Friday, March 28, 2014

Organization! Bitter Orange and Blueberry (Blackberry) Tart

Second post in a month!  Even though I wrote the last one in February but didn't hit the "publish" button until March, it still counts!  I am an organized and responsible adult!  Right?  *crickets*

First off, the internet needs a sarcasm font.  Second, I really am trying to be organized and get new recipes written up in a timely fashion.  As strange as it sounds, being sick all of last week has been helpful for this because I've been compiling a very long list of all of the things that haven't gotten done while I've been lying in bed, awake and not hungry and on drugs.

My doctor gave me ephedrine (edit: actually pseudoephedrine) to help with the sinus infection.  Holy crap is that stuff a strong upper!  I was up all day Tuesday and part of Wednesday, about 30 hours total.  I was so completely exhausted but I could not fall asleep.  I lay in bed and watched the sun rise on Wednesday morning and couldn't figure out what was going on.  I also didn't eat for a couple of days because I just wasn't hungry even though I could feel literal hunger pains in my stomach.  And I was still pretty congested.  So I ended up with a very detailed list of everything that I needed to do as soon as I was better.

Blogging isn't very high on my priority list but to me it is symbolic of organization, probably because it isn't necessary for my life to keep functioning and therefore if I have time to blog then it means that I have finished all of the truly important items on my life to-do list.  At least, this seems to be what my subconscious thinks.  In reality, there are an infinite number of important items on my life to-do list that are breeding with each other and spawning more important items when I'm not looking.  But at least I'm blogging.  Priorities!

I've made this recipe twice, once to try it out and which I completely forgot to take pictures of, and the second time because lots of people liked the first attempt and to take some photos.  The original recipe is from Nigella but isn't on her website. has it, complete with automatic US/metric conversion.  Unfortunately the automatic converter is literal so it doesn't convert mass to weight (maybe I should do a post on the different measurement systems...).  This means that the recipes ends up with ingredients like "0.39 pounds plain flour".  The recipe below is from the American version of How To Be A Domestic Goddess and has more useful measurements.

Although the recipe title says "blueberry" and the recipe calls for blueberries, I used blackberries.  This doesn't have anything to do with what's in season.  The first time I made this tart, I saw the recipe and thought, "orange and blueberry sounds like a great combination!", wrote down blackberries on my shopping list, bought blackberries, made the tart, made the blackberry topping, and was putting it on the tart before I realized that I was using the wrong fruit.  I liked the result enough to make it a second time.

This tart is not as sweet as most fruit tarts, so it's perfect to make if you or a friend don't like desserts that are too sweet.  If you want more sweetness, whipped cream or ice cream is a nice topping with the blackberries.

Like other tart recipes, this one uses blind baking (also called pre-baking) to partially cook the tart shell before the filling is added and baked.  Nigella's recipe has a set of suggestions about putting the orange/cream mixture in a pitcher and pouring it into the blind-baked shell.  It wasn't until after I'd gotten the second tart in the oven that I figured out what she was talking about: pull the tart shell out of the oven at the end of the second baking period by sliding the oven rack out, pour the cream mixture into the tart shell, and then just slide the rack back into the oven.  This way you don't need to lift and carry the tart pan from somewhere else into the oven while the tart shell is filled with liquid.  I carried the filled tart shell very carefully from the stove to the oven rack, making sure not to let any of the cream mixture spill over the sides of the tart shell.  It was very difficult and I bet that Nigella's instructions are easier to follow than carrying around a hot tart pan full of liquid.

Blind baking can be intimidating but gets easier after you do it the first time.  Most tart recipes involve blind baking because the crust needs to bake for a longer time than the filling, and also because the filling is wet.  If you've got some kind of pie weights (I use dried pinto beans) and parchment paper or aluminum foil (not wax paper!), you're good to go.  The other trick to blind baking when the shell recipe uses butter as a base is to put the shell in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes right before you blind bake it.  This will help keep the sides of the shell upright in the oven when it begins to bake and the butter starts melting.  The side of my tart shells always used to slide down partway because the dough wasn't cold enough when I put it in the oven.

The other thing to keep in mind when making tarts is that the only part of the crust that's going to be visible is the top and outside edge.  When you roll out the dough and line the pan, any patches on the bottom or inside won't be seen because they'll be covered by the filling.  This means that you can rearrange any of the leftover bits of dough to fill in any holes and nobody will be able to tell.  They'll think you're the Tart Shell Whisperer.

Tips: the shell is baked twice as part of the blind baking procedure.  In the first baking, pie weights are used to hold the sides of the tart up as its baked.  Then the pie weights are removed.  The bottom of the tart shell will still be damp and sticky because of the parchment paper that sat on it during the first bake.  The empty tart shell is put back in the oven.  The sides are mostly baked and will stay up while the bottom of the shell is dried out.  Once the bottom is baked, the filling is poured in and the tart is baked for a third time.  This sounds complicated but the non-baking parts take about 5 minutes total.

When you remove the parchment paper and pie weights between the first and second bakes, they will be hot from the oven.  You will need to have something to put them on to cool off.  I put a second cookie sheet next to the cookie sheet holding the tart pan when I took it out of the oven, and just picked up the piece of parchment paper from the tart shell and put it down on the second cookie sheet.  It took about 30 minutes for the pinto beans to cool down enough to go back in their bag.

It will seem like there isn't enough dough to fill the entire tart pan but it will roll out to be enough.  The first time I made the shell, it covered the pan and I didn't have to patch anything.  The second time there was enough dough but I rolled it out in an oval instead of a circle and had to patch two larger spots.

