Spring is here! Quick, everyone stop blogging about kale and start blogging about wild ramps! Someone pose with a handful of free-range eggs!
I’m actually going to step back in the season and share a late-winter recipe that uses one of my favourite ingredients of all time: blood oranges. It’s not hard to love blood oranges: they don’t taste very different from supermarket oranges, but their looks make them a bit more exotic, a shade more delicate. When I studied in Italy, where a huge portion of the world’s blood oranges are grown, I used to buy them by the kilogram. The heavy moro variety had juice that was tangy and blood-black, and the milder tarocchi (literally, “tarot-card oranges”) variety had delicate reddish veins spidered through the pulp.
Blood oranges are gone from the markets now, but this recipe is too good to leave until they’re in season again next year. I’ll be sure to remind you around New Years.
The pastry I used was Smitten Kitchen’s no-shrink pie crust, which lived up to its name, but to me was not worth the flavour trade-off. The texture is fine, but the confectioner’s sugar (and the corn starch in it) leaves the pastry with a bland flavour. I stand by my old favourites: sweet pastry dough and graham cracker crust, both from Gourmet Magazine. Any non-puff pastry would work fine for this recipe.
The heart of the tartlet is a ricotta base (ideally, made from fresh farmhouse ricotta from a few posts back, remember?). Once it’s softly set, I sweep on a layer of blood orange reduction and garnish with a slice of blood orange—you can leave it plain if you like. The sugar in the juice caramelises slightly as it reduces, and the result is a jewel-clear, deep red jam that has acidity and perfect sweetness.
Notes & Variations: You can use regular oranges in this recipe if blood oranges are out of season or unavailable. Orange flower water would perfume the tart with even more orange flavour; you could also grate a tablespoon of the blood orange zest into the ricotta filling. I don’t recommend flavouring the ricotta filling with alcohol, since it will affect how the filling bakes. You may have some leftover ricotta filling. When in doubt, underfill the shells, because the filling will puff as it bakes, and too much filling will lead to underbaked tartlets. If you, like me, overfilled your shells, gently lift off the top layer of the filling and eat it. No one will know. This also has the benefit of smoothing out the layer for the blood orange jam to rest on.
Blood Orange Ricotta Tartlets
Makes 6 tartlets
1 ½ batches of your favourite tart dough
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
12 oz. fresh ricotta
1 egg + 1 egg white
Pinch of salt
Blood Orange Jam:
1 ½ cups of blood orange juice (about 6 oranges)
2 blood oranges, sliced, for garnish
- Pre-bake tartlet shells with pie weights, according to your recipe. Allow the shells to cool fully while you make the filling.
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add in ricotta, egg, and egg white until just combined. Pour filling into tartlet shells (do not overfill) and bake until just set in the center, about 15 minutes. Do not allow the filling to brown on top. Put the tartlets on a rack until cool enough to remove the tartlet pans, then cover loosely and chill.
- In a small saucepan, boil the blood orange juice (no sugar needed) until it is reduced to about ½ cup and is very thick. Allow to cool slightly, then spoon onto the tartlets, smoothing with the back of a spoon.
- Slice the remaining blood oranges thinly and cut off the peel. Garnish each tartlet with a slice.
Ricotta tart filling recipe adapted from Epicurious.com.