Pretty (Delicious) in Pink: The Magic of Blood Oranges
Pink, as we all know, is having a moment. Call it Millennial pink, Scandi pink, Tumblr pink, candy pink, rose gold or blush, it’s all around us, in fashion and décor, as impossible to avoid as a Taylor Swift hit single. But me, I’ve never been much for such a girly colour—until I discovered the magic of blood oranges.
Don’t be put off by the name and the tough, mottled skin. Blood oranges are magical. They’re not really an eating orange—they tend to be tart and fibrous rather than sweet and juicy—but they are transformative in cocktails and desserts. In part, it’s their flavour, tart, bright and slightly floral. But mostly it’s the colour, that gorgeous, rosy hue with its hint of lilac and violets.
The blood orange is a natural mutation of the yellowy oranges we know and love, which themselves are likely a hybrid of pomelos and tangerines. The unique crimson colour of their flesh comes from anthocyanins, which are antioxidant pigments you often see in flowers and fruits, but rarely in citrus. Not only do they create that distinctive maroon hue, but they make the fruit taste like raspberries, which, if you love raspberries as much as I do, is exciting indeed.
Blood oranges come into season in December and last till May, which means the last few are in stores now. Go out and pick up a half-dozen or so while you can—I’ll wait.
Then you’ll need to juice them with a reamer or one of those hinged press things the bartenders use; be sure to pour the juice through a fine strainer to remove the pulp. Each orange produces about a quarter cup (two ounces or 60 millilitres) of juice. Its colour may be intense (don’t wear white while squeezing it, whatever you do), but it’s pretty light in body, so you’ll probably need to add a bit of lemon juice to whatever recipe you’re using it in.
I like adding blood orange juice to sours such as Sidecars and Margaritas. Shake together 2 oz blood orange juice, ½ oz lemon juice, ½ oz Cointreau and 11/2 oz spirit—brandy for the Sidecar, blanco tequila for the Margarita. For the Sidecar, use a cocktail coupe and, if you like, rim the glass with a bit of sugar; for the Marg, you can replace the lemon with lime juice and serve it in a rocks glass rimmed with salt.
But even better is this glorious blood orange tart, which is not just pretty in pink, but pretty darn delicious, too.
Blood Orange Tart Recipe
This is basically a variation on a classic French-style lemon tart so if blood oranges are out of season, you can always use home-made or purchased lemon curd instead. It calls for pâte sablée, a sweet, buttery dough that is crumbly like shortbread, rather than flaky like pie dough. If you like, you can make the dough a day or two ahead of time; just keep it well-wrapped and chilled until you’re ready to bake. Use a fluted, straight-sided tart pan (or pans) with removable bottom.
Pâte Sablée Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp cream or milk, if needed
Blood Orange Curd Ingredients
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp finely grated blood orange zest
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed blood orange juice
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces
Pâte Sablée Method
Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the egg yolk, mixing until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix. You should be able to press the dough together between your fingertips; if it doesn’t come together, add a little cream or milk.
Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a round disk. Wrap it in the plastic and chill for at least an hour and up to two days.
When you’re ready to roll out the dough, remove it from the fridge and let it soften on the counter for about 15 minutes—it should be cool to the touch, but starting to feel pliable.
Roll the dough out to an 11-inch circle between two sheets of wax or parchment paper. (That way you don’t have to add more flour, which can make it tough and brittle.) Rotate the dough as you roll to preserve its shape and maintain an even thickness.
Alternatively, you can make six 6-inch rounds to fill 3- to 4-inch tart pans.
Peel off the top layer of parchment and carefully invert the dough into the tart pan(s). Peel away the remaining sheet of paper and firmly press fit the tart shell into the pan. Trim the top by running a sharp knife along the fluted edge. If the dough cracks, patch it with extra scraps of dough. Dock the bottom of the dough with a fork in a few places, then cover the tart shell loosely with plastic and chill at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Blind-bake the tart shell(s): Line the chilled dough with parchment paper or foil, preferably non-stick. Fill with pie weights or beans and bake until the edges just begin to brown, about 12 minutes for small tarts and 20 for full-size ones. Remove the weights and foil and continue baking until golden and baked through, 4 to 5 minutes for small tarts, 5 to 10 for large ones. Cool completely before removing from tart pans and filling with curd.
Blood Orange Curd Method
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla together until pale and thick.
In a small pot over medium heat, bring blood orange zest and juice, lemon juice and salt to a simmer. Whisking constantly, very slowly add half of hot juice mixture to egg mixture, then whisk egg mixture into remaining juice mixture in saucepan.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 3 minutes. It should reach 70° to 80°C (160° to 175° F), but no hotter, otherwise it can curdle.
Remove pot from heat and place in an ice bath. Whisk in butter until it is incorporated completely. Transfer curd to a medium bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto surface. Chill until cold and set, at least 3 hours.
Spoon curd into tart shells and smooth with an offset spatula. If you like, garnish with fresh raspberries and mint leaves, and serve with whipping cream.