Blood Orange Tart

Blood Orange TartGenerally I consider glazed fruit tarts to be a summer treat – something ideal for the back porch on a muggy evening after a meal of grilled meats and cold beer.  Nothing beats the supple flavor of a juicy strawberry on a light lemon custard and buttery sablé crust after a hot day.  Only in-season and perfectly ripe berries are worthy of such a spotlight: thus summer and fruit tarts are inextricably linked in my mind – so much so that the tart concept doesn’t even occur to me when I think about making a dessert in the months from October to May.

I think you can probably guess from the above picture that my formula has been reconfigured.  This was a great recipe found in my favorite magazine, and it features one of the best winter fruits out there — the blood orange — so I made an exception to the rule.  This tart, on the whole, is an exception to the rule — the crust has a fabulous sweet and citrusy tang, contrasted with a unique, almost savory, brown-butter custard filling.  Topping it all off is a two-toned layer of jewel-like orange slices, glistening with a translucent currant glaze.  I can see this tart being served at an elegant brunch or at a New Year’s Eve party – it looks just so festive and is a perfect ‘special treat’ in the cold and drab winter months.

Just in case you  were wondering, I can tell you that my absolute favorite part of this dessert is the crust.  I had a couple of snafus in the baking process (the dough stuck to the foil lining) but once repaired and filled, the crust really stood out as exceptional.  I would use this orange-scented dough for my next (summer) strawberry tart with pleasure.

Orange and Brown Butter Tart, from Fine Cooking issue #97 (January/February)

For the tart shell:
5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
Pinch of table salt
5 oz. (10 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest

For the filling:tart dough
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups whole milk
3 Tbs. cornstarch
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher or table salt
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
3 large navel or blood oranges, or a combination
1/2 cup orange marmalade or red currant jelly, as I used
1 Tbs. orange liqueur, such as Cointreau

In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt a few times to combine. Add the butter and orange zest and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal, six to eight 1-second pulses. A teaspoon at a time, pulse in up to 1 Tbs. water until the dough just holds together in clumps. Press the dough together, shape into a 6-inch disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Dough pressPress the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9-1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom—the dough sides should be 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. To smooth the bottom, cover with plastic wrap and press with a flat-bottom measuring cup or glass. Freeze the covered shell for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the plastic, line the dough with parchment and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake the tart shell until the top edges are light golden, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and beans, reduce the heat to 375°F, and continue to bake until the shell is golden all over, about 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

brown butter tart fillingIn a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it melts and the milk solids turn brown, swirling the pan occasionally for even browning, about 3 minutes. Immediately pour into a small heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.

In a medium bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch. Whisk in the eggs.

In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 1-3/4 cups milk, the sugar, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Take the pan off the heat, whisk about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, and then whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk. Return to medium heat and continue whisking until the filling boils and becomes very thick, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Off the heat, whisk in the brown butter and vanilla.

Tart FillingSpread the filling evenly in the tart shell and set aside at room temperature while you prepare the topping.

Make the topping:

Using a sharp knife, trim off the peel and pith from the oranges. Halve the oranges lengthwise and then slice them thinly crosswise and remove any seeds. Arrange the orange slices on the top of the tart in concentric, slightly overlapping circles.

Stir the marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted, 30 to 60 seconds. Strain and then stir in the Cointreau. Brush enough of the mixture on the oranges to give them a shine (you may not need it all). Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving so the filling can set up.


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