Blood Orange Tart

Originating in the Mediterranean area, blood oranges are thought to be a natural hybrid that resulted in an increase in anthocyanin pigments which are red and blue pigments and are considered to be potent anti-oxidents. Blood oranges have become a lot easier to find in recent years than they used to be. They are generally available December-April and can be used in the same manner as a standard orange. The main difference is that reddish color of the juice and flesh, and a slight berry-like flavor to the juice. Unfortunately it can be difficult to tell from the skin what the color of the flesh will look like. Some are more fully red to maroon-like on the inside, while others have a smattering of red and orange throughout.

This tart is a variation on Shaker Lemon Pie which was a double crust pie made with sliced lemons, skin and all. It originated with the Shaker religious sect that was very frugal and made full-use of anything they had. Soaking the thinly sliced lemons overnight in sugar helped to soften the rind and tone down the bitterness of the skin. If blood oranges are not available, you can substitute another or a combination of citrus fruit such as Cara Cara naval oranges, pink grapefruit, or tangerines.

Yield:  8 servings

Pastry:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, cut up & softened

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling:

3 blood oranges

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Large pinch of salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Filling Prep:

Wash oranges and slice paper thin (skin-on), preferable on a mandolin.  Discard any seeds.  In a non-reactive mixing bowl (don’t use aluminum or copper), combine the orange slices with the sugar and both citrus juices.  Let marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Pastry: 

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt.  Add ½ cup butter.  Cut (using pastry blender) or rub butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, combine water and vanilla; add to flour-butter mixture, stirring until dough holds shape when pressed together.

Press dough evenly in bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Place a piece of parchment paper in bottom of crust so that paper extends above upper edges of crust.  Fill paper with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake crust for about 25 minutes.  Remove paper and dried beans and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the center is golden and not doughy.  Remove from oven and cool until ready to fill.

Filling:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a food processor, coarsely chop the orange mixture into 1/8-inch pieces.  Return orange mixture to the mixing bowl and stir in the salt, eggs, and flour.  Pour the orange mixture into the pre-baked tart shell and bake until almost completely set, about 30 minutes.  Cool to room temperature before serving.  Best served the same day it is baked.

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