Being extremely squeamish, blood oranges never appealed to me, for what I think are obvious reasons. I found regular oranges boring enough, so adding a revolting bodily fluid to the name didn’t make them any more enticing.
But the year I spent in Bologna, Italy, where they call said fruit ‘arance tarocco‘, changed everything. No longer repulsed by the name, I would sit around the post-prandial table with friends and, rather than gorging on cantucci or gelato as per usual, we’d peel the red-orange orbs, purchased from one of the many outdoor markets, late into the winter evenings, marveling at their brilliant hues.
Since then, I look forward to their arrival each February, when bleak, short days coupled with beige foods can leave one feeling uninspired (no offense, celeriac).
Blood oranges come in several varieties, the two that I’ve experienced being the aforementioned Taroccos (apparently named for the Sicilian exclamation of surprise that a farmer uttered upon seeing the inside of his first blood orange), and Moros, which are more readily found in the States. Taroccos have a blushed orange flesh, and a sweet, mild flavor that is less acidic than regular oranges. Moros range from deep crimson to almost black in color. They have a deep flavor, floral and mysterious, with bitter undertones and notes of red wine and ripe blackberry.
This curd filling, a mixture of sugar, eggs, butter and citrus juice and zest, captures those intriguing flavors in a creamy tart contained within a crisp, buttery crust. I dislike citrus tarts that are overly sweet or eggy, but this formula, adapted from Williams Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking, uses just enough egg to set the curd, just enough sugar to tame the moro’s bitterness, and a sinful amount butter to give the curd creamy body that holds its shape when cut.
The delicate, buttery crust stays crisp for days after baking, and comes together more quickly than most: just rub in the butter, press the crumbs into the pan, freeze while you preheat the oven, and bake; no pie weights necessary.
If you lack a tart pan with removable bottom, you can bake this in an 8″ square pan lined with a sling of parchment paper, for blood orange bars. Gussy these up with a dusting of powdered sugar.
And if serving this to squeamish guests, take a tip from some canny citrus growers and tell them it’s a ‘sangria orange’ tart.
Blood Orange Tart
Adapted from The Essentials of Baking
Makes one 8 or 9″ tart, 10ish servings
3/4 cup (4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, in 1/2″ dice
Blood orange curd filling:
finely-grated zest of 1 blood orange
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons strained blood orange juice (from about 3 oranges)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons butter, in 1/2″ dice
blood orange supremes (see method below)
crème fraîche or whipped cream
Make the crust:
Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter cubes and rub with your fingertips until no large butter chunks remain and the mixture begins to clump together. Dump into an 8 or 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom and press as evenly as possible up the sides and into the bottom of the pan. Freeze the crust until firm while you preheat the oven, at least 15 minutes.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350º. Bake the frozen crust until it is golden all over, about 25 minutes. Let cool while you make the curd filling.
Make the blood orange curd filling:
Set a mesh sieve over a heatproof bowl or large measuring cup and set aside.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the zest, blood orange and lemon juices, sugar, eggs and egg yolk to combine. Place the pot over medium-low heat, and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches 170º on an instant-read thermometer, 5 – 10 minutes. As you whisk, be sure to scrape the entire bottom of the pan and into the corners, so that the mixture heats as evenly as possible. Immediately strain the mixture through the sieve. Stir in the butter pieces until melted, and cool the curd for 10 minutes. (If you accidentally cook your curd too far and it begins to curdle, and stays curdled after you strain it, you can probably rescue it by whizzing it in a blender or with an immersion blender.)
Bake the tart:
Place the baked, cooled crust on a flat, rimmed baking sheet. Pour the slightly cooled curd into the cooled tart shell; you may want to put the crust in the oven first, then pour in the filling so it doesn’t slosh all over the place when you try to move it. I’ve read, but have yet to try, that if you have extra filling, you can bake the tart for 10 minutes or so until the sides are set, then poke the center with the tip of a paring knife and pour in the remaining filling. However you get it in there, bake the tart for about 25 minutes until the sides are barely puffed and the tart wobbles like jell-o when you give it a gentle shake; it should not be wet or watery looking (underbaked) nor should it be puffed in the center or cracking (overbaked).
Remove the tart from the oven and let cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 3 hours prior to serving. Remove the tart from the ring (setting it atop a large aluminum can, then pressing the ring down works well; if the tart sticks, place it in a 350º oven for 3 minutes to soften the sticky bits, and it should release more easily). Serve wedges of the tart with a bit of crème fraîche and a few blood orange supremes.
The tart keeps well, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
To supreme a blood orange:
Cut off the top and bottom of an orange. Place a cut side down, and use a sharp knife to pare away the skin and pith in a downward motion, following the curve of the fruit (see photo in post, above). Once you’ve removed all the skin and pith, hold the orange in your hand, over a bowl to catch the precious juice, and cut into the fruit, next to the membrane, to remove segments from their casings. These are called ‘supremes.’