Nigella mentions that you can make the dough and filling a day or two before and let them sit in the fridge.  This is a good suggestion because the total time needed for putting the dough in the fridge and the three baking steps is about 2 1/2 hours.  If you make the dough and filling the night before, then you only need to roll out the dough, put it in the fridge or freezer, do the blind baking, and bake the filling.  Although this sounds like a lot, it's really just doing the roll and then putting the pan either in the fridge or the oven.  I made the filling and dough the night before I baked the tart.

Nigella also says to strain all of the zest out of the filling before you bake but I added about half of the zest back in.  This increases the citrus flavor.

The filling will puff up as it bakes so when you take the tart out of the oven, it will look like you've overfilled the shell.  As the tart cools, the filling deflates and you will have enough space on the top for the fruit.

Arrowroot is a starch that is commonly used as a thickener.  You can get it in health food stores and on amazon.  I don't keep arrowroot in my pantry as a staple item and I was too disorganized to buy some, so I substituted cornstarch instead.  Cornstarch is a one-to-one substitution for arrowroot (you use the same amount) but it doesn't act in quite the same way.  Fortunately, the only difference that shows up here is that cornstarch turns the base of the fruit topping white instead of clear.

I made twice as much topping as the recipe calls for because I used twice as much fruit as I was supposed to.  Again, this is because I was really out of it when I was grocery shopping and I accidentally bought twice as many blackberries as the amount of blueberries the recipe calls for.  I liked how the blackberries completely covered the top of the tart and used the same amount the second time.  I also used lemon juice in the glaze instead of orange juice because I didn't have any orange juice left over and I like the taste combination of blackberries and lemon.

The recipe calls for one eating orange and one lime.  I needed two large oranges to get enough orange juice but one lime worked fine.  Make sure to zest the oranges and lime before you cut them in half and juice them.

The recipe also uses nine eggs.  You will need to decide if you want to use nine eggs on one tart.  It's a good idea to beat the 6 eggs together in a bowl first before you add them to the cream mixture for the filling since it's hard to mix unbeaten eggs into other liquids.

The orange and lime juice will not curdle the heavy cream when you mix it in.

Trivia:  the word "orange" is not a rebracketing in English.  This is the phenomenon where a noun changes pronunciation by getting smushed together with its definite article.  Famous examples include "a napron" which became "an apron" and "an eke-name" which became "a nickname".  The original word for orange came from the Indian subcontinent and was "naranj" in Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit.  At some point when it went through to Old Italian and Old French, the first "n" was dropped and it became "orange".  The rebracketing story is that the English word originally was "norange" and "a norange" became "an orange", which is not true.

Bitter Orange and Blueberry (or Blackberry) Tart
Original recipe from How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson


for the filling

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice (from ~2 oranges) and zest of 1-2 oranges
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 large eggs
for the pastry
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
for the glaze (fruit and ingredients doubled from original recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 scant teaspoons orange or lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 18 ounces blueberries or blackberries


Start with the filling, a couple of days in advance if this suits.  In a large bowl or, better still, a wide-mouthed measuring cup, mix the juice with the sugar, add the zest, heavy cream, and eggs, and stir to combine.  Cover and chill for 2-3 days in the refrigerator or leave for a few hours at room temperature.

You can make the pastry at the same time as you mix up the juices and cream or a day or two later.  Cream the butter and the sugar together, then add the yolks one at a time.  Stir in the flour to form a soft dough, then form into a fat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for half an hour (or overnight).  Preheat the oven to 350F and put in a baking sheet.  Roll out the pastry between plastic wrap to fit the tar pan and line, pushing gently down so that it lies flat at the bottom, leaving a little overhang.  Put back in the refrigerator for a further 20 minutes to rest again.

Roll a rolling pin over the top of the pastry shell to cut off excess pastry neatly.  Line the pan with foil or crumpled baking parchment and fill with baking beans.  Put the pan in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove beans and foil or parchment and give it another 5-10 minutes, until the bottom has dried out.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little and turn the oven down to 325F.

Strain the liquid mixture into the pastry shell to remove the zest, put back on the sheet in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.  (You may find this easier - if more long-winded - if you strain the mixture into a pitcher and pour from this into the pastry shell already on the sheet in the oven with the rack pulled out.)

When the tar's cooke - and it should be firm on top but with a hint of a wobble underneath - remove to a wire rack and let cool.  Unmold and transfer to the serving plate.

To make the glazed blueberry topping, combine the arrowroot and sugar in a small saucepan, then stir in the juice and water.  Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time: it should turn clear pretty soon.  Take it off the heat and add the blueberries, then spoon the now-glossy berries over the waiting tart.  Leave to set for about 10 minutes.

Serves 8.

The dough is very soft.

After being refrigerated overnight.

I need a larger cutting board for rolling.  I also didn't use the "roll out between two pieces of saran wrap" suggestion.

The patched shell, ready for baking.

Getting ready to transfer the hot baking beans to the second cookie sheet.

Move the beans by picking up all four corners of the parchment paper and lifting it all over to the empty cookie sheet.  Note that the bottom of the tart shell is still soft and sticky.

After the second blind baking.  The bottom of the tart shell is baked.

Straining out the zest.  I do not own a pitcher.

Before baking.  This was difficult to pick up and put in the oven without spilling the filling over the edge of the tart shell.

Hot out of the oven: the filling has swelled up with hot air.

Cooled down and deflated, about 30 minutes later.

The glaze mixture before cooking.
The glaze after cooking; it has a texture similar to jelly.
Mixing the blackberries into the glaze.

The tart with the fruit topping.

I also made some cookies in case the tart was no good.

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