Holiday recipe spectacular: Cranberry tart and apple sesame kanten by Brenda Langton

It’s Day 5 of our holiday recipe spectacular, and we’ve got some delicious dessert recipes from Brenda Langton, author of The Spoonriver Cookbook (where the following recipes come from) and The Cafe Brenda Cookbook. Enjoy!

This week, we’ve also featured:
Day 4: Hearty, vegan-friendly entrees with Jenny Breen.
Day 3: Corn chowder with Atina Diffley.
Day 2: Swedish pancakes with Helene Henderson.
Day 1: Sweet potato walnut salad and snack cake with Beth Dooley.


Holiday recipes from Brenda Langton


Serves 10 to 12

This is a festive tart to serve for the holidays, but it is certainly welcome all fall and winter long. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries. There is no need to thaw frozen cranberries, and they are easier to chop when frozen. This is a very simple tart to make. If you have a tart shell already prepared, you can throw it together in just a few minutes.

2 eggs
1/2 cup honey or sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 partially baked tart shell (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the eggs, honey, butter, orange juice, vanilla, and salt. Beat with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cranberries, walnuts, and orange zest.

Pour the filling into the prepared tart shell. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden. Place the tart on a wire rack to cool. Let it cool completely before serving.


Makes enough dough to line an 8- or 9-inch tart pan.

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into  small pieces and drop them into the flour. Work the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives until the  mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add 1 tablespoon of  ice water and stir to combine. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture while stirring with a fork. The mixture  should be moist but not wet and should hold together in a ball. If the mixture seems too dry, add more water  a little at a time until the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a ball. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in  plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Flour a work surface. Roll out the dough, starting from  the center and moving toward the edges. Turn the dough and flour it as you go to prevent it from sticking. Roll until the tart dough is 1⁄8 inch thick. Carefully lay the dough in the tart pan.

Trim the excess dough, leaving about an inch beyond the  edge of the pan. Fold in the extra dough and press it against the sides to double the thickness of the sides. 

Chill the tart shell for at least one hour before prebaking or filling it.

To partially bake a tart shell, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line the shell with aluminum foil and fill it with dried beans, rice, or aluminum pellets. This keeps the sides  from caving in and the bottom from bubbling up. Place the tart pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for  15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the weights and the foil, and return the shell to the oven for 5
more minutes to dry the bottom crust.

To bake a shell completely, follow the above steps but bake  it for 20 minutes before removing the weights. Return the shell to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. The crust should be a light golden brown.



Serves 6

Kanten is a traditional Asian fruit dessert. It is like a refreshing, creamy fruit pudding. Top it with nuts and fresh fruit. You can vary the juice used to make many different flavors. Apple juice with almond butter is a good combination, and pineapple-coconut juice with sliced oranges is very refreshing. Kanten is pretty served in goblets, and using goblets makes it easy to layer two different flavors.

4 cups apple juice
5 heaping tablespoons of agar flakes
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons tahini

Pour the apple juice into a saucepan. Add the agar flakes and the salt and bring the juice to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the agar dissolves.

Pour the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate the kanten until it sets, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Using a blender, blend the kanten with the tahini until it is smooth and creamy. If necessary, blend in batches. Tahini varies in thickness. If you have very thick tahini, you may need to add a little more juice to get a smooth creamy texture. Pour the kanten into individual serving dishes.

Serve the kanten cold. It’s pretty served in stemmed glasses. Garnish it with fresh fruit: try berries, grapes, kiwi, or citrus.

Variations: Use apple-peach or apple-cherry juice and substitute almond butter for the tahini.

Use coconut milk in place of the tahini.


Brenda Langton has been a presence in Twin Cities dining since 1972. She started her first restaurant, Cafe Kardamena, in St. Paul in 1978, and then moved it to Minneapolis and renamed it Cafe Brenda in 1986. Cafe Brenda operated until 2009. In 2006, Brenda opened Spoonriver and founded the Mill City Farmers Market. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota and an educator and consultant on healthy eating.

She is author of The Spoonriver Cookbook and The Cafe Brenda Cookbook: Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine.

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