I hope everyone had a pretty solid holiday and new year! I hope you managed to fit in some "me" time into all that family time. Despite only having a couple of extra days off work, I squeezed in a good amount of family time and an equally good amount of "me" time. But the break is over and I'm back!
A little recap on my holiday - for Christmas, I received some pretty darn cool gifts. One being this amazing new Dyson vacuum! 22 years old and I'm stoked to unwrap a vacuum. I really should be getting those senior citizen discounts at stores...
I received two new pastry books that I can't wait to start getting through. Some serious inspiration and motivation in there. I need to step up my game!
There was also a new scarf, sweater, and t-shirt from my favourite store, a good amount of chocolate, some nice loose leaf tea, a jar of lavender honey that I can't wait to use in a spring dessert, and a few other bits and bobs.
New Year's Eve was very uneventful. I made a wonderful beef stew at home, watched a bit of Netflix, and went to bed at 10pm. I was woken up in the middle of the night by loud drunken people outside my building and grumbled something about, "darn young hooligans" and "get off my lawn".
Just kidding, I don't have a lawn. But I did grumble.
Seriously, I'm not kidding about that senior citizens discount.
For the first few days of my holiday break, I didn't think about blogging. Well, I did think about it but it was, "Wow, it's nice to have a break for once and not have to spend most of my weekend making, styling, photographing, editing, writing, etc." But after a few days, I started to miss it. I was thinking of new posts and new techniques and new desserts.
I've created a beast with this blog, I think. It started out as a cute little pet - easy to maintain, lots of fun, little work. Now, it's grown into an all-consuming monster that I love most of the time and sometimes hate a little bit. My monster needs to be fed hard work, effort, time, and energy. I have to scrounge up those things from somewhere inside me even if I think I'm all out. I'll always find something for my monster. My monster needs me, but I also need my monster. My monster repays me with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and satisfaction.
Maybe I should stop referring to the blog that you are reading as a "monster"... Might not be the best word for it. I love my blog, I really do. But a break was needed.
But now I've returned and it's all about the winter citrus! Mother Nature, perfectly timing the fruit season again. January is like the monday of the months. Everybody is kind of tired and grumpy to be back at work and everything runs a little slowly for a while. That's when bright and cheery blood oranges come into season! Just in time to give you a little boot in the butt when you need it most. Artificial sunshine, you might say.
Blood Orange Tarts with Caramel Meringue
150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
112 g icing sugar
1 g salt
5 g vanilla extract
50 g eggs
250 g all-purpose flour
20 g cornstarch
Blood Orange Curd
108 g eggs
54 g granulated sugar
108 g freshly squeezed blood orange juice, strained
1 gelatin sheet, bloomed
140 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 orange, zested
250 g granulated sugar
75 g water
100 g egg whites
150 g caramel powder
For the paté sucrée, cream the butter, salt, and icing sugar together on medium speed in an electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until a homogenous mass is obtained, about 2 minutes.
Stop the mixer, add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix for a few seconds on low speed until the eggs are completely incorporated.
Stop the mixer, add the sifted flour, and mix for a few seconds, pulsing the mixer at first to keep the flour in the bowl. Mix just to obtain a homogenous mixture.
Shape the dough into a flat square and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven 325 F.
Roll out the dough to 3mm, then chill again until slightly firm. Line your tart shell by placing a piece of dough on top of each mold. Gently push the dough in with your fingertips until it conforms to the shape of the mold. Make sure that the dough is lined up with the mold. There will be some that protrudes from the rim of the mold. Do not cut it yet. Freeze the tart(s) until the dough hardens.
Once the dough is hard, use a paring knife to trim the excess off the top of the molds.
Dock the dough with a fork and line with parchment paper and baking weights/dried beans/rice. If the dough is still frozen, bake it; otherwise re-freeze it. Bake until dry, but has not developed colour yet, about 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking weights form the tart and bake for a further 5 to 7 minutes, until the tarts are very lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
For the blood orange curd, wisk the eggs and sugar in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the orange juice. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk slowly, until the mixture begins to simmer. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk gently for 1 to 2 minutes to release steam and cool the curd slightly.
Remove the gelatin from the water, squeeze out excess water, and whisk it into the hot curd. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer. Using a Vitamix or an immersion blender, blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 to 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Add the zest and blend to incorporate. Let the curd cool to room temperature.
Transfer the curd to a container, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. The curd can also be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.
For the caramel meringue, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan set over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to high and cook until the colour turns to a light caramel. Pour onto a silpat and let harden.
Once the caramel has hardened, use a food processor to grind the caramel into a powder. Use a fine-mesh sieve to sift the powder. Weigh out the 150 g of caramel powder and put it in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a bain marie. Add the egg whites and whisk to combine. Cook the meringue over the bain marie, whisking constantly, until it reaches 60 C. Transfer to the stand mixer and whip on medium-high until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and holds stiff glossy peaks.
To assemble, transfer the caramel meringue and the orange curd to piping bags. Pipe the curd into the tart shells, then pipe your desired design with the caramel meringue. I made a beehive design, then used a small offset spatula to create the freeform look.
Using a handheld torch, torch the meringue evenly. Serve immediately.