It’s late autumn. Good fruit is but a memory now, a glistening image retreating over the horizon as winter looms and soon persists, no end in sight. Now, though, just as we brace ourselves for the frigid onslaught, a forgotten ally returns triumphantly, restoring brightness and radiance.
Citrus delivers this relief, pure sunshine straight from happy lands beyond Frost’s reach. These sunny ambassadors will stay by our side until the spring thaw. Few of these friends are as sweetly exuberant as are clementines, and this week’s offering serves them in all their vital glory. Here’s a Clementine-Olive Oil Tart, modeled closely on the lemon version featured in the March & April 2019 Cook’s Illustrated.
As clementine oranges are a bit less intense than are lemons, slightly more juice and zest are required to achieve the same effect. Little matter. Few fruits, from any time of the year, produce as striking an impression as do the oranges. They spend the balmy subtropical summer soaking up all that sunshine, storing it to release when it’s needed most, in late-year climes sadly reconciled to winter’s inevitability. Not yet, because when a clementine is around it’s always July.
Another improvement, perhaps, is adding poppy seeds to the dough. Not only do they provide an interesting visual, a lattice of small polka-dots, but they impart a light nuttiness that contrasts nicely with the clementine curd’s silky sweetness. Indeed, the poppy is the bringer of dreams.
A surprising choice of moistening agent too, as olive oil fills in for butter here. The oil does a good job at binding together both the crust and the curd, adding a cohesiveness previously unimaginable in a dessert prepared without butter. Plus, the olive’s mild fruitiness foretells the more sparkling tastes just beyond.
Good berries have come and gone, as have edible peaches and melons. Grapes roll downhill from their peak, taking cherries with them. Orchards are in full retreat, yet just as we bemoan the abandonment, citrus raises high a glowing beacon, scattering the gloom and cold. We thought fruity refreshment was gone too, but today’s treat proves us wrong.
Clementine-Olive Oil Tart
For the crust:
- 1 and 1/2 cups flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, optional (*1)
For the filling:
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, plus one yolk
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- juice of three clementines, plus 1 tablespoon of clementine zest
Start with the crust. Adjust oven rack to the middle position, then preheat to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the oil and water and stir until a dough forms.
Using your hands, crumble 3/4 of the dough onto the bottom of a 9-inch baking pan with a removeable bottom. Press until the bottom is of an even thickness. Take the remaining quarter of the dough and press it to an even thickness on the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet (*2) and bake it for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown.
About five minutes before the crust is finished baking, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in the eggs until no streaks remain. Whisk in the clementine juice and zest. Place saucepan over a medium-low flame. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, about six minutes. Cut the heat.
Remove the crust from the oven (but keep the oven running!) and place the crust, in the pan, on a wire rack to begin cooling.
Whisk the reserved olive oil into the filling in the saucepan, until incorporated. Strain filling through a mesh strainer into the pastry crust. Smooth to an even thickness with a rubber spatula. Bake for 12 minutes, until the filling barely jiggles when shaken.
Let cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for two hours, then slice and serve.
1 – As mentioned in the introductions, poppy seeds make for nice supplement, as their mild nuttiness compliments the sweet filling.
2 – The reason for the “extra” pan is that it creates a double barrier, discouraging burning.