Citrus, Suspended in Hibiscus Tea, For Ogling and Eating

January 31, 2018

Citrus segments with honey? Maybe you’re thinking that’s simple, nutritious, and delicious—but not exactly dessert. But I’m thinking about how a touch of whimsy, a little sleight of hand, and the right garnishes can transform a bowl of oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines into a gorgeous and crave-able dessert.

Out of my files came a recipe for "South Texas Citrus Terrine," given to me 10 years ago by a chef at one of the Central Market Cooking School locations in Texas. (I’ve lost the chef's name, and haven’t been find and thank him for the inspiration.) My riff on this terrine includes pomegranate arils, hibiscus tea, honey, cinnamon, and orange flower water. The multi-hued segments are piled into a loaf pan and set with just enough jellied tea and citrus juices to hold them together. Unmolded and sliced, it’s a refreshing brunch dish, fruit salad, or spa dessert—juicy, sweet, bitter, floral, and bright on the tongue—and gorgeous to behold.

Call it spa dessert, or just good dessert. Photo by James Ransom

If you haven’t yet mastered the art of removing perfect, membrane-free segments of citrus from the whole fruit, be not afraid! It’s all about a good sharp knife and a tiny bit of patience. I find the task both satisfying and meditative. You’ll also love having this impressive new skill. (As a young bride, I wowed my mother in law simply by simply serving a bowl of fresh citrus segments for breakfast—instead of the canned ones she was accustomed too!) This is a dish that lets you practice without prejudice—no one will notice how perfectly or imperfectly you did it, and by the time you’ve finished, you’ll have the technique down cold.

Of course you can vary the assortment of citrus by swapping in pomelo or oro blanco segments. Of course you can try different kinds of tea or superfruit juices—such as acai, goji, blueberry, or cranberry. You could swap the cinnamon for star anise, or cardamom seeds. You can stop right there, at whatever combination you've dreamed up, or you can add a smear of crème fraîche, crunchy pistachios, threads of orange zest, and a tiny drizzle of satiny honey—then, it becomes a dessert fit for company.

What's your favorite "spa dessert"? Let us know in the comments!

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My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).