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Blood Orange Tart

I’ve already mentioned how much I loved my meal at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar in Santa Monica. I especially loved the desserts we had there and was excited to rediscover this recipe I had bookmarked from Zoe Nathan, the pastry chef at both Rustic Canyon [1] and Huckleberry [2]. I love citrus and am especially fond of blood oranges but often I don’t like the taste of cooked citrus—it can lose its brightness really quickly. I was skeptical about this recipe, which is why it had been on hold for so long. But when the ice cream I had planned for dessert fell through because I forgot to freeze the bowl of the ice cream maker—I decided to finally give this tart a try.

Sometimes ice cream bowls are left out of the freezer for a reason. Through some miracle of nature and science this tart works shockingly well. The flaky pastry crust is just the right base for the slightly bitter blood oranges which manage to taste remarkably fresh and vibrant despite spending over an hour in a hot oven. This is due, in part, to the fact that you freeze the assembled tart until it is solid which buys you some extra baking time for the crust. Caramel sauce is the addition that really pushes this over the edge and makes it one of the best things I have baked (or eaten) in a very long time.

Peeling and slicing the oranges is annoying, but worth the effort so be like Nike and Just Do It. Make sure you have a sharp knife, because otherwise you might hate me for this recipe. I think this probably is supposed to serve 6 people but the 4 of us ate it all without any problem and I could have gone for another slice.

Blood Orange Tart (Recipe from Zoe Nathan via Food and Wine [3])

In a food processor, pulse the 1 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the baking powder and salt. Add the stick of cold butter and pulse several times, just until it is the size of peas. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and pulse just until moistened crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto a work surface, knead once or twice and pat the pastry into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to an 11-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper–lined flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chilled.

Meanwhile, peel the blood oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise; remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, releasing the sections into the sieve. Remove the pits and gently shake out as much juice as possible without mashing the sections; you will need 1 cup of sections. Reserve the orange juice for another use.

Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the oranges. Using a paring knife, thinly slice the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-inch border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the tart directly from the freezer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is deeply browned. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the tart cool for 30 minutes. Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the rack and let the tart cool completely. Serve with the Caramel Sauce.

*** You can use your favorite caramel recipe here. THIS [4] is what Nathan recommends, it seemed too complicated to me so I just made my usual caramel:

Melt the sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it turns a nice medium amber color. Add the butter and stir with a whisk to combine. Remove from heat and whisk in the heavy cream. It will bubble and steam and go a little crazy, so be careful. Whisk until you have a smooth sauce, return to low heat if you need to melt any hardened caramel. This will keep in fridge for a while.