This post has been updated for recipe, photos and content since its original publication in 2014.
This easy rustic apple tart with crunchy walnuts and sweet tart dried cranberries is a rubbly, lightly sweet seasonal dessert. With a nutty homemade walnut pie crust and cinnamon sugar topping, this apple cranberry tart is the epitome of a fall dessert. The fruit and nut filling needs to be refrigerated for 2 hours before baking, so start making this apple cranberry tart several hours or even a day ahead of time.
This apple cranberry and walnut dessert is a beautiful rustic tart made with an unusual technique that I found in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s baking tome, The Pie and Pastry Bible. I took a few liberties with the recipe, but stuck to her technique.
Her method soaks the fruit and toasted walnuts in a simple, sweet custard before transferring the mixture to a homemade walnut pie crust to bake. It sounded so unique, I needed to try it myself.
Ingredients for apple cranberry tart filling:
- Dried Cranberries
- Granny Smith Apple
Unusual filling technique
- To make the custard, you simply heat the sugar and cream to a boil in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly.
- Stir in the tart apples, cranberries and roughly chopped, toasted walnuts to combine.
- Spread the mixture into a 9″ pie pan lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to overnight so that the walnuts can absorb some of the custard and the mixture sets.
I know. It’s really an unexpected technique, right? I refrigerated the cranberry, apple and nut mixture for the tart in the prepared pie plate overnight. The next day, I found that it set into a semi-firm, almost jelled state. The walnuts absorbed some of the cream mixture and the dried cranberries plumped slightly.
The nutty, wholesome walnut crust is easy to assemble in a food processor in just a few minutes. The crust does need to rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before rolling out, so factor in some time for that.
How to make walnut pie crust
- Finely chop the toasted walnuts in the food processor.
- Add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine.
- Add cold butter and pulse a few times until it resembles coarse meal with some larger bits of butter.
- Whisk together the egg yolk and ice water and add to the flour mixture.
- Pulse about 8 times or until the dough just starts to come together.
- Transfer the walnut crust dough to a work surface and quickly form into a ball.
- Press into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
Pro Tip #1: If the dough seems dry or isn’t coming together, you can add more ice water one tablespoon at a time, and pulse it until it does come together
ProTip #2: .If you chill longer than 20 minutes, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let rest for 20 minutes before rolling out.
I’ll be honest, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with pastry for years.
It’s not assembling the dough that vexes me. It’s that the homemade pastry always sticks to my counter, despite a generous flour layer. It fights me when I try to lift it up and tears when pressing into a pie shell. In other words, it’s a bitch.
After years of fighting with dough, I’ve come up with a simpler, easier method, that doesn’t add more flour to your crust (which can make it tougher and less flaky). Plastic wrap is the key.
The easy way to roll out walnut pie crust
- Line a workspace with plastic wrap (you may need two sheets, one slightly overlapping the other) to roll out the pastry dough.
- Place the chilled disc of dough in the center of the plastic and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap.
- Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough from top to bottom, side to side and angle to angle, lifting the top piece of plastic and resetting it after each roll.
- Roll the dough until you have a 12-14″ circle.
- Remove the top sheet of plastic and discard. Gently lift the bottom plastic, lifting the dough from the counter so it’s supported by the plastic wrap and work your hand (fingers spread wide) under the plastic and dough.
- Gently transfer the pie pastry to the tart pan, inverting it into the tin. Peel back the plastic wrap.
- Gently press the walnut crust into the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Run the rolling pin over the fluted edge to trim the excess dough away.
Filling the walnut crust with apple cranberry tart filling
- Remove the apple cranberry walnut “custard” from the refrigerator.
- Carefully lift the plastic wrap from the pie plate and invert it into the prepared walnut crust in the tart pan.
- It’s ok if it doesn’t land perfectly. Just use a rubber spatula to smooth the filling into place.
- Sprinkle the tart liberally with cinnamon sugar and dot the top of the apple walnut tart with butter.
As the tart bakes, the filling spreads and fills the walnut crust. It bakes into a gloriously rustic, cobblestone finish with a lightly spiced, burnished crust.
