Monday, 4 February 2013 | 34 comments

White grapefruit tart with sweet rye crust

For those of you in California, in Florida, or even in the Mediterranean; for those of you in places where the temperature doesn’t dip so low that, in your car, your toes freeze because the heat only works on “defrost” instead of blowing on your face or feet (this is, sadly, the least of our current car troubles); for those of you wearing flip-flops year round—it’s difficult for me to explain. Winter citrus is so utterly improbable for those of us in colder climes. The bright colors, jeweled insides, and shamelessly pervasive aromas of these fruits seem altogether suited for another season, or really, in the interminable winter months, another world. When there’s snow on the ground outside, slicing open a grapefruit, with that little spritz of essential oil from the peel as I cut in, is enough to reduce me to a mess of stuttering half sentences and syllables of appreciation. When I was growing up, my mother always ordered big boxes of citrus sent up from Florida in the wintertime. They’d arrive at the front door—you could smell the Honeybells through the corrugated cardboard— nestled in paper confetti, slamming you in the face with a wave of citrus essence as soon as you sliced through the packing tape. She’d tell stories of how tangerines were stuffed down to the toe of her stocking at Christmastime, a holdover from my grandmother’s childhood, when oranges were rarefied and exotic.

I miss that kind of awe. I’m trying to rekindle it, and the bowl of grapefruits I have on the counter is a start.If the archives are any indication, I seem to get on a grapefruit jag this time of year. This year it’s white grapefruit, the subtler, pretty, floral kin of last year’s more flamboyant pink. It’s my new favorite: less pithy, more versatile, and—very scientific double blind controlled taste tests confirm—goes better with rye whiskey in a cocktail.

This tart pays homage to those qualities, emphasizing its pale straw yellow color and citrus blossom notes. (This latter description, I suspect, confirms that I have possibly been hanging out with wine industry folks too much.) Make it—this one, friends, is a little bit of balm for your winter-chapped soul.

White grapefruit tart with sweet rye crust

You’ll need

  1. For the crust:
  2. 1 cup rye flour
  3. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  5. A pinch kosher salt
  6. 1 tablespoon sugar
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla mixed with 1/4 cup ice water
  8. For the curd filling:
  9. 6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  10. 1 cup sugar (I used demerara, white will work just fine)
  11. Juice of one white grapefruit (they tend to be large, if yours is smaller, you may need two: mine produced a scant cup of juice)
  12. 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  13. Zest of one white grapefruit
  14. For the candied grapefruit slice garnish:
  15. 1 large slice of grapefruit, taken from the middle of the grapefruit you use for juice
  16. 1/2 cup sugar
  17. 1/2 cup water
  18. Special equipment: 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom


  1. Make the dough: Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut in the cold butter with your fingers, distributing large flakes throughout the mixture, breaking it up into pieces until the mixture has pieces of butter distributed heterogeneously throughout. Stir in the ice water/vanilla mixture. The dough should just hold together. If you need more water, add one teaspoon at a time until the dough just holds together when you squeeze it between your fingers.
  2. Gather the shaggy mass together, wrap it in plastic, press it into a disk, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make your curd filling. Heat the egg yolks, sugar, and grapefruit juice over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring, for 12-15 minutes, over low heat. The curd should thicken, coating the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the curd from heat and allow to cool for several minutes. Piece by piece, stir in the butter pieces until they are fully incorporated. Stir in the zest. Set aside the curd to cool entirely.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the pastry dough on a well-floured surface. It will be crumbly at first, so fold it back over on itself and continue to roll out until it forms a cohesive dough, about 1/4 inch thick. Gently drape the rolled out tart dough over the tart pan and press it in. Trim the edges so they are about 1/8 inch over the top of the pan, to allow for any shrinkage in the oven. Prick the bottom five or six times with the tines of a fork, and bake, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t over brown, for 20-25 minutes, until deep golden. Remove the baked crust and set aside to cool.
  5. If you want to make the candied grapefruit garnish, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a skillet and heat slowly until the sugar is combined. Bring it to a bare simmer, and add the slice of grapefruit. Cook, at the same bare simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the grapefruit slice and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper to cool.
  6. To assemble, spoon the cooled curd filling into the cooled prebaked tart shell. Garnish with the candied grapefruit slice. Chill for at least an hour before serving.


§ 34 responses to White grapefruit tart with sweet rye crust

  • this. looks. a-mazing. grapefruit is pretty much the bee’s knees in my book – especially right now.

  • I’ve seen several grapefruit desserts lately and have been wanting to try one out. This looks beautiful, and I love the sound of that crust!

  • Hah, this reminds me of reading Little House on the Prairie as a little girl and being totally bewildered about Laura and Mary’s delight at receiving oranges in their stockings at Christmas. I definitely do understand it more now. Citrus is magic in these northerly parts.

    The tart, by the way, looks absolutely stunning. So sunny! I will have to search for a white grapefruit.

  • Grapefruit + sweet rye. What a stunning combination. I desperately want to reach into your last photograph with a fork in my hand and steal a bite.

  • Maggie

    Can’t eat grapefruit and until today, reading your post, it never bothered me. You make it look so gorgeous!

