When you work as a pastry chef in a bakery where artificial colouring is outlawed, things start to get a little brown at this time of year. All summer we work with vibrant hues of pinks, purples and yellow. Autumn brings us beautiful purple and red shades from plums and spring brings us fluorescent pink from Rhubarb. There isn’t really a lot of colour to work with at this time of year. That is until blood orange season is upon us!
Blood oranges are in season from mid January to early March, so not long at all really. They get their beautiful colour from a naturally occurring pigment which only develops when night time temperatures are low. Some of them are stained red on the outside whilst some look perfectly, ordinarily orange.
This Tart does take a bit of time, as it’s very important that you rest the pastry and chill the filling. Patience is most definitely a virtue when it comes to patisserie. Trust me when I say this took me a long-ass time to learn. If blood oranges are out of season, substitute with normal oranges.
For the pastry:
- 250g plain white flour
- 150g icing sugar
- 120g unsalted butter
- 1 egg
For the curd:
- Juice and zest of 4 oranges
- 200g butter
- 150g sugar
- 4 egg yolks, 1 whole egg
- 1 tbsp cornflour
For the meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- Cream the butter and icing sugar using a wooden spoon.
- Mix in the egg, then gently with your hands mix in the flour to form a dough. Be careful not to over work the pastry as this will leave you with a tough pastry case.
- Place in a plastic bag and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin and line a Tart case. Make sure the pastry is pressed right in to all the knooks and crannies and leave a little extra pastry over hanging the edge of the case. Prick the base of the case with a fork.
- Place in the fridge or freezer to chill for at least an hour.
- When fully chilled, cover the pastry in greaseproof paper and fill the case with rice or dried beans. This stops it puffing up in the oven.
- Bake the pastry case in a preheated oven at 160 degrees/ Gas mark 3. It will need approximately 20 minutes, turning half way, plus another 10 with the paper and rice removed. Because of the sugar in this recipe, the pastry does colour quite fast, so keep a close eye on it.
- When the case is out of the oven, use a small sharp knife to tidy up the over hanging edges. Set aside to cool.
For the Blood Orange Curd:
- Set up a Bain Marie using a pan of simmering water and a heat proof bowl. The bowl must not touch the water.
- Melt the butter and sugar in the Bain Marie.
- In a seperate bowl, combine the eggs, orange zest and juice and cornflour. Make sure they are well mixed.
- Pour this mix into the melted butter and sugar. Cook it carefully on the Bain Marie, whisking continuously until it starts to thicken. It should be glossy, smooth and coat the back of a spoon when ready.
- Place in a clean tub to cool, with some cling film on the surface so as not to form a skin.
When the Orange Curd is cool, pour it into the cooled Tart case and place this into the fridge to set. The Tart will be lovely just as it is, however if like me you have a constant need to go one step further, you can decorate your Tart with Swiss meringue…
For the Meringue:
- Over a Bain Marie, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Cook until the mixture reaches at least 63 degrees, or is just about too hot for your pinky finger.
- Using an electric whisk, whip the mixture until it forms stiff peaks.
- Pipe or mound onto your filled and chilled Tart and carefully toast with a blowtorch.
- If your Orange Curd lacks acidity (as Orange often tends too), squeeze in a little lemon juice at the end of the cooking. If you have it, a pinch of citric acid works even better.
- If you do not have a blow torch and still want to do the meringue, cover the whole surface of the Tart in meringue and cook it under the grill.
- Any left over Orange Curd will keep in the fridge for 3 days and it tastes amazing on toast.
- If you think you may struggle for time, you can line the pastry case up to a week before you need it and store it in the freezer. The Curd can be made a few days in advance and stored in the fridge.
- Freeze your pastry scraps with a date label and store for up to a month. A small amount will defrost quickly and be ready to roll for when you next need it.
- If you will not be serving your Tart within a few hours of finishing it, I recommend glazing the inside of the pastry case with an egg wash. Do this when you remove the paper and rice.