“Can we make grapefruit curd, Mommy? Wouldn’t that be a lovely filling for a tart?”
That was the question 9-year-old Eliza asked when I mentioned that this week’s Food52 challenge was to create the perfect late winter tart.
Yes. Yes, we can. And we did. We were shooting to replicate one of our favorite cold winter morning breakfast treats: grape fruit halves, sprinkled with brown sugar and placed under the broiler. We think this tartlet combination comes pretty close with its warm, bittersweet crackle on the top that gives way to the cool sweet and sour center. The brown sugar bowl it sits in is just a bonus.
You can make this as one big tart with this recipe as it is written, but we chose to run with eight individually sized tarts because “you just wouldn’t find a grapefruit THAT big unless they used science on it, right, Mom?”
Makes six tartlets or on 8-inch tart
eight tartlets or one 10-inch tart
For the candied broiled grape fruit and grapefruit curd
1 small ruby red grape fruit, cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
½ cup water
1 1/2 cups white sugar, divided
Pinch of cardamom
Pinches of salt, divided
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1 cup pulp-free ruby red grapefruit juice (this can be from a carton or from 2-3 fruits)
1 Tablespoon corn starch
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
For the brown sugar crust
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, sliced into cubes and at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
In This Recipe
Make a simple syrup by combining ½ cup water, ¾ cup sugar and a pinch each of salt and cardamom in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. When all of the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat.
Fill a second saucepan half full of water and two pinches of salt and put it over medium high heat and bring it to a boil. You need to blanche each slice of grapefruit in this water for about 3 minutes a piece to take a bit of the bitterness out of the pith. The typically white pith turns transclucent after about 3 minutes and, as far as I can tell, signals that much of the bitterness has been zapped.
Gently remove the grapefruit slices from the boiling water and place them into the hot syrup, taking care to make sure all of the slices are submerged in the syrup.
Set the pan aside to cool for at least an hour (these can sit in the syrup for quite a while -- even overnight -- and get sweeter the longer they are sitting in there.)
To make the curd, combine the eggs and the egg yolks in a small boil and beat them until they are a solid yellow color. Put eggs, ¼ cup white sugar, grapefruit juice, corn starch and a pinch of salt into a medium saucepan and whisk the ingredients together well.Put the pan over medium low heat and stir it until it thickens and looks like, well, curd. The temp should be about 170 degrees in order for it not to taste like raw eggs. When it hits that point, whisk in the three tablespoons of butter, one at a time. Push the curd through a fine mesh strainer to get the white stringy bits out. If you are in a hurry cool the curd in a bowl over an ice bath. Store the curd in the fridge while you make the crust. It thickens considerably as it sits in there.
To make the crust combine flour, 1 cup unsalted butter cubes, brown sugar, vanilla and cardamom (if desired) in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a dough ball on the top of the blade.
Butter the inside of the tartlet pans (life is much easier if you’ve got the kind with the removable bottoms!). Divide the dough among the eight pans (or just plop it in the middle of the big one if you are going that route) and press the dough to fit the pan, taking care to have it be pushed well into the ridge sides so that you can press around the edge and have a nice, squared off top edge. You only need a thin crust on the bottom. Put the pans in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the tartlets for 12-14 minutes until they are nicely browned (the big tart might take upwards of 20 minutes). No worries about the middles rising up at around 3-4 minutes as they fall back into place around the 10-minute mark. Remove from the oven and set them on racks to cool completely.
To caramelize your candied grape fruit slices (which I do right before I assemble them so they are still a bit warm and crackly), pull them out of the syrup and spread them out on a rack placed on top of a baking sheet. Sprinkle them all liberally with white sugar on both sides.
If you have a torch and like the power that gives you, singe the top face of each grape fruit slice like you would a crème brule. No torch? Just put them under your broiler to the same effect. But just a note of caution for the latent pyros that lurk in all of us, just singe the pulp of the grape fruit and not the rind. Singing the rind makes it bitter and you just spent a chunk of your life trying to make these things less bitter.
Use a sharp knife to cut each one into bite-sized segments. If you are serving a crowd who is generally afraid of a bit of bitterness, you can cur the segments between the membranes, leaving the membranes on the cutting board. But that is very fiddly, so you really have to love them to to that.
To assemble these tarts, take a shell, fill it with curd (not too much as the weight of the grape fruit will cause a little spread), arrange the candied grapefruit on top. These do best if you leave them in the fridge to set up before serving.