  • Zoe

    Nice one! You have successfully made me much more grateful for the abundance of citrus over here (Australia) during winter. I get so sick of them come July that I am just dying for a plum or a nectarine. I think I’ll bookmark this post and make this around July 31st! Haha. Beautifully written as always. Zoe

  • Yeah, forget about those year-around flip floppers… It is nice to have a chill in the air ! (Keep telling that to yourself enough and you will believe it :)).
    Never cooked with grapefruit but eat it for breakfast on the weekends. Have not seen the white ones around here though. And never made a citrus tart… cake yes but no tart. I am tempted!

  • I love the idea of rye and grapefruit – and have been hooked on grapefruit curd since Heidi Swanson made it and shared it last year after her trip to Morocco. This one looks really special and I can’t wait to try it. Have you ever tried an oroblanco (pummelo/white grapefruit hybrid)? Much to love there. Though I’m not sure if they get outside of CA much. Happy citrus season … enjoy the magic :)

  • i do love a bright curd, this sounds perfect for a winter tart. I humbly admit that I do wear flip flops year round, and it’s wonderful, but there is also something charming about being freezing. It makes you appreciate the warm and the changing seasons. Hugh and I joke that our weather is either with or without a sweatshirt weather and that about sums it up. Stay warm, my friend! ps congrats on the saveur feature!

  • Right up my alley! Everything about this recipe + this post. So love rye crusts and am a citrus fiend in the winter up here in Seattle. Brilliant combination: can’t wait to try! Happy February from Seattle! ~m

  • Red grapefruit outnumber white here in Germany to the point that I don’t think that I’ve even seen a white grapefruit yet this citrus season. The hunt begins.

    The rye crust paired with the white grapefruit sounds meant to be. Perhaps instead of cold water, I’ll use some cold wheat beer?

  • People ask me what things I am excited for when I move from IL to CA, and the first thing out of my mouth is produce (mainly citrus). My fiance has a citrus tree that grows in the middle of his apartment complex and when I went to visit, it left me in complete awe (because I have only known the colder climates). This tart looks perfect and I love the idea of using rye!

    • The rye really makes it. The filling is very tart and sweet, and the buttery, toasty mild rye crust is the perfect foil. (You have so much to look forward to in CA!)

  • I remember those citrus boxes, the giant fruits, the smells and textures and how they sprung a leak through Winter’s gray, flat light and burst colors all over your hands. These days, I’m lugging home sacks of Grapefruit from the market, carefully slicing out supremes and drizzling the tiniest amount of honey over them, a casual toss of chopped almonds and sitting, feet tucked under me, to slurp down every tangy bite. There is white for as far as I can see, and the cold is deep and bold. Grapefruits make it all tolerable. And this tart is gorgeous.

  • meg

    Oooh. Grapefruit curd. And such a beautiful rye crust! I, too, eagerly await citrus season every year, and I’ve been swimming in blood oranges, grapefruit, Meyer lemons, and pomelo. It’s glorious, although my tummy is starting to complain about all the acid in my diet! I may have room for one more citrus splurge, though. Here’s hoping I do!

  • Hi Sarah, Your words are like poetry…we love reading ‘you’. just ordered some grapefruit/oranges. on arrival will prepare your Tart. also just received pea sprouts. thank you for the information on your source. will start that project weekend. We can relate to the icy freezing car troubles …bone chilling. get warm!

    • Hi Judith, I’m happy to hear from you, and am so glad the pea order worked out for you. I would love to be updated on how your sprouting efforts go! Thanks–S

  • Sometimes I pop into our local fruit and vegetable shop just to stare at the vivid orange and yellow of the citrus fruits, it’s the only way to make it through these cold days. I love the idea of that rye crust, the perfect complement.

  • Oh, white grapefruit is my FAVORITE winter fruit! I feel super lucky to live in CA, where it’s actually at the farmer’s market and falling off trees in people’s yards This tart looks great–I’m intrigued by the use of rye!

  • I know exactly what you mean about the ‘moment’ that happens when you interact with citrus fruit in February with cold toes and a snowstorm outside. Yesterday, I made mandarin upside-down cakes and I walked in and out of my kitchen deliberately (more often than I’d like to admit to) just to re-experience that hit of citrus (which in this case had notes of caramel and the faintest hint of orange blossom water). I can’t wait to get more citrus in my life – this recipe has me adding white grapefruits to my grocery list -thanks!

  • The winter citrus mood, perfectly described. I have a bag of navel oranges at home and a crate of clementines at work, and I’m washing my hair with orange-coconut shampoo and treating my skin to a bar of grapefruit-scented vegetable oil soap AND grapefruit-bergamot lotion! Yes, I live in northern Germany where there is nary a local fruit or veg to be had, except those that come from the cellar.

  • I forgot to mention that your tart is very pretty, especially with the economically planned garnish of two slices from the middle of the same fruit you zest and juice for the filling.

  • Now I kinda feel guilty about my Californian-citrus abundance…. I shall never take it for granted.

  • This looks lovely! I’ll be sure to forward this along to friends back home in Southern California, a mecca of winter citrus for sure. Also, holla atcha for your beauteous Shun chef’s knife. My 8