circle of hands
Bow your head down When you break bread together; Close your eyes, Make a circle of hands.
— Jeffrey Foucault, Dishes
Early morning sun slants through the windows, catching steam curls from coffee mugs and flour clouds from countertops. Sweet apple and pumpkin spice mingle, wafting through hallways and up stairs, rousing anyone who might be thinking about sleeping in.
There is much to do but it is unhurried and accompanied by laughter. Hours pass amidst piles of apple peels and potato skins. Outside air chills window panes that indoors collect condensation, frosted with anticipation of the feast ahead.
From the other room, the cheering din of football games on television. The clink of silverware as the table is set; the pop of a cork from a wine bottle. Dishes crowd each other for space on the long table, dressed festively with the old lace tablecloth.
One more circle around the sun; one more formal opportunity for Thanksgiving. For Giving Thanks.
We step back from the frenetic day-to-day. We cross miles of ground to join family and friends. We gather around the dining table and join hands; a moment of silent prayer, deepest gratitude for the blessings in our lives.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, and a special day of Giving Thanks to all. I am grateful for each and every one of you reading these words today.
Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Tart Makes one 9-inch tart
For decades now, one of my Thanksgiving tasks has been The Making of the Pie. There is always pumpkin, and this year I have been doing some groundwork to see whether I might add another option to the table. This Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Tart from Alanna Tobin-Taylor’s “Alternative Baker” cookbook is the current front-runner. It is extraordinary (as is the cookbook itself–for anyone seeking the definitive guide to gluten-free baking, this is it!).
This tart is, in essence, a pecan pie wrapped up in a delicate, crumbly chocolate crust. A melty bittersweet chocolate layer, tart cranberries, and a dollop of maple bourbon whipped cream cut the sweetness and provide for a balanced, delicious bite. Alanna (aka “The Bojon Gourmet“) has graciously allowed me to reprint the recipe here for you all to enjoy. She is also generously providing a copy of her cookbook as a giveaway; head over to today’s post on my Instagram account (@coffeeandwoodsmoke) to enter! The contest is open through Saturday, November 24th. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced Monday, November 26th.
1/2 C (60 g) blanched almond flour
1/2 C (80 g) sweet white rice flour
1/2 C (45 g) cocoa or cacao powder
2 Tbsp (12 g) tapioca flour
1/4 C (50 g) granulated cane sugar
3/8 tsp fine sea salt
5 Tbsp (70 g) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
Tart Filling Ingredients:
1 C (100 g) raw pecan halves
2 Tbsp (15 g) sweet white rice flour
1/4 C plus 2 Tbsp (75 g) packed dark muscovado sugar or packed organic dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 large eggs
1/4 C (60 ml) real maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp (56 g) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 C (85 g) roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate (preferably 70% cacao mass)
1 C (90 g) fresh or frozen cranberries, halved
Maple Bourbon Whipped Cream Ingredients:
1 C (235 ml) cold heavy cream, whipping cream, or heavy whipping cream (at least 35% fat content)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup
1 Tbsp (15 ml) bourbon or gluten-free whiskey
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the almond and sweet rice flours and cocoa/cacao powder with the tapioca starch, sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and drizzle with the vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to medium-low and run until the dough comes together in clumps and the butter is worked through, 3-5 minutes.
Dump the crumbs into a round, 9″ fluted tart pan with removable bottom and press the dough evenly into the pan, beginning with the sides and then moving to the bottom, keeping the edges square. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork and freeze until firm, 15-30 minutes.
Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until firm to the touch (18-22 minutes) for a parbaked crust. Remove the crust from the oven and, while it’s still hot, press the sides and bottom with the back of a spoon. This will help it hold together when cool.
Tart Filling Preparation:
Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius).
Spread the pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast until darkened slightly and fragrant, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely, then use your fingers to break the pecan halves into quarters and eighths. (NOTE: this step is optional. Toasting the nuts enhances their flavor, but the tart also comes out beautifully with raw pecans. It just has a milder flavor.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the sweet rice flour, muscovado/brown sugar, and salt. Whisk in the eggs, whisking until smooth, then add the maple syrup and vanilla, taking care not to incorporate too much air into the custard. Whisk in the melted butter, then fold in the toasted, cooled pecans.
Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the bottom of the crust, then the cranberries, and carefully pour in the filling, distributing the nuts evenly.
Bake the tart until the sides are gently puffed and center is wobbly like Jell-O under the nuts and fruit (which will float to the top), 20-30 minutes.
Let cool completely, then cut into slender wedges and serve. Alternatively, chill the tart before cutting into wedges for the cleanest slices, dipping the knife in hot water and wiping it clean between cuts. Serve the tart at room temperature, with a dollop of the whipped cream. The tart is best the day of baking when the crust is crisp, but extras keep well, refrigerated airtight, for up to 4 days. Enjoy!
Maple Bourbon Whipped Cream Preparation:
Place the cream, maple syrup, and bourbon/whiskey into the large, chilled bowl of a stand mixer. Whip on medium speed with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form (meaning the cream will softly fold over when you take the whisk off and turn it upside down). Keep chilled in a covered container in the refrigerator until it will be used. The whipped cream may separate if you don’t use it within an hour or two. If so, just rewhip.