painting of tangerine curd and ingredients

Tangerine Curd. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

It’s tangerine season and that means tangerine curd. Riverdog Farm delivers pounds of mandarins and oranges each week. Because I have a contract baking/barter arrangement right now with my friend C., who brought me to music camp, I offered her some curd. She wanted eight jars. Eight jars! See Sharyn scurrying around the garage, looking for empty jars of an appropriate size. See Sharyn buying three dozen eggs at Trader Joe’s. See Sharyn topping a couple of those jars with plastic wrap and rubber bands because good lids were wanting. See Sharyn making angel food cake from scratch to use those first twelve egg whites.

Now, I had on hand eight organically grown tangerines from the farm and eight tangerines of unknown provenance from Safeway. Using the blood orange curd recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts for proportions, I made my first batch with the eight organic tangerines, 18 tablespoons of butter, a dozen egg yolks, plus three whole eggs, 3/4 cup sugar and the juice of three Meyer lemons. This yielded nearly two cups of juice and five jars of tangerine curd. Then I made a second batch with Safeway tangerines. They only yielded a little over a half cup of juice. I added Meyer lemon juice to get to a cup and followed the recipe as written, except for using tangerines instead of blood oranges. The lesson? Different tangerines will yield different amounts of juice — either buy organic ones or get a few extra in case your juice is too scant. The second recipe yielded three small jars of curd.

Tangerine Curd (adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts)

Zest, then juice 4 tangerines to yield 7 Tbsp juice (have a few back-up tangerines in case yours are dry)

Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice (I juiced 1 Meyer lemon)

Separate 4 eggs and reserve whites for another use.

Whisk 4 egg yolks and one whole egg with 1/4 cup sugar in a non-reactive sauce pan.

Add juice and zest.

Cut 6 Tbsp unsalted butter into small pieces and add to saucepan.

Bring to low-medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until curd coats the spoon. Hint, draw a clean finger through the curd on the spoon — if the track remains clear, the curd is done.

Pour curd into clean glass jars (I washed my jars and lids and boiled them in a water bath before filling them).

This recipe will yield three small jars. Cool and store in refrigerator. The curd will keep for one-to-two weeks. It is good on rye toast or as a cake filling. Or, you might do as my friend Bob suggested and make a tangerine meringue pie. If you want to use curd as a pie filling, Lindsey Shere suggests that you mix 1/4 tsp cornstarch with the sugar before you make the curd — apparently, it helps the curd hold together under oven heat.

Now, remember I made a triple batch the first time and had a dozen egg whites leftover: the simplest thing was to use them to make an angel food cake, delicious with curd. I had not made an angel food cake from scratch since I was a teenager, but I saw no reason not to attempt it. My trusty Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook offered not one but two options for homemade angel food. I chose option two, which contained confectioner’s sugar and seemed to skirt the possibility of being grainy. I got out my whisk, tube pan, metal utensils, beaters, scrubbed and dried them all, got down the cake flour and confectioner’s sugar and set to work. The recipe said to sift the flour and sugar together three times. Uh-huh. Right. Instead, I sifted them each once into a mixing bowl and used my whisk to blend them. Then I beat egg whites, added sugar, beat them again until they nearly overflowed the mixing bowl. I then followed the instruction to sift the sugar and flour over the top of the egg whites. I found this to be quite tedious, perhaps because our sifter is sixty years old and cranky, or perhaps because I really don’t like to sift, just as my mother does not like to stir. What the recipe should have said was to sift some of the mixture on top of the egg whites, fold it in, sift some more, because if you do it all at once you then have a difficult job of folding the mixture into the egg whites because you have no room left in your bowl. I got the job done, however. The other hard part is scraping the batter into the tube pan with a metal spatula. It is much easier to scrape things with a rubber scraper, but verboten for egg whites.

The reward for all of this excess and troublesome labor was a good-tasting cake with none of the odd flavors that show up in commercial angel food cakes or mixes. The cake tastes purely of vanilla and sugar and has a moister texture than you would expect. Mom says I didn’t beat the egg whites enough, but I thought the moist texture was gorgeous.

Here is the amended recipe from Betty Crocker

Angel Food De Luxe (sic)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together 1 cup sifted Softasilk cake flour and 1 and 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar.

Beat 12 egg whites with 1 scant teaspoon of cream of tartar and 1/4 tsp salt until foamy.

Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 Tbsp at a time, while continuing to beat egg whites.

Beat to stiff peaks and fold in 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Sift 1/4 of the flour sugar mixture over the meringue and fold in. Repeat until all flour and sugar are incorporated.

Using only clean, dry metal utensils, transfer cake to waiting ungreased, unfloured 10 x 4 tube pan. Level cake gently with metal spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until top springs back when gently pressed with finger.

Set tube pan on top of glass or plastic bottle (I used a ketchup bottle) and cool completely before unmolding. Use table knife to loosen edges. Eat with curd or plain. Yum.

P.S. When the comments started to come in, people suggested that angel food cake was a North American dessert. I didn’t know that. Now I do. I consulted Granny Wise and she’s written up a history of angel food cake for you.