You thought citrus was done, didn’t you? You thought maybe, just maybe, I was going to get back to, I don’t know, eating locally? Oh, granted, I snuck some peel into this dinner, and added the last wrinkly kumquats to these roasted veg, but for the most part, it’s been All Quiet On The Citrus Front ’round these parts, for a few days at least. But the Ides of March are just around the corner (What?? Wasn’t it just Christmas?) and, what with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had this winter, soon we’ll start seeing Spring bounty pop up, in the woods and the farmer’s markets: dandelions, wild chives and ramps, crisp pink radishes and baby lettuces galore. And I’ll be so busy delighting in the fresh, new foods of Spring that I’ll spare nary a thought for my woebegone January love, citrus. (Although I do have those 872 jars of marmalade to remind me of our torrid love affair.). But before we say goodbye to our beloved citrus for one more year, how about a little… curd?
Despite my dislike of the word, I’ve made citrus curd many times: it’s quite simple to make, easy to control the level of sweetness, and it’s quite versatile. Tai loves it straight from the jar over chocolate ice cream; I tend to make a fruit tart, with flaky pastry, citrus curd and some chest-freezer-stashed berries (tiding me over until summer berries show up once more). But I was looking to try something a little different. And while I was very intrigued by these pink-on-pink curd-filled beet doughnuts, I didn’t think I had homemade doughnuts in me this week. Then Julia posed a question on her Facebook page: “What is your foolproof lemon curd recipe?” And I have to admit: I’ve always used Rose Levy’s recipe. It never even occured to me that you could use the whole egg in place of only yolks. But it seemed fitting for my blood oranges: I knew the flavor would be more delicate than a lemon or grapefruit curd, and since my blood oranges were somewhat disappointingly not-blood-red, I thought a little less yellow in the color spectrum wouldn’t be a bad thing. And, I had just one left of those $16 eggs: no way I was going to toss that ludicrously overpriced egg white into my big freezer stash of leftover whites.
So I changed up my classic technique a bit, and the result was lovely: the set was a bit less firm, but the color nicely rosy and the flavor outstanding, tangy, bright, fruity and just sweet enough. While I was changing things up, I decided to try a classic citrus curd bar instead of my usual tart: I ended up at this Meyer lemon bar recipe at White On Rice Couple. I adapted the crust recipe, and pressed it into a pie dish for small, wedge-shaped curd bars. But I must admit I’m not overly thrilled with the how the crust came out: a bit too sweet for me, and perhaps I pressed it into the dish too firmly (damn my Scottish genes!), or maybe the whole grains needed a bit more butter, but it came out really dense, dry and not particularly appealing to the eye (granted, I used the whole crust recipe when I had only half the amount of curd, but I like a lot of pastry). I ended up wishing I had simply made my usual pastry crust. Of course, this hasn’t stopped us from eating & enjoying the curd bars, but if you have a crust recipe that works for you, by alll means, shout it out!
Blood orange curd adapted (slightly) from Blood Orange Curd in The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Curd bar crust adapted from Meyer Lemon Bars by White on Rice Couple via The Barefoot Contessa.
For the crust
- 4 oz butter, at room temperature, plus extra for buttering the pie dish
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
For the blood orange curd
- about 1 and 1/4 lbs blood oranges, scrubbed and dried
- 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (for a total of 1/3 cup or 2 and 5/8 oz)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) sugar
- 4 tbsp (2 oz) butter
- pinch salt
For the finished bars
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- blood orange zest, for garnish
- Make crust. Butter a 7-inch pie plate or 8-inch square casserole. Cream together butter and sugar until light & fluffy (I use a hand mixer). Add flours and salt and beat, on low speed, just until combined; the mixture should be crumbly, but not so fine as cornmeal. Press evenly into the buttered dish, bringing the crust up the sides about 1 inch. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake crust for 20 – 25 minutes, until slightly darkened and sides are firm to the touch. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
- Make curd.. Zest 1 or 2 oranges, for a total of 2 packed teaspoons full of zest. Add to a medium, heat-safe bowl. Place a strainer over the bowl and set near the stove. Juice all of the oranges (reserve the unzested peel for other uses), straining into a 2-cup measure until you have at least 1 cup juice (I ended up with 1 and 1/4 cups). Lightly grease a 2-quart heat-safe measure or bowl: add the orange juice and heat in the microwave on high until reduced down to 1/2 cup total, about 10 – 12 minutes. Alternatively, you can reduce in a saucepan on the stove: RLB states that the microwave method reduces the possibility of caramelization and produces a more pure fruit flavor. Allow juice to cool slightly prior to proceeding.
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I used a 9″ Le Crueset skillet) whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt. Add butter and slowly whisk in orange juice, small amounts at a time if it is still hot (in order to avoid cooking the egg). Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the foam subsides and the curd is thick enough to heavily coat the back of a spoon, about 10 – 15 minutes (finish temperature of 185 degrees F).
- Pour the curd through the strainer into the bowl with the zest, pressing curd through the strainer with a flexible spatula. Scrape any curd clinging to the underside of the strainer in to the bowl, then stir gently to incorporate zest. Allow to cool slightly, then pour evenly over the crust (alternatively, store refrigerated for another purpose. Like chocolate ice cream.) Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to set.
Yields a bit more than 1 cup of curd, or 8 triangular curd bars.
- You can, of course, substitute AP flour for the whole wheat. Because this crust doesn’t rely on gluten for structure, it seems a good candidate for a gluten-free method.
- If you can’t source blood oranges, you can substitute regular, navel oranges. Since they are less acidic, add a tablespooon or two of lemon juice to the reduced OJ, for flavor and to help with the set.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days.