A vegan and gluten free tart with apples, pears, and cranberries inspired by A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Happy holidays, all! I hope that no matter where you are or what you’re celebrating this season – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saturnalia – that you are joyous, healthy, and surrounded by loved ones.
If you’re like me, balancing the holidays with work and family and travel can be a little stressful, but it doesn’t have to turn you into a Scrooge. Relax, unwind, and bake away the stress with this easy tart, fit for the whole family. And I mean, everyone.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a cold-hearted miser who sees the Christmas holiday as more of an imposition to his business than as an occasion for good will. When he returns home on Christmas Eve he is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, wrapped in chains and cursed to roam the earth watching the poor, weak, and hurting, helpless to intervene. Marley warns Scrooge that if he continues in his manner, he will suffer the same fate. Over the course of that night Scrooge is visited by three more ghosts, those of Christmas past, present, and future, who endeavor to show him a more fulfilling path.
Notes from the Piebrary:
Charles Dickens was an exceptionally prolific and popular writer during the Victorian era, all the more impressive when you consider he was forced to drop out of school at a young age to support his family.
A Christmas Carol was not only a brilliant piece of popular literature in its time, but was also intended to bolster humanitarian spirit and raise awareness about children in poverty, a cause that was deeply personal for Dickens. Basically, Dickens thought that a holiday parable about good will and generosity would be more easily digested and widely accepted than a pamphlet or an essay. And it turns out he was right; a hundred and seventy-one years later, the novella is still widely read and Scrooge the epitome of anti-holiday sentiment.
(Note: if this post had gone up yesterday, December 19th, as intended, it would have been the 171st anniversary of the novel’s publication.)
Parsing this Pie:
I have to admit, I’m hard pressed to give a deeper, thematic justification for my choices in making this pie. When the second spirit appears to Scrooge, there are “luscious” pears and “cherry-cheeked” apples and cranberries present, but to be totally honest I just wanted those red-and-green Christmas and holly colors in the pie. Plus, I’ve never really understood the practice of sending apples and pears as holiday gifts, but if you find yourself with a surplus of these fruits lying around the house, you can put them to sweeter use.
The ghost of Christmas present walks unseen among holiday revelers with some sort of censer, sprinkling them with water and turning ill will to cheer. Similarly, I felt like this pie should spread a bit of Christmas joy to an oft-forgotten corner of the culinary spectrum: the gluten-free and the vegans. I started with an almost press-in crust recipe from the Vegan Pie in the Sky cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, but made a few substitutions of my own – coconut flower and chocolate almond milk – for flavor.
-2/3 cup slivered almonds
-1 cup coconut flour
-2 tbs sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-4 tbs vegetable oil
-3-4 tbs chocolate almond milk
-2 pears (of a green variety)
-2 apples (of a red variety)
-1 1/2 cups cranberries
-1/4 cup cornstarch
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-Cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, tiniest dash of cloves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put the slivered almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are thoroughly chopped. Mix almonds, coconut flour, sugar, salt, oil, and almond milk together in a bowl until it becomes a kind of meal. Press it into the bottom of your tart pan, prick a few times with a fork, and bake for 5-10 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
Slice pears and apples, leaving the skin on. In a bowl, mix apples, pears, cranberries, cornstarch, sugar, and brown sugar, thoroughly coating the fruit. I added about a tablespoon of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, maybe about a 1/4th a teaspoon of nutmeg and a tiny dash of cloves. You can add these things to your personal taste, but no matter what I would use the cloves very sparingly.
Arrange the fruit skin-up in an aesthetically pleasing fashion, but don’t worry too much about the design of it because the cranberries are going to cover it up. It’s okay if – I don’t know – you can’t manage them into a perfect circle like you see in cooking magazines. Pour the cranberries overtop, then bake for approximately 40-50 minutes or until the fruit seems to have cooked through and the crust is a deeper golden brown around the edges.
Were I to bake this again I would probably whip up a caramel sauce to go on top, much like this one from Bon Appétit. Enjoy at the end of a holiday feast, perhaps a prize turkey, with a cup of coffee and some vanilla ice cream. God bless us, every one!