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The great internet hubbub and accompanying conspiracy theories that surfaced this past fall regarding a noticeable lack of orange pie options sent shockwaves through the pie-loving community. Oranges are a staple of sorbets, olive oil cakes, and fruit bowls across America: why haven't we embraced this standby fruit as worthy of pie status?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as an aspiring pie leader, I took it upon myself to create an orange pie that is not only able to go toe-to-toe with any lemon meringue or key lime delicacy, but—dare I say it—surpass their been there, done that flavors.
I've always considered the seductive and regal blood orange my favorite citrus treat, but since moving to New Orleans several years ago, my affection for the satsuma, a local favorite, has blossomed into a full-blown love affair. Satsumas are a tender, small, sweet fruit widely sold at farmer's markets and out of truck beds across Southeast Louisiana, similar in size and taste to a mandarin orange.
When picking out satsumas to use for your pie, it is imperative to take note of their external condition: satsumas bruise very easily, and should not be used for baking if there are any signs they have been manhandled. If time allows, it would be ideal to purchase a crate of still-firm satsumas and let them ripen in the comfort of your own home to ensure they are at their juiciest. If satsumas are out of season or unavailable in your area, clementines are a strong substitute with a similar, albeit tarter, flavor.
The ratio of satsuma juice to lime juice in the pie filling is key to ensuring the correct balance of flavors. In my first attempt, I added an equal amount of satsuma and lime juice, which caused the lime to overwhelm the more delicate flavor of the orange and turn the filling a not-so-appetizing brown color. By upping the amount of satsuma juice, it allows the fruit to shine through while still picking up on the accent notes of lime. Also, this should go without saying, but don't skimp out on the fresh squeezed lime juice: it makes all the difference between a ho-hum pie and a tangy delight.
Satsumas pair nicely with rich aromatics, including ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. The pie's gingersnap crust plays off of this relationship by balancing the creamy, fruit-heavy, tangy filling with a crunchy, spicy crust. When mincing the candied ginger for the pie crust, it is essential to make it as fine as possible: while small bits of the ginger should be easy to discern, chunks will detract from the textural balance of the dish.
When baking, check three-quarters of the way through to ensure the pie isn't too brown around the edges. If this occurs, tent the pie with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time. When the pie springs back in the center, it's finished. While waiting can be difficult, the pie is best served at room temperature or slightly chilled, garnished with extra satsuma and lime zest.
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