Grapefruit & Fennel Tart

Allow me to recount the story of the salted lemon tart. It was in the first few weeks of culinary school, when confidence was at a low and there was constant anxiety over little things like turning on the stove.  We were making a tarte au citron in pastry class — a short crust pastry encasing lemon curd topped with Italian meringue — a fresh and delicate classic. I had been stirring the curd for almost 20 minutes and it just didn’t look right. Time was running out so I just went with what I had and poured it in my tart shell.  As I prepared the Italian meringue on top I caught some curd on my finger and licked it – I gagged. I had mistaken salt for sugar in the curd. I had about a cup of salt in that pie. I had completely butchered that French classic.
Fortunately this grapefruit curd was alright. I had since learned to always check my sugar/salt. So my story should make you feel better. Whatever f*ck up you have when cooking, at least it can’t be as disgusting as my salted lemon tart.

My only concern for this dessert is my messy tart shell, which is something that would’ve marked me down in school. There was too much overhang and I tried to trim the tart shell after it had come out of the oven and it..was just messy.  The trick is to put the pastry dough over the tart tin, leaving all the overhang, and leave it to chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  Then, using a rolling pin, you roll over the edges to cut off the overhang and then you bake.

This is a lovely dessert. Bitter, sweet, herbal.  I just love citrus and fennel, ad this makes such an elegant dessert (provided that you have a neat tart shell *ahem*).
Makes one large tart
200g flour
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
5g salt
10g sugar
100g butter, cold, cubed
1 medium egg, whisked with 1 tbsp of water

Grapefruit curd
200ml grapefruit juice
zest of 1 grapefruit
2 eggs
3 yolks
125g butter, cubed
120g sugar

Candied grapefruit zest
1/2 grapefruit
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Candied fennel seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar

Fennel fronds

Mix the flour, fennel seeds, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture becomes sand-like.  Then stir in the egg mixture and mix and knead just until combined. Flatten into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Roll out the pastry to about 2mm thick. Prick all over with a fork  and line a tart tin with it (choose one with a removable base).  Don’t stretch it too much and leave quite a bit of overhang. Put it in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Once chilled, roll your rolling pin over the top to cut off the overhang.  Line the tart with baking paper and fill it with dry beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the paper with the beans and bake for a further 5-8 minutes or until golden.

Put all the ingredients except for the eggs and yolks together in a heatproof bowl and sit it over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.  When all is melted, whisk in the eggs and yolks and stir continuously for about 15-20 minutes.  Could take longer, have patience. It should be almost custard like in texture.

Candied grapefruit zest
Peel the grapefruit into large strips. Using a sharp pairing knife, cut away the white pith on the inside.  Now cut into very thin strips.

Bring a small pot of water to the boil and and add the peel. Simmer for three minutes, drain and repeat once more.

Bring 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water to the boil. When the sugar has completely dissolved, add the zest and turn down the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to dry on baking paper.

Candied fennel seeds
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pan. After about 2-3 minutes it should become syrupy.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the fennel seeds. Continue stirring until it crystallizes and become fennel seeds become separated.  Leave to cool on baking paper.

Pour curd into tart shell and put it in the fridge to set for at least 15 minutes. Top with fennel seeds, candied grapefruit zest and fennel fronds.

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