I have a small Meyer lemon tree that is trundled outdoors when the weather warms up. Other than that, there’s not much citrus to be found growing around these parts. To help us stave off what I call locavore scurvy, there are many alternative sources for vitamin C — Brussels sprouts, kale, winter radishes, peppers, rhubarb, and strawberries, to name a few. However, none match the juicy, sweet acidic punch of fresh citrus. Like those oranges stuffed into the toes of Christmas stockings, they’re a precious treat.
I mostly watch movies for the small details, and saw Cold Comfort Farm for the second time recently. In it, there’s a scene where Flora, a city girl living in the country, enters a village tea shop and orders a simple bowl of oranges with sugar on top. With that image in mind, I came upon this appealing tart via Smitten Kitchen, which features oranges in a suitably extravagant way. The original recipe calls for blood oranges, pinkish red Cara Cara ones were all I could find and worked well as a substitute, as would any navel-type orange.
I thought I could skip the salted caramel sauce but one bite of the finished tart told me otherwise. The round, milky notes of the caramel are there for balance, and harmonize with the bright tartness of the oranges. In its place, fortunately, we had not one, but two jars of dulce de leche on hand to serve with the tart. Many thanks to Ana Maria for the gift from Argentina, and to Mary for your home-made version — once the tart was gone, we were consoled by spoonfuls of dulce de leche scooped straight from the jars.
Other than the type of orange, my version of this tart didn’t stray much. I substituted some of the flour for 1/2 cup of local whole wheat pastry flour, and, rather than refrigerating beforehand, filled the tart directly after rolling out. Make sure to allow enough time to set the tart by freezing before baking, at least 4 hours, overnight is even better. The tart will seep slightly while in the oven and, to contain the juices, I baked it on a parchment-lined round pizza tin. The slightly raised edges of the pan are enough to rein in the juices, yet still be able to slide the tart off later. I used 8 of the 10 oranges, which left 2 extra — one for a bowl of oranges with sugar on top while I waited for the tart to bake, the other set aside for the orioles sure to arrive soon.
Flaky Cara Cara Orange Tart
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, the stick cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
3 tablespoons ice water
8 to 10 Cara Cara or blood oranges (about 5 ounces each)
1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
Salted Caramel Sauce or Dulce de Leche
– In a food processor, pulse the 1 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the baking powder and salt. Add the stick of cold butter and pulse several times, just until it is the size of peas. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and pulse just until moistened crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto a work surface, knead once or twice and pat the pastry into a disk. Place the pastry in a container, cover and chill for 30 minutes.
– Meanwhile, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise; remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, releasing the sections into the sieve. Remove the pits and gently shake out as much juice as possible without mashing the sections; you will need 1 cup of sections. Reserve the orange juice for another use.
– On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to an 11-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper–lined flat baking sheet. Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the oranges. Using a paring knife, thinly slice the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-inch border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
– Heat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the tart directly from the freezer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is deeply browned. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the tart cool for 30 minutes. Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the rack and let the tart cool completely. Serve with the caramel sauce on the side.
Note: Unbaked tart may be wrapped and frozen for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe adapted from Zoe Nathan for Food and Wine.