It’s a fact. We love to obsess. Over just about anything and everything. Over waistlines, exes, the caramel to espresso ratio of our macchiatos, our babies (even the ugly ones), avocado toasts — and many things in-between.
Yet when the season doth cometh, winter citrus gets on another level. Maybe it’s because the sun has gone deep into hiding, maybe we need to offset the mounds of shepherds pie and oatmeal cookie consumption, maybe we have scurvy. Probably all three.
Whatever the case — as soon as Meyer lemons, kumquats and all their buddies start sparklin’ up produce shelves — we arrive in droves like seagulls to an abandoned beach blanket at lunchtime.
The season is brief and that makes it all the more sweet. Here is a dessert to celebrate our beloved blood oranges and the brightness they bring.
This combination of flavors and textures is an absolute winner. The gingersnap crust is extra spicy and ginger-y, the filling is yogurty tart and light as a silk pillow that you want to eat; and the caramel is the deepest depths of orange essence and should be mass-produced.
No lie — this is a bit of a project and takes some planning — but read the recipe all the way through and you’ll find it to be very manageable indeed…and very much worth it.
Sweet Labneh Tart with Gingersnap Crust & Blood Orange Caramel
For the Crust:
- 1/2 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs about 10 cookies, ground in a food processor or smashed with a rolling pin
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs about 8-10 squares, ground in a food processor or smashed with a rolling pin
- 1 stick salted butter
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp garam masala may sub cinnamon
- big pinch each salt and cayenne
For the Caramel:
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup blood orange juice aprox 5 juicy fruits
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- pinch salt
For the Labneh:
- 1 quart plain full-fat yogurt
For the Labneh Filling:
- 1 cup labneh
- 8 ounce pkg cream cheese
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste may sub extract or 1 scraped bean
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp orange blossom water optional
For the Labneh:
2 days before pie-day: Line a colander with cheese cloth or two layers of paper towels. Gently plop the yogurt into lined colander, set said colander over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Each day empty the bowl out with the drainage. You want the labneh thick but spreadable like those cans of store-bought frosting.
For the Crust:
Morning of Pie-Day:
In a small saucepan brown the butter til the kitchen smells like butter heaven and there's delightful dark caramel nubbies at the bottom. If you've never browned butter youtube it.
PREHEAT OVEN TO 325*. In a medium bowl combine both cookie crumbs, the spices and salt. Slowly drizzle the browned butter in and stir with a fork until well combined and it looks like clumpy wet sand.
In a lightly oiled pretty pie plate, dump the mixture and carefully edge out and flatten with a spatula. Try to make it even, take your time.
Chill for 20 minutes.
Line the pie with parchment paper and fill with pie weights/dried beans/rice. Is this absolutely necessary? Honestly, I don't know. But pie is a fickle beast and a labor of love and I always try to prevent slumps and sags in any way possible. I don't leave pie to chance, and neither should you. Bake for 10 minutes.
Let cool completely on a wire rack.
For the Filling:
In a stand or hand-held mixer whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Set aside in another bowl and refrigerate if your kitchen is on the warm side .
In the same mixing bowl (no need to wash), mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla bean, blossom water (if using), and salt until very well creamed and fluffy. About 5 minutes.
With a rubber spatula fold in the labneh, then the whipped cream.
Now that the pie crust is completely cooled -- fill it! Cover and refrigerate 8-12 HOURS or until filling is set.
Meanwhile for the Caramel:
In a small saucepan allow the sugar to melt over medium heat. Lifting and turning the pot to get good even heat. Because this is a dry caramel you're allowed to stir it -- it's much less likely to get grainy or clump like a wet caramel.
Continue to cook the sugar until it has completely melted and reached a dark amber color. 7-10 minutes.
Quickly take off the heat and add the orange juice and vinegar. It will seize and look freaky! It's okay! Let it calm down a second then place the pot back on heat and stir, which might be a little hard at first but just keep lifting the large hard bits of caramel and turning them over, allowing them to melt back into the liquid.
Patience grasshopper, those little caramel turds will soon dissolve. Once they do, continue to stir occasionally while the pot simmers, until the liquid has reduced and turned syrupy and your spatula leaves a trail at the bottom.
Remember that the caramel will thicken quite a bit at room temperature -- a good way to check if it's the consistency you want is to drizzle a small spoonful on a plate and let it cool for a minute or so -- if it pools nicely and looks viscous you're good to go. Stir in a pinch of salt.
Take off heat and let cool. Then jar and place in fridge until ready to use.
Serve the pie cold from the fridge with generous drizzles of caramel and fresh segments of blood orange...Pistachios might also be a good topping.
- Labneh is a simple strained yogurt cheese and must be made in advance or be store-bought.
- A quart of yogurt will make about two cups of labneh. The leftover cup can be spread onto toasty bread with some tomatoes and flaky salt, drizzled with olive oil and dukkah for a quick dip..You really can't go wrong because labneh is the greatest.
- Caramel may be made a few days in advance or day of.
- Use leftover caramel over yogurt or ice cream or waffles(!!)
- If the caramel has gotten too thick to easily handle, stir in a spoonful of hot water to thin.
- In my opinion, best eaten the day of making..But in the name of science I ate it for three days straight and it was delicious all those days. The only thing sacrificed is that the crust will eventually soften.