After all the holidays and the extra rich and heavy desserts that go along with it, there come winter citrus to switch it all up and just the right time. Once those resolutions are made, decadent sweets are probably the last thing on your mind. If you are anything like me though, those said resolutions don't ever completely eliminate all treats (I'm not totally crazy!), but I do try to eat them more in moderation. Fresh produce this time of year always seems a bit scarce, except for bright, zesty citrus. Using their natural vibrance and sweetness, winter citrus desserts are the perfect solutions for feeding your post-resoultion sweet tooth.
I made this Winter Citrus Tart for the last date night my husband and I had before baby. I actually did not know that at the time, since baby came on his own terms, but I knew we were close and wanted to make something special while it was just the two of us. Since I was essentially a ticking time bomb, I wanted to get in one last baking sesh before becoming a mom. Brett and I made plans that evening to go to our favourite Italian restaurant down the street for dinner, while I set out to make this tart to come home to for dessert. I knew it would be a bit more elaborate and time consuming than the usual treats I whip up last minute for my husband, but I wanted it to be extra special - plus, I was using it as a distraction from my over-due pregnant belly.
Since I make dessert and pastry for a living, most of the items coming out of the kitchen are designed for a specific project. Sure we end up with a ton of sweets hanging around, but they usually have been sitting out for photographs, manipulated in some way or another, or are not always what we are craving. I hardly have time to bake just for "fun" these days, and if I do it is usually just some random cookie or breakfast good - which is totally delish too, but not the point I am trying to make at the moment. Food is such a big part of my life and I wanted to try and do a little something different this year when it comes to desserts for the family.
Now that we have a new little one in the house, I know that date night means something completely different. Date night now will mostly be spent in, ordering take-out, and renting a movie off iTunes. To make those nights special and different from almost every other night that we stay in and catch up on our DVR, I wanted to challenge myself with a new series: Date Night Desserts. In theory, Date Night Desserts will consist of special, slightly-challenging desserts and pastries made from scratch that are worthy of being served in our nice dishes, under candle-light, and with a loved one. They are planned and cared for, as opposed to whipping some random brownies with whatever ingredients you happen to have in the fridge/pantry. Here, I want to tackle more of the recipes on my "to-do" list and really put my heart into them. If we are going to be under house arrest with a newborn, then at least I know that I can help keep some of the romance alive through food. I'm talking things like dark chocolate souffle, salted caramel pot de creme, perfect French crepes, fried beignets, and hand-churned, frozen custards. And in this case, a homemade Winter Citrus Tart. Make this tart for your sweetie and challenge yourself with the future recipes in this series to show your loved ones - significant other, best gal pal, children, etc. how special they are.
Back to the tart...One of the best parts about working with citrus is their beautiful colors - or at least when it comes to styling and photographing them. Of course, it is still important for them to taste good and not just be pretty, so good thing they are still juicy and delicious. I could live off satsumas, but a variety of citrus makes for a gorgeous flavour palette. For this tart, I've gathered up the freshest tangerines, blood oranges, grapefruits, and even a sweet lime. I decided to go with a chocolate crust, slightly spiced with a touch of cinnamon. The crust is not overly sweet nor rich, but deepens the overall flavour of the whole tart. I poached the fruit in vanilla for extra sweetness to off-set the tangy filling of creme fruit and cream cheese. What makes this tart great for date night is that the different components like the crust and filling can be made separately ahead of time, thus making the whole dish more approachable and less intimidating to assemble come dessert time.
Winter Citrus Tart
- 3-4 assorted citrus fruits - orange, tangerine, grapefruit, blood orange
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 1 cup creme fraiche
- 1 cup cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
- 1 pre-baked tart shell
- Slice off the top and bottom of the citrus. Cut away the outer peal and pith.
- Slice citrus into rounds, about 1/3" thick.
- Place the water and sugar in a large pan. Heat over medium-high until the sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.
- Add in the vanilla bean and seeds. Turn heat down and let sugar mixture come to a simmer.
- Carefully add in the citrus rounds and cover. Simmer for about 8 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fruit to a drying rack until drained and cooled.
- Meanwhile, stir together the creme fraiche, cream cheese, and sugar - to taste.
- Spoon the filling into the tart shell.
- Arrange poached citrus on top.
- Chill until ready to serve.
Chocolate Tart Shell – adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Sift together all of the dry ingredients and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pasty cutter or use your finger tips to blend until the mixture is mealy with clumps no larger than the size of a pea. Stir in the egg until the mixture starts to come together into large clumps. Turn dough out until fully incorporated. Press dough into a 9″ round, greased tart pan then freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray the shiny side of a piece of foil with non-stick spray and place it (greased-side down) on top of the crust. Bake covered for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cake until done, about 5-8 additional minutes. Let completely cool on a cooling rack before filling.