Cranberry Curd Tartlets

Cranberry curd? Are you kidding me? Why didn't I think of that? Leave it to Martha Stewart to come up with a perfect little treat for the holidays, a surprise for guests, for a tea, even for Thanksgiving dessert.
Every once in a while I taste a new recipe, roll my eyes back and say OMG! This is one of those recipes. From the fabulous little pecan pastries to the extraordinary cranberry curd, these tartlets are perfection. And best thing can make everything ahead of time and put them all together at the last minute, or as Martha suggests, make it fun and let your guests put them together.
My mind is bursting with ideas for the cranberry curd, too. How about on a vanilla bean panna cotta? Over a pound or an angel food cake? Or whirled into some melted white chocolate to make bark? On toast? Sky's the limit. Oh, and I'm going to put those pecan shells to good use too.

Note: I've frozen both the shells (which I think will do well) and some curd, which ought to be fine. I've also kept some curd in the fridge, which ought to last a week or two. This recipe makes about 35-40 tarts. I think my little balls of pecan dough should have been smaller, but still, I wouldn't change the finished tartlet for anything. I mean, will you look at those babies? 

Cranberry Curd Tartlets
From Martha Stewart Living, November 2013

Ingredients for curd:
4 cups fresh or unthawed frozen cranberries (a 14.5 ounce package) I used fresh.
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
3 large egg yolks plus 1 large whole egg
Whipped cream for serving

Ingredients for tartlets:
3/4 cup toasted pecan halves
1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Non-stick cooking spray

Method for making curd:
Place cranberries, orange juice and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst and everything turns into mush. Takes about 15-20 minutes. (Although Martha Stewart says 35 minutes.) Press through a fine sieve, making sure you get all the pulp. Discard solids. You should have about 1 1/2 cups. Cook pulp in a saucepan with butter, sugar and salt until the butter melts. Beat the eggs together and temper the eggs with the hot cranberries, a tablespoon at a time, eventually pouring everything back in the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Press through a fine sieve once again and then pour into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Refrigerate until cold. Curd can be made 3 days ahead.

Method for making tartlets:
Process pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Beat mascarpone and butter in a mixer until well blended. Add flour, pecans and salt and mix just until dough comes together. 
Using a tablespoon, roll the dough into small balls. (Should make 30-35.) Refrigerate until firm.
Lightly spray mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. Press each ball into the bottoms and up sides. I used the largish end of a wooden spoon. Refrigerate. (I stuck in the freezer for a while.)
Preheat oven to 350. Bake the pastry cups for 15 minutes and then remove from oven. You will see that they have puffed up a bit. Take the end of the wooden spoon and press the bottoms once again.
Put back in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool completely before filling with cranberry curd. Top each with a dab of whipped cream. 
Pastry cups can also be made 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container.