Sunday, November 18, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Cranberry Crostata, A Dear Ruth Letter, and {Five Cranberry Recipes You'll Love}

There are three types of people. Those who like to cook. Those who like to bake. Those who say things like "I forgot to eat." We won't worry about the last. They were probably born on another planet.

I love to cook. It's forgiving. You can do your own thing. Add a pinch of this or a dash of that. I find the whole chopping and stirring bit therapeutic. For the most part, everyone usually says they really enjoy my cooking.

I love desserts. They are my one true weakness. I do not love to bake. Cookies, yes. Cakes, maybe. Rolling out dough, absolutely not. However, I love dessert and get this, my family and friends say they like my baked goods better than my cooking. It's like a curse.

So, I tried my hand at Ruth's Cranberry Crostata and this is what I have to say about it.

Dear Ruth,

Your Cranberry Pecan Crostata sounds delicious, original, and perfect for Thanksgiving. I hadn't baked in awhile and I thought I had the required level of patience to approach this recipe. I bought the fresh cranberries. I gathered the ingredients for the filling. The filling is on the stove, but it's nowhere near done in the time you indicated so I cook it longer. There is a fine line when the filling is perfect and apparently I missed it, Ruth. I have cranberry jelly, but I suppose I can deal with that.

Slightly frustrated I get out the flour (I hate getting out that messy flour, Ruth). It's not your fault. It's mine. I have no patience already. I'm already gritting my teeth, Ruth. I start reading the recipe for the dough (You'd think I'd have learned to read the recipe first, Ruth). I'm now frustrated because I thought I was making pastry dough and therefore needed cold butter, but now I'm reading that the dough is like a cookie dough, and therefore the butter needs to be room temperature.

Losing all patience, and shrugging my shoulders, I place the butter in a bowl and microwave it a touch to soften it slightly. Making the dough is easy, but there is flour on my counter and that sets me off.  I DO NOT LIKE FLOUR ON MY COUNTER. It's not your fault, Ruth. It's mine. 

I am starting to approach a whole new level of "I don't care", but I get out my plastic wrap and form disks rather easily. I think I've got this down now. I put that pesky flour back in the pantry out of my sight. I can't be bothered to look at it anymore. I've got 30 minutes for the dough to refrigerate. I have 30 minutes to calm down and gather myself. I can do this.

While the dough is doing what it does in the fridge, I gather my cookbook and set about writing my post. It is at this point when I read the recipe in its entirety for the first time. I realize that I don't have a springform pan. Then I realize that this crostata also requires latticework. I shove the cookbook away from me in total disgust. I realize that there is no amount of time that will cause me to calm down now. Baking requires patience, skills, and equipment that I simply do not have!

I write the post. I decided that I will not use a springform pan and I will not do latticework. I brainstorm while I approach a whole new level of baker's angst. I declare I will never bake again. I decide I will make two small rustic crostata. You know, filling in the center with the dough folded up all rustic and nice over the filling. Just like Giada makes. It'll be fine.

It's going to be fabulous I tell myself. I get the dough out of the fridge and place my rolling pin in my hand with high hopes. I will not roll this dough on my countertop because I cannot be bothered with messy countertops so I roll my dough out on the plastic wrap. I place the dough on the cookie sheet and all is right with the world. I artfully add the cranberry filling and spread it around like I'm God's gift to baking. Then I start trying to fold the dough into the center to cover the filling.



I grab my trusty little Pampered Chef spatula with the sharp edge and I angrily start slapping the dough up over the sides of the filling. The dough is breaking and the filling is oozing out the sides and getting messy. The dough gets stickier and stickier and I care less and less as I slap that dough up over the sides of the filling.

Dear God! The second crostata is even worse because I was dumb enough to let that dough sit out while I slapped the first one together. I care even less about the second one, Ruth. I slapped that dough over the sides of the filling with a fury of a 1000 men going to battle!

Looking at the second one caused me to laugh in a maniacal way. I scared the children, Ruth. I become even more angered when I realize that my dough is bare. I feel as though I should be brushing it with egg or butter and sprinkling it with some fancy baker's sugar. Why is the dough bare, Ruth? Filled with the rage of 10,000 lunatics, I remember buying some fancy Bourbon Vanilla Sugar and I throw it haphazardly over the tops of both crostata. 