The tart pan has a removable bottom, which is very convenient for serving, but perilous for baking and transporting.
Why? Let’s just say, you run a greater risk of your apple cranberry tart ending up on the floor (ask me how I know).
To save yourself from a kitchen disaster, bake the tart on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. It makes it easier to transfer to and from the oven.
The foil or paper lining will also catch any spills or leaks, so less dishes for you.
The key to moving the tart is using both hands and holding it from the sides of the pan, rather than the bottom.
The aromas emanating from this rustic cranberry apple tart as it bakes are warm and inviting.
How does the rustic cranberry apple tart taste?
This cranberry apple walnut tart has lots of rubbly texture and isn’t overly sweet and the combination of flavors in this fall dessert are highlighted and celebrated, not masked.
The simple walnut crust fitted into the tart pan gives this rustic apple tart a more refined and elegant look, making it perfect for special occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
That crust of cinnamon sugar is a nice spiced accent to the warm, flaky walnut pie crust and chewy, chunky apple cranberry and nut filling.
The granny smith apples maintain their texture and sweet tart flavor. The dried cranberries are chewy and tangy and the walnuts maintain their character.
What to serve with the apple cranberry tart
Though it doesn’t need any embellishment, it’s remarkably good with one (or several) of the following:
- Sweetened whipped cream
- Vanilla or Cinnamon ice cream
- Spiced Cider Rum Sauce
More rustic apple desserts you might like:
- Apple Walnut Shortbread Bars
- Moist Apple Bundt Cake with Maple Glaze
- Cranberry Apple Pie
- Simple Apple Tart with Puff Pastry
Apple Walnut Cranberry Tart
- Food Processor
- 9" pie plate
- 9" tart pan with removeable bottom
FOR APPLE WALNUT CRANBERRY FILLING:
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 large Granny Smith apple peeled and chopped into 1/2" dice
FOR THE WALNUT PASTRY:
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 1" cubes
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon butter cut into small cubes
TOAST THE WALNUTS:
- Preheat the oven to 300°. Lay the walnuts for the filling and tart pastry (2 cups total) onto a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden and fragrant. Set aside 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts for the crust.
- Roughly chop the remaining 1 1/2 cups of nuts for the filling and set aside.
MAKE THE FILLING:
- Line a 9” pie pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
- In a small saucepan heat the sugar and cream to boiling, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the cream thickens slightly.
- Add the walnuts, cranberries and chopped apple to the cream mixture and stir to combine. Transfer the apple mixture to the prepared pie pan and spread the apple walnuts into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
- Loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. The nuts will absorb some of the liquid and the mixture will set.
MAKE THE WALNUT PASTRY
- Add the 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse meal with some larger pieces of butter.
- In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with 3 tablespoons ice water and whisk together. Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse about 8 times or until the dough starts to come together.
- Transfer the pastry dough to a workspace lined with a piece of plastic wrap. Bring the dough together, kneading 3-4 times. Form it into a ball and flattening it into a disc. Wrap the pastry with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes. If you chill it overnight, remove the pastry 20 minutes before rolling it out so that it doesn’t tear.
ASSEMBLE THE TART:
- Place the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Line a workspace with plastic wrap. Place the pastry disc in the center of the plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic. Roll the pastry out to a 12-14" circle.
- Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and discard. Transfer the pastry to the tart pan by peeling up the plastic wrap beneath the pastry and carefully lifting the pastry off the counter. Flip the pastry into the tart pan and discard the plastic wrap.
- Gently press the pastry into the bottom and sides of the tart pan, then roll the rolling pin over the edges to trim additional crust from the tart and give a clean edge.
- Remove the tart filling from the refrigerator and invert it into the tart shell. Use a rubber spatula to smooth any areas that are uneven.
- Carefully transfer the tart pan with two hands to a large rimmed sheet pan to catch any drips (and to make it easier to carry).
- In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and sugar for the topping and sprinkle liberally over the tart. Dot the tart with butter and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
- Let the tart cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Best served warm with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
- This tart will keep at room temperature for 2 days and can be reheated in a 350° oven for 5 minutes.