Thanksgiving Desserts, including an Emergency Backup: Pumpkin Tart with Cranberry-Pomegranate Glaze and Cranberry Fool Chocolate Tart

A friend kindly invited us to his family's Thanksgiving dinner last year, and their Thanksgiving meal is serious business -- the amount of planning and effort that goes into its high-level execution is remarkable. I offered to bake something and decided to make Caramel Apple Tartelettes and a Pumpkin Tart with Cranberry-Pomegranate Glaze. The tartelettes came off without a hitch.
The pumpkin tart seemed straightforward. There's a graham cracker crust (graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter, and salt) that you press into a tart pan; bake until golden; and sprinkle with chocolate that you melt and spread into a thin layer. I own a lot of fluted tart pans, but I often use straight-sided cheesecake pans with removable bottoms for tarts with crumb crusts because the absence of nooks and crannies generally makes it easier to remove the tart from the pan. 

I popped the chocolate-coated crust into the fridge while I made the filling, which is a mixture of pumpkin puree, milk, eggs, maple syrup, salt, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice. I poured the filling into the crust and baked the the tart until the filling was puffed and set. The instructions say that when the tart is cool enough to handle, you should loosen the ring from the pan bottom to make sure it isn't stuck. Despite my thinking I was so clever by using a straight-sided pan, the sides and removable bottom of my pan were firmly cemented together and absolutely wouldn't budge. I tried to run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and even that was nearly impossible, and I ended up breaking off all of the crust that extended above the filling. The whole thing looked like a disaster. I finally managed to pry the sides of the pan off, but the tart was still stubbornly adhered to the pan bottom.

I was in too deep to turn back, so I went ahead to finish the tart. I topped it with a cranberry glaze (a mixture of pomegranate juice, cornstarch, cranberries, and sugar that is cooked and put through a sieve) and pomegranate arils. The tart looked pretty but I was really concerned that the crust would remain stuck to the bottom and that dinner guests would end up having to eat just pumpkin filling and glaze scooped up with a spoon. I didn't want to take a chance on a total disaster, so I made a last minute emergency backup dessert: a Cranberry Fool Chocolate Tart. In short, it's a chocolate cookie crust filled with cranberry whipped cream (heavy cream whipped with sour cream, with a semi-pureed mixture of cranberries cooked with maple syrup and orange zest mixed in). After the tart is set, you garnish it with pistachios.
The cranberry fool tart was pretty and I really liked the not-too-sweet flavor of the light-textured whipped cream. That said, the dessert was so light that I felt like it was missing something. I mean, it was basically a cookie crust filled with whipped cream. While it was nice to have a less filling dessert after a big meal, in other circumstances I think this tart might leave people unsatisfied.

When it came time to cut the pumpkin tart, the first few slices did get mangled and lose their bottom crust, but I was able to get the later slices out intact. It was basically a dressed up pumpkin pie and I particularly liked the sharpness of the glaze -- but I thought the chocolate was a little out of place. I like pumpkin + chocolate, pumpkin + cranberry, and cranberry + chocolate. But I think the combination of all three was just a little too much, although the chocolate definitely did succeed at sealing in the crust and preventing it from getting soggy. If I made this tart again, I think I would use white chocolate or caramelized white chocolate instead, or maybe even milk chocolate.
I wasn't totally happy with the way my tarts came out, but the dinner was outstanding and our hosts and the other guests were warm and utterly charming. I still have so much to be thankful for.