Thursday, April 15, 2010

Citrus Layer Pie

Are you ready for another grapefruit recipe?  I hope so, because this citrus layer pie is sweet, silky goodness.  

Over Easter weekend, I had planned to host a small brunch party with some close friends, but I was worried about the time it would take to make the apartment "party-ready."  So when a good friend and co-worker invited us over, I eagerly accepted.  He was particularly keen on celebrating the holiday since it was his son's first Easter experience.

Little Viktor Diego Tautz is just under 8 months old this month, and although he can't yet run through the yard on his own, he likes to cruise around in his baby Jeep Liberty that is almost as cool as the new Jeep his dad drives. For Easter he was excited to spend time with his good friend Peter Cottontail and to hunt through the yard for hidden, colorful eggs.  He needed a little help to find his gifts from the Easter Bunny, but that was mostly because he was more interested in the grass than in finding presents. (Already a true outdoorsman!)  Diego still has a few years to go until he can enjoy the champagne, cakes, and yummy citrus pie with the rest of the adults; however, in short time he will join the ranks of children all over the world who celebrate this sugar-laden holiday by eagerly scarfing down Cadbury eggs and chocolate bunnies. 

(I couldn't resist posting another photo of this little guy.  Look at his adorable smile!)


Hmm...It seems baby Diego has momentarily distracted me from telling you about my pie (in the way that only an utterly handsome little man can do).  But don't worry,  I haven't forgotten the purpose of this post.  Which is good news for you, because a lapse in my memory would mean you missing out this good recipe.  And this pie is defintely good. 

Here is the concept: graham cracker crust, grapefruit curd, lemon curd, and whipped cream.  Essentially three layers each with a different taste, color, and texture.  I dreamed up this recipe because I still had tons of grapefruits at home, copious amounts of eggs, and also a jar of purchased lemon curd.  Is it a coincidence that I acquired all these ingredients in the same weekend?  I think not; fate was pointing me in the direction of making this pie.         

For starters, I should tell you I have never before made any sort of "curd," so this was a whole new thing for me.  I knew lemon curd was very common (obviously, I had just bought a jar), but had never really heard of a grapefruit curd.  Being inexperienced and ignorant in the world of curds, I almost gave up on the idea; fortunately, fate intervened again when I happened to stumble upon just such a recipe from Hannah of Honey and Jam.  Ah-ha!  Comforted in the knowledge that grapefruit curd was not too wacky of an idea, I went ahead with my plan.  

The Good Egg: More than 200 Fresh Approaches from Breakfast to Dessert

First, I made the grapefruit curd by adapting a recipe from The Good Egg by James Beard Award-Winning Chef, Marie Simmons. (You might be wondering why I went with her recipe rather than the one from Honey and Jam.  Having never made any curd before, I was really not sure what to expect and this book is like my egg bible.)  Her recipe was actually for lemon curd, so I changed it to grapefruit, by decreasing the amount of sugar and increasing the zest.  

I felt a sense of trepidation as I stirred the mixture on the stove, but sure enough, eventually my curd thickened.  Marie suggested straining the mixture to remove the zest or any clumps, but unfortunately I don't have a fine mesh sieve, and I think a little clump here or there gives curd a little character.  Because of the egg yolks, curd is really yellow regardless if the citrus base is lemon, lime, or grapefruit; nonetheless, I really wanted mine to look and taste like grapefruit, so I added two drops of red food coloring (which happens to look like bloody fang bites in the photo).  And volia!  The curd was a nice orange-pink color.       

Pretty matchy-matchy, don't you think?


I set my curd aside to cool, and prepared the lemon curd with cream, which would be the second layer layer of the pie.  I made some fresh whipped cream, and folded it in with the purchased curd to make it lighter and fluffier than the grapefruit curd.  The color ended up being a little pale, so I added one drop of yellow food coloring.

Since the final layer of the pie was the whipped cream alone, I had all my ingredients ready to go and I assembled the pie.  For that final step, you don't even need to read the recipe, just look at the photos. 

Before I leave you to make this pie and enter citrus cream heaven, I should own up to a few things and also make a few comments.  

-First, I cheated on this recipe, twice.  The lemon curd was store-bought, when I could have just as easily made it on my own, and the graham cracker crust was compliments of Keebler.  

-That said, I think there may be some readers that will be more likely to make this recipe since it has some pre-made ingredients which saves considerable time and makes it "party-friendly." (Which happens to be part of the reason I took it to my Easter gathering!)

-If you are of the more ambitious type, I would encourage you to make the lemon curd from scratch along with your grapefruit curd.  To do this, just increase the sugar in the curd to 1/2 cup, and decrease the zest to only 1 tablespoon.  If you like, go wild and make your graham cracker crust from scratch too!  I might just make this again one day soon and do that myself.

-And lastly, as I am sure you can imagine on your own, there are numerous variations you could make with this recipe by using only 1-2 of the layers, or omitting the cream etc.  Have fun!  

Citrus Layer Pie

Grapefruit Curd:
Adapted from The Good Egg by Marie Simmons, but inspired by Honey and Jam
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon grated grapefruit zest
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
*red food coloring

Lemon Curd:
1 jar (11oz) of lemon curd 
3/4 cup whipped cream (recipe below)
*yellow food coloring

Whipped Cream: 
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 purchased graham cracker pie shell

Start by making the grapefruit curd, since this will have to cool for a while before filling the crust.  In a small saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar, zest, and grapefruit juice.  Lightly beat the egg yolks, then cook with constant stirring over medium-low heat until curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Make sure you do not boil the mixture.  For me, this took around 10 minutes.  At this point, reduce the heat to very low, and add the butter a few pieces at a time, stirring to incorporate each one before adding the next.  The curd should be very thick at this point.  (If you want the grapefruit color, add 2 drops of red food coloring and mix well.) Transfer to a small bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming.  Cool in the fridge.

Next, whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer.  When the cream starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until it forms soft peaks.  Make the lemon cream layer by scooping the contents of the jar of lemon curd into a bowl, and gently folding in 3/4 cup whipped cream.  (For a more pronounced yellow color, add 1 drop of yellow food coloring and mix.)

Now assemble your pie.  Transfer all the cooled grapefruit curd to the graham cracker crust, and smooth the top.  Next carefully spoon the lemon cream over the curd, gently and evenly distributing it without compromising the integrity of the grapefruit curd layer.  Finally, do the same with a final layer of the whipped cream alone, yet only add as much cream as you need to reach the top of the crust.  Smooth the cream, and top with grapefruit zest.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.