with your friend...Happy Holidays to you and your family:D

  25. Loved the new look! And the dish looks fabulous as always! Hope you have a wonderful time with loved ones!

  26. Hugs.

    Hopefully, next year you'll be able to meet your dear friend!

    Anyway, lovely looking tart u got there and Merry X'mas!

  27. beautiful capture. Hope you will meet your friend very soon in the near future. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! ♥

  28. Thanks for the well wishes everyone. Happy holidays to you all XD. My friend's actually on her way to the US finally now. We'll meet up and bake the tart together just before New Year's!

  29. i'm so tired of seeing and eating cranberry-orange goodies--hooray for cranberry and apple! happy holidays to you. :)

  30. Xiaolu, this looks absolutely absolutely lovely! I hope you get to see your friend before Christmas.... And before the tart gets totally consumed :) ... merry Christmas! It has been such a great pleasure knowing you!

  31. I ♥ the of my faves. Super yum! Hope you managed to meet N, and am wondering if the weather and the travel chaos has eased a bit. We'd had travel thrown out of gear since yesterday with a blanket of fog. Flights have just begun to take off after 14 hours.
    Merry Christmas my dear!!

  32. Oh no! The snow has really wrecked a lot of havoc this year. Luckily, the boy got away just before the airports shut! The tarte tatin looks gorgeous, I've always loved them!

    P.S - While this theme + header is awesome, I really LOVED the red one!

  33. So sorry to hear you weren't able to reunite with your friend. But i'm sure it will happen soon. This tarte tatin looks just perfect. And it appears that you enjoyed your holiday weekend.

  34. This is lovely! I love the flavour combinations. So sad about missing your friend. I bet she was upset about missing this tart too!! (I read your recent post first, so I know it all turns out ok :) yay)
    Heidi xo

  35. Looks fabulous... did you update your site style? It looks great.

  36. lovely photos, lovely post and a lovely combo of flavors for an apple tarte tatin!

  37. grace - I'm glad to have provided you with a new flavor to partner with cranberry.

    Shirley - Thanks, girl! P & I did finish the first tart but I got to see N and made her another one to share together :).

    Deeba - I did meet with N a week later. Hope you made it to where you needed to go, too!

    Avanika - So glad the boy made it out in time. Hope you had a lovely holiday together. I do miss the red...maybe I'll bring it back in another form in a few months :).

    Lisa - I appreciate it!

    Heidi - I'm glad you like it :).

    New York City Girl Expat Abroad - Yes I did just update the background, colors, and header. Thanks for noticing =D.

    The Urban Baker - Thx, girl!

  38. oh darn that must have been disappointing!

    However this beautiful tartin must have comforted you :-) Looks lovely.

  39. What a beautiful tart, and gorgeous photos as always. I hope you were able to get to see N last Christmas!


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu