This One Truly Does Melt-In-Your-Mouth.
Here’s a tart that’s perfect for the holiday season. It’s colorful, the crust, filling, and toppings can be made the day before, and oh, man, is it delicious.
I wanted an almond crust because I love the combination of citrus with almonds. But I didn’t want to use almond flour. I wanted to have bits of almonds in the crust. I adapted David Tanis’s recipe for a hazelnut crust that he had adapted from a David Lebovitz cookie recipe, which he had taken from Terresa Murphy. Yeah, this is how recipes come into being. It’s rare that anyone actually reinvents the wheel.
The crust is more like a shortbread/cookie type of crust than a normal pastry crust. It’s made with rice flour which gives it a crunchy bite, comes together very easily, and also makes the recipe gluten free.
Now, about this filling. I’ve run into this recipe for many years and finally got around to making it. Dorie Greenspan was taught how to make it from the great Pierre Hermé and I’ve adapted it for my tart by using several different kinds of citrus juices and zests. It’s another example of the circuitous paths of recipes. This filling is unlike any curd or pastry cream I’ve ever made. There is no milk or cream. Sugar, citrus juices and zests, and eggs are cooked in a double boiler just until they reach 180°, at which point the mixture is poured into a blender. It then sits and cools until it reaches 140°.
A note about the double boiler. Dorie posted an update to the original recipe, explaining how she simply uses a large metal bowl, which is set over a large pot of simmering water. No need for a classic double boiler. And that’s exactly how I did it. It only took about 10 minutes to reach the desired temperature, but it’s extremely necessary to continually whisk the mixture during this step.
After about 10 minutes in the blender, the mixture cools to 140° and here’s where it gets very interesting. 21 tablespoons of room temperature unsalted butter are added to the blender while it’s running on high speed. You add it in a few stages, but it blends quickly. Then you continue to run the blender for a full 3 minutes. What occurs is an emulsification of the ingredients. The butter never melts. Instead you’re left with a light and creamy consistency, unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.
It seems contrary to the addition of all that butter, but this filling has a lighter mouthfeel than curd or pastry cream. It’s common to describe something as having a silky texture, but there’s really no other way to describe this cream. It’s out of this world delicious. You put it in a bowl and let it chill before spooning it into the cooled crust. As I mentioned, I made the crust and the filling the day before I served the tart.
The next morning I got the notion that I’d like to top the tart with lightly candied slices of the citrus I had used in the filling. I made a simple syrup, added a few star anise and a dried habanero pepper, and cooked slices of navel oranges, clementines, and lemons until they were nice and tender. The spice and chile added an extra dimension of interest, but didn’t overwhelm the bright and floral flavors of the citrus.
After spooning the cream into the crust and letting it chill for an hour, I topped it with the candied citrus slices. A little bit of whipped cream and pomegranate arils finished it off nicely. When the first bite of that cold citrus cream hit my mouth and started melting, it was a sensation unlike any I’d ever experienced. Simply heavenly.
And here’s another tidbit of information: Dorie says the cream should be eaten within 4 days. My tart kept covered in the refrigerator for 6 days until we finished off the last slice. It hadn’t suffered in the least. It was still as pretty as it was on the first day and the filling, crust , and toppings tasted perfectly fresh.