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When I got my first pastry chef gig, I decided I wanted to take ingredients that were often used simply as garnish and shine the spotlight on them. Enter the noble kumquat.
Hopefully you know what a kumquat is. If you do, you probably only know it as a candied little slice used to brighten up winter dessert plates. But fresh kumquats are one of my favorite cold weather snacks—little oblong fruits of pure sour sunshine, with their sweet thin skins and burst of tart juice in the center. They have a very unique flavor that makes them ideal for all kinds of preserving.
Since the restaurant I worked for was opening at the end of winter, citrus was one of the only things I had to work with. Everybody loves a nice lemon tart, but what about a kumquat tart? Since it pairs so beautifully with vanilla, I gave the tart a rich vanilla bean sable crust. I also used a curd recipe that contains olive oil; the grassy flavor of extra virgin olive oil brings out the vegetal notes in the kumquats.
I also decided to put a layer of handmade kumquat marmalade between the curd and the crust, to add an extra punch of kumquat flavor. Which, when you're going for kumquat in the spotlight, isn't a bad thing at all.
I was told by a friend that this dessert was very adult. It's refreshing yet rich, a fresh take on the citrus tart genre and certainly not overly sweet. The marmalade gives it a chewy note that a more grown up palate will certainly appreciate.
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About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna and see her adventures in creativity on her website, VerySmallAnna.