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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Citrus Bombs

Every year, Michael and I receive a crate of oranges and grapefruits from a dear friend. Without fanfare, they arrive on our front stoop on what always seems like the coldest day of the year. Like giddy school girls not knowing what to expect, we open the crate to reveal rows of individually wrapped plump and juicy citrus bombs. Sunshine in a crate. Delivered. Pretty cool.

Like clockwork, we pile the sunny fruit into large bowls and set them around the kitchen as if they'll radiate enough heat to offset the electric bill. Never happens. Eventually, we start eating and drinking them. The first few form the bases for mimosas, screwdrivers, greyhounds, and salty dogs. When we tire of squeezing them for juice, we start eating them. After the usual parade of citrus salads wears thin, I halve the grapefruits, score the little sections, dust them with  sugar, and broil them until they deeply caramelized.  Even with all of those shenanigans, we still have more oranges and grapefruits than two people could possible want to eat or drink. The citrus bombs always win. They outlast us.

Not this year.
I had a trick up my sleeve.
Grapefruit Tart.
Although I'm not much of a baker, I can muddle through a few citrus based things like curds and tarts. I have enough common sense to stay away from flaky pastry things, so I tend to go with more forgiving crumb crusts. Push and press. Yep.

The Crust.
For a subtle punch of spice, I crushed enough gingersnaps in a food processor to measure 2 1/2 cups. After mixing the crumbs with 6 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter, I pressed them into a 9" tart pan and tossed the shell into a 350 degree oven to bake for 10 minutes before setting it aside to cool.

The Curd.
I'm a sucker for citrus curds of any kind. I whisked 3 eggs, 3 egg yolks, and 1 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. After adding 1/2 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, 2 tablespoons grapefruit zest, and a pinch of salt, I placed the bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisked constantly, and cooked the filling until it was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. I pulled the curd from the heat , added 4 tablespoons of butter, strained it directly into the cooled tart shell, placed the pan onto a sheet pan, and slid the tart into the oven (350 degrees) to set the curd, about 12 minutes.  When it started to puff, I pulled the tart from the oven to cool.

The Extras.
So, here's the deal. I wanted to play with a mix of grapefruit textures and flavors. Maybe....just maybe, I had a little too much time on my hands. Or, maybe I simply needed to gild the lily, tart up the tart, and take it out on a date. Whatever the case, I had a blast dabbing lipstick on the tart. Candied grapefruit...without the fuss. Candied citrus anything takes time. It's a process. Blanch. Drain. Blanche. Drain. Repeat. Blah blah blah. I wasn't opening a candy store, for Pete's sake. It was a garnish. In lieu of a production line, I simply melted 1 cup sugar into 1 cup water over a low flame.  When the mixture started to ripple, I dropped a few grapefruit slices into the simple syrup, simmered them for an hour, killed the heat, and let them cool in the sticky mix before transferring them to parchment paper to air dry. To echo the mild heat of
the gingered crust, I whipped 1 cup heavy cream with 1/4 cup powdered sugar. After hitting the stiff peak stage, I folded 2 tablespoons of crushed candied ginger into the whipped cream. Booya.

I topped petite slices of the grapefruit tart with dollops of whipped cream and candied grapefruit shards before tumbling a few supremes of fresh grapefruit to the side. From top to bottom, it was all about texture and flavor.

For such an innocent looking thing, the dainty little tart packed a multi-layered punch.  Mellowed by the whipped cream, the lingering spice of the crisp gingersnap crust poked through the slight tang of the soft curd and tempered the sweet wet acidity of the fresh grapefruit. It was a killer combination. Sweet. Crisp. Tart. Fresh.  Unexpected.

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