Written by Pastry Chef Denise Spooner
Winter can be a difficult time to add flavors into our baking. Dark and heavy ingredients like chocolate, coffee and nuts tend to overwhelm our seasonal options and our flavor berries are still months away. But within these colder darker months citrus fruits are at their peak. Ranging from classic lemons and navel oranges to bright and colorful Cara Cara Oranges with a beautiful pink interior to the zesty and distinct Meyer Lemons.
As these citruses begin to pop up in our local grocery stores, there are various ways we can get these bright and sunny flavors into our sweet treats besides just adding the juice.
Tip #1 - When in doubt, zest.
The zest of these fruits is where more of the flavor is hidden. It’s a great way to boost some zingy notes to a basic shortbread dough or muffin batter. The best tool for this job is called a microplane. This allows for just the exterior of the fruit to be stripped away. Be sure to not press too hard or to hit the white pithe, or interior rind. It's a bit too bitter for our final desired flavors. Citrus zest can be frozen and used throughout the year to add a pop of flavor.
Tip #2 - Candy citrus peels.
Our citrus exterior peel can also be candied. This is a great way to add a small chunk of a desired flavor. Candied peels can be dipped in chocolate for a quick treat or added as an elegant garnish on a slice of cake. By peeling our citrus, then scraping away any pith. We blanch our bitter peels in boiling water, then drain and boil in a simple syrup. The peels will become translucent, sweet and tender. If left in the syrup, the candied zest can last for weeks in the fridge.
Tip #3 - Citrus curd is en vogue.
A Citrus Curd is a great way to get a punch of zesty citrus pop into any kind of pastry. Curd is a type of smooth fruit based filling. It can be adjusted to the flavor of choice by using a fruit juice or puree. Traditionally we see lemon curd as the start of a lemon meringue pie, but this filling is very versatile. It can even be used as a simple spread on a morning scone or crepe, a thin layer of a cake, or even scooped into a thumbprint cookie. You can even pour a thicken curd into a baked tart shell and top with fresh fruit. A perfect addition to brighten any pastry up!
Depending upon the citrus of choice the color of our curds can range from a pale yellow from lemons to a wonderful pink from a blood orange. This filling is thicken solely by the eggs and yolks in the recipe. To insure that the eggs don’t overheat too quickly, curds are cooked over a double boiler. Where residual heat from boiling water cooks it slowly. Adding the zest of the chosen citrus as the curd is cooking can help boost the flavor. Be sure to strain out the zest before storing to cool!
How will you use this curd to brighten up your cold winter days!?
Learn how to make homemade citrus curd with me on Zoom in an online private baking class!
Blood Orange Curd Recipe
Ingredients you'll need:
Zest of 4 Blood Oranges
1 cup Blood Orange (4-5 Oranges)
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 cup Granulated Sugar
3 Whole Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
1 Stick Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Salt
Equipment you'll need:
Heat proof bowl
Heat proof container for storage
Using a small pot and a fitting bowl create a double boiler.
Place the Blood Orange juice, zest, sugar, whole egg and yolks into the bowl and whisk until combined.
Using the double boiler, slowly cook the filling until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of the spatula, stirring constantly. About 170 degrees F on a thermometer. Once thick enough, add the salt and butter and stir until melted.
Strain into a heat proof container and place in the fridge. Let cool for 4 hours. Can be held in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 1-2 months.