Monday, March 1, 2010


"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." - andré gide

alan villiers

Australian writer and photographer Andre Villiers grew up close to the docks and developed a lifelong love of the ocean. At aged 15 he went to sea as an apprentice on a barque in the Tasman Sea. After several years on many ships he eventually worked his way up to able-seaman. While recovering from a temporary injury, Villiers found work as a journalist for the Tasmanian newspaper Hobart Mercury. In 1929 he and fellow journalist Ronald Walker signed on with Grace Harwar, the last full-rigger in the Australian trade, and set sail for England. The voyage was a harrowing one: Walker was killed in an accident, the second mate had a breakdown, the ship was under-provisioned and the crew developed scurvy. Villiers filmed the entire experience in a documentary, and later wrote about it his book By Way of Cape Horn. He eventually completed a trilogy in which he hoped to complete "the picture which I set out to give of the graceful wind ships before the last of them departed." In 1934 Villiers purchased a sailing ship, renamed her the Joseph Conrad, and used it as a training vessel to build character and discipline in young budding sailors. He helped form the modern concept of sail training as a tool not to teach youth for a life at sea, but to use the sea to teach youth for life. In 1938 he began a study of the sailing culture in the far east, sailing to Zanzibar and back on a Arab dhow. He recorded his experiences in Sons of Sinbad.

During long sailing voyages sailors often succumbed to scurvy, a deficiency in vitamin-C. Last week I tested a recipe recently posted on Food & Wine for Flaky Blood Orange Tart by Rustic Canyon's pastry chef Zoe Nathan. This rustic tart uses juicy blood oranges with a bit of sugar on a flaky, buttery crust. I've slightly modified the recipe to make the crust by hand and not with a food processor. This is my preferred method.

Flaky Blood Orange Tart
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, the stick cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 tbsp ice water
8-10 blood oranges (about 5 ounces each)
1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 tbsp of water
Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below), for serving
  1. In a large bowl mix together flour, 2 tbsp of sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the 1/4-inch pieces of cold stick of butter using a pastry cutter until flour mixture begins to look like course meal. There should still be some pea-sized bits of butter in the mixture. Sprinkle in ice water a tablespoon at a time just until moistened crumbs form. Do not make too wet. Using cold hands knead the moistened crumbs together once or twice until dough starts coming together. Do not over handle dough. Pat the pastry into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
  2. On a floured work surface, or between two pieces of plastic, roll out the pastry to an 11-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper-lined flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes to chill.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the blood oranges, removing all the bitter whit pith. It's a lot of work but worth the effort if you want a sweeter result. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise; remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, releasing the sections into the sieve. Remove the pits and gently shake out as much juice as possible without mashing the sections; you will need 1 cup of sections. Reserve the orange juice for another use. *Note: if you don't get rid of the juice, the bottom of your tart will come out soggy.
  4. Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the oranges. Using a paring knife thinly slice the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry edges over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges in the center uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 tbsp of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-inch border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven 375° F and position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the tart directly from freezer (do not defrost) for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is deeply browned. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the tart cool for 30 minutes. Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the rack and let the tart cool completely. Serve with the Salted Caramel Sauce (see recipe below.)
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp gray sea salt, crushed
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to boil. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil over high heat until a deep amber caramel forms, about 6 minutes.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream, butter and salt. Let the caramel cool to room temperature.
  3. The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Re-warm before serving.

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