I'm not lying, Ruth. I threw those crostata in the oven uttering all kinds of nasty words. The pans hit the back of the oven and bounced back on the racks with a vengeance. I got some satisfaction from that.

When I pulled them out of the oven they looked beautiful and rustic and I recovered. "I can't wait to have a slice", I said to myself. I don't even want to tell you what happened after I discovered one of the kids ate all of the vanilla ice cream.

When I finally recovered from the Vanilla Ice Cream Debacle of 2018, and got my hands on some vanilla ice cream, I sat down to enjoy a slice and you know what, Ruth? It was all worth it. Every bit of it. The messy flour, the sticky dough, the nasty words. Even the trip to the store for more ice cream. It was all worth it. This Cranberry Crostata could take on any shape, it could have beautiful latticework, or it could be slapped together. Either way, it is a sweet, tart, flaky cookie dough delight with ice cream on top and I love it!


P.S. The dough really could use a brush of egg yolk or butter to help it turn a nice golden brown.

P.P.S. You shouldn't really waste the zest of the orange. Save it and sprinkle it over the top.

Cranberry Pecan Crostata
Adapted from My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl

1/2 cup pecans
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 orange
4 ounces apricot preserves
12 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 lemon

*Note: I omitted the pecans because I'm not a fan of nuts in my desserts. I also do not have a springform pan so I basically did my own thing and made two rustic crostatas, without lattice tops because that is way too fussy for me!

The nice thing about this particular tart is that the crust is essentially cookie dough, which means that this tart is as good on day two as on day one. You can make it ahead of time- or really enjoy the leftovers.

Gently toast the pecans in a small skillet until they're fragrant, allow them to cool, then grind them fairly fine. (I skipped this step as I'm not a fan of nuts in my desserts).*

Beat the butter with 1/2 cup sugar until very light. Add the egg, the ground pecans (if using), a pinch of salt, the vanilla, and the flour. Grate in the zest of the lemon and mix well.

Form into two disks, wrap in waxed paper and chill for 30 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, cook the raw cranberries with the juice of the orange, the apricot preserves, and the other 1/2 cup of sugar, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Roll out one disk of dough into a 12-inch circle. Don't worry too much about this step; the dough will tear, but you can just press it into a 9-inch springform pan, bringing the sides up about 1/2 inch.  Spread the cranberry filling onto the crust.

Roll out the remaining disk on a sheet of waxed paper, put it on a sheet pan, and cut it into 8 to 10 strips. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes, which will make the next step easier.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375F for about 45 minutes until golden. 

Set on a rack to cool for half an hour, then remove the sides of the springform pan. Cool completely, on the rack, before serving.

 Five Cranberry Recipes You Will Love
(click on the recipe titles to be directed to the original post and recipe)

A Very Happy Thanksgiving Holiday to everyone celebrating!!


  1. OMG! I am laughing maniacally right now, too. (But, no children to scare in our household.)

    I have a few debacles and disasters that I have posted about as well. There was the 2008 Marshmallow skirmish that I basically wrote a Dear Molly (Wizenberg) apology to. Thanks for the laugh today!!!!

  2. I am laughing with you! I felt your frustrations leaping off the page. Ruth makes her recipes sound so easy but I know baking and this was a challenge for me too. Happy Thanksgiving, I hope it is frustration free.

  3. Excellent and hilarious post! It describes my feelings about baking to a T. 🤣 It does look delicious though and perfect for the holidays.

  4. I don't even know if I want to attempt this recipe. Your post is hilarious and I have this cookbook. However, I too have the physical aversion to touching flour and making pie crust fills me with dread. I'm glad it was worth it though. I would've been really sad for you if you had hated it.

  5. When cool head prevails, baking is fun, but not always. Say I have my fair share of huge frustrations with messy flour, sticky dough and leaky fillings. I've learned to stick with recipes that work to avoid those epic meltdowns. Keep baking Kim, you've got talents. This crostata is fabulous. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Ha! This was awesome. Even though I love baking, I still have days like these.


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