Blood Orange Almond Tart

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I came across this recipe recently when perusing the cooking section of the bookstore (my favorite section), and flipping through Nick Malgieri’s new book, Pastry. I stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing the recipe, as it was exactly what I was craving for a bright, seasonal dessert in the middle of winter. The thing about citrus that I love so much is its availability in the middle of winter, when we all need a little brightness on our dessert plate. This dessert comes together nicely in three parts: first the pastry, then the filling, then the segments of blood orange that have been lightly poached. Poaching the segments of blood orange helps control the liquid that is exuded from them and that seeps into the pastry. The recipe below is largely inspired by the one I found in Nick Malgieri’s book; I’ve taken his recipe for the filling and the technique for the poached blood oranges. The pastry dough recipe is my old trusty recipe, from my dad, and can be found in an old tattered Moulinex recipe manual.

Filling
6 large blood oranges, about 1 1/2 pounds, divided use
1/4 cup water
7 tablespoons sugar, divided use
6 ounces almond paste
1 large egg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry measure cup and level)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Pastry (Pâte Sablée)
250g flour
125g butter (room temperature), cubed
125g sugar
1 egg
Pinch of salt

Finishing
¾ cup apricot preserves
¼ cut sliced almonds, slightly toasted

Directions
For the pâte sablée
1. Put all ingredients except the butter in the food processor, and mix for 30 seconds to mix all the ingredients and obtain a sandy consistency.
2. With the processor on, slowly add the cubes of butter. Continue with the food processor about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a crumbly ball. Be careful not to overmix. If the dough does not form a ball, slowly add ice water in increments of 1 tablespoon.
3. Take the dough out of the food processor and gather the dough into a round, thick (about 1-2 inch thick) disk. Try to handle the dough as little as possible. Wrap the disk of dough in saran wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 min.
4. When ready to roll out the dough, butter your tart pan and preheat the oven to 375.
5. Roll out the dough into a disk about 1/8th of an inch, and put in the tart shell. With a fork, prick the dough in several places, cover with parchment paper, and fill with dried beans to prevent rising. Bake for 15 minutes (just long enough pre-cook before a second round in the oven with the filling, which will be described below).

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Preparing the Oranges:
1. Before peeling the oranges, grate 2 teaspoons worth from the blood oranges. Set aside for the filling.
2. Using a sharp knife, remove the skin and white pith completely, resulting in a peeled globe. Then, slice the orange in half, cutting through all the segments (if you orient your orange with the stem on top, you want to cut horizontally).
3. Take each half and lay flat on work surface. Cut the orange halves into ¼ inch thick slices and set aside.
4. In a saucepan large enough to hold the orange slices in a shallow layer, bring 4 tblsp of sugar and the water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add the orange slices to the syrup. The slices can be left in the syrup several days, until 30 minutes before you need to assemble the tart. Thirty minutes before assembling, remove the orange slices and place on a pan lined with paper towels. Reserve the syrup.

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Almond Filling
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the almond paste and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar on low speed with the paddle attachment. Beat until it is reduced to fine crumbs.
2. Add the whole egg, and beat until the consistency of the mixture is smooth. This should take a minute or two.
3. Beat in the butter until smooth.
4. Add the reserved orange zest, egg yolk, and vanilla.
5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and baking powder.

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Assembling the Tart
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Spread the filling into the prepared crust and smooth the top.
3. Remove the orange slices from the paper towel, and arrange over the almond filling in overlapping concentric rows. Make sure to pack the slices tightly—you want to avoid having uncovered filling. Gently press the slices into the filing.
4. Arrange the orange slices, overlapping, in concentric rows over the almond filling.
5. Bake the tart until the crust is baked through and golden about 30 minutes (you’ll also want to check that the filling is set).
6. While the tart is baking, bring the syrup to a boil and allow it to reduce until slightly thickened, 4 or 5 minutes; don’t reduce it too much, or it will solidify. Let cool.
7. To create the apricot glaze, combine 1/4 cup of the reduced syrup with the apricot preserves and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
8. Cool the baked tart on a rack and unmold it.
9. Lightly brush the oranges with the apricot glaze, reheating it first if necessary.
10. Immediately before serving; sprinkle the edge of the tart with the sliced almonds.

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