Cranberry sauce is a staple for most holiday tables, no matter what kind of roast you are preparing. The sweet-tart berries provide a burst of flavor to contrast with some of the richness of other holiday dishes and they add a pop of color to the table. Leftover cranberry sauce is a great ingredient to bake with, too, and I use it regularly in bar cookies and fruit cobblers. This time around, I used it as a filling in a delicious, seasonal Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Tart.
The tart is made with two layers of buttery shortbread sandwiching a jammy cranberry filling. It looks elegant and is shockingly easy to make. I used Pillsbury® Traditional Holiday Sugar Cookie Mix to make the shortbread layers, and a whole berry cranberry sauce for the filling. Sugar cookie mix might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you thing about shortbread, but it actually makes a very convincing one if you make some modifications to the recipe on the back of the box. I mixed the mix with melted butter and vanilla extract – no eggs – to create a crumbly dough that was buttery and tender. I pressed part of the dough firmly into the base of a tart pan to build the base of the tart and par-baked it, to ensure that it would be crisp. Once the base was baked, I spread on my cranberry sauce. I mixed chopped, salted pecans with the remaining shortbread dough and sprinkled it onto the top of the cranberry layer, forming a salty-sweet crumble layer, and put the tart back into the oven to finish baking.
The finished tart had a great mixture of flavors and textures. The firm, buttery base was the perfect support for the cranberry filling, and the pecans added a nice crunch to the topping. I highly recommend using roasted and salted pecans in this recipe, because that little bit of extra salt on the pecans adds a nice salty-sweet element to the crumble topping on the tart. Spiced pecans, with a blend of sweet and spicy elements, are also a good choice and will add a hint of heat that works surprisingly well with cranberries.
If you don’t have a tart pan, you could make this in a 9-inch springform pan and get similar results. You can also play around with adding other flavors to the shortbread to put your own twist on this tart. For instance, you might want to add almond extract to the dough and add chopped almonds to the topping. Or, you could mix in a tablespoon of orange zest along with the vanilla extract for a cranberry-orange tart. The tart keeps very well when stored in an airtight container or cake carrier, and can be prepared at least a day ahead of time, making it a great dessert for holiday entertaining.
Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Tart
1 box Pillsbury Traditional Holiday Sugar Cookie Mix
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted, salted pecans
2/3 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large bowl, stir together sugar cookie mix, butter and vanilla extract until mixture is well combined into a slightly crumbly dough. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of dough into a 9-inch tart pan and press firmly into an even layer.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Add chopped pecans to remaining dough and stir or knead to incorporate. Mixture will be very crumbly.
Stir together cranberry sauce in a small bowl to loosen it up.
When the tart base finishes baking, spread cranberry sauce evenly over the top of it, stopping 1/2-inch before the edges of the tart pan. Crumble pecan shortbread mixture evenly over the top of the tart.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow tart to cool completely before serving.
I have been compensated by the J.M. Smucker Company to promote its Pillsbury Fall products, but the opinions expressed are my own. ©/® The J.M. Smucker Company. Pillsbury is a trademark of The Pillsbury Company, LLC, used under license.