Monday, January 28, 2013

Fresh Orange Tart- adding a bit of sun to winter

Francesco, our favorite citrus vendor
This winter the snow has been slow to arrive after a very early appearance around the 26 October when all was green and the leaves were still on the trees. Now that the white blanket of snow has covered up the unrelenting brown of the winter, it's time for a splash of color. My favorite winter remedy would be the luscious citrus fruits from the south of Italy. Our Sicilian citrus farmers send up some of the tastiest oranges, clementines, and mandarins found anywhere. I always look forward to late autumn when the road side trucks laden with oranges begin to reappear randomly and in regular pull off points where they beckon you to buy a case or two of sunshine and sweetness. Drawn to pull over and inspect the vendors goods, unable to resist the siren song of oranges, we come away with a case of oranges and mandarins. Orange indulgences to follow. We've peeled and juiced these globes of desire until I finally begin to use them up in other ways that requires a tad more effort. 
Tarocco or "Tarot" oranges which are called red oranges here never called blood oranges
I made this orange tart to try and replicate it after having enjoyed a fabulous slice at Caffe' Roma, which is one of our favorite bars in Pinerolo,  The cafe is located at the corner of Piazza Roma, where the daily Farmers market usually draws us in on our market visits. Caffe'Roma is owned and run by 3 brothers, of which 2 work in the  bar and one brother, Francesco, runs the kitchen. I frequently run into the chef shopping at this market and that always puts a smile on my face. I actually see a number of local restauranteurs shopping here and that is so encouraging. Caffe' Roma is a popular lunch time choice, as they serve deliciously genuine and reasonably priced food. You can choose to dine inside or al fresco at one of the curbside tables. I love Franceso's orange tart as it is not one that I have made or enjoyed much before coming to live in Italy. His selection of desserts are always enticing. He has shared his talent, teaching workshops at the restaurant, and at Frossasco's Mueso del Gusto. Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend, so I am left to my own resources. My recipe for this tart is pretty simple as he told it should be. Perhaps not the perfection that I found in his balance of flavor and technique, but tasty and worth making when you want to bring a little sunshine into your day.
Crostat di Arance---Fresh Orange Tart

Fresh Orange Tart or Crostata di Arance

Yields: 1-10 inch or 1-25 cm  crust
Oven Temp 200*C /375*F to blind bake the crust then later to 190*C / 350*F

Pasta Frolla

Ingredients:

200g flour, plain flour or Italian 00 (1 1/2 c / 7 oz flour**) 
125g butter, chilled, but not soft or too hard (1/2c / 4.4 oz)
75 g sugar, granulated or castor (6 T / 2.6 oz)
2 egg yolks

Add sugar to the flour and mix.
Cut the butter into smallish pieces and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers.
Make a well in the middle of the dough.
Add the egg yolks, and stir or mix well with your hands till it comes together in a soft dough.
Knead lightly and briefly to get a smooth dough, being careful not to work the dough too much
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, as it makes it easier to handle.
Roll out on floured surface or between lightly floured parchment paper for ease.
**Cooks notes: I have found the dough might require more flour as weight to volume flour conversions can vary greatly. Add a little flour at a time if you think the dough is too sticky to get it to be a manageable dough and if necessary, be generous with the flour when rolling the dough out.

For the filling:

Orange peel (organic is best) 
1/2 c sugar 
1/2 c  water
500g oranges slices, peeled  (a little over a pound of oranges, after peeled, maybe 4)
Apricot preserves or Orange marmalade,  a goodly amount as needed for covering the crust and glazing the top,
Brandy or rum

Directions:

Mix up the pasta frolla and refrigerate.
While waiting for the dough to chill, prepare your filling.
Wash the whole oranges and wipe dry.
Before removing the peel from the orange, I either zest or use a channel knife to remove the orange peel zest or strips before actually removing it from the orange itself. 
If you hve neither tool, remove the peel form the oranges, making sure to remove the white pith from the orange. If the white pith is too plentiful scrape some off with a small paring knife. 
Julienne (cutting the peel into thin slivers) the peel.
 In a small sauce pan add the water and sugar and heat to boil. 
When the sugar is dissolved add some or all of the peel. You might need to increase the amount of equal parts of sugar/ water if you have a lot of peels. 
Simmer the peels in the sugar water till softened and translucent. Remove from the syrup and lay flat on a plate or waxed paper when cooled to dry slightly. 
Set aside.

Slice your peeled oranges into rounds and set aside also.
Roll your pastry out to fit a 10" or 25 cm removable bottom tart tin.
Place your pasta frolla in the pan and trim as needed.
Prick the bottom of the pastry generously with a fork.
Line the pastry with baking paper and weigh down with beans or another pan that fits inside. 
Blind bake at 200* C / 375*F for about 20-25 minutes, removing the pan partway though the baking so the middle bakes more thoroughly. With beans or weights, i would bake with them on top the whole time. 
Cool slightly.

Mix your preferred preserves with a few drop of brandy or rum to thin slightly. Warm up on the stove top to make it easier to spread. 
Cover the bottom with a thinnish layer of preserves. I used marmalade as I have quite a bit on hand that I make. 
Now cover the bottom with your jam and crust with the orange slices in a decorative circle, slightly overlapping the edges, till all is covered.
Lower the temperature of your oven to 190*C/350*F
Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes to cook through. 
Thin more marmalade with liquor to make a thin glaze and light glaze the whole tart while warm. Let cool at least 15 minutes before trying to cut it. It will be hard to resist the urge to devour it right out of the oven, but do wait or the crust will crumble. 
Great served at room temperature and is just as tasty the next day or so. 

Let the sun shine through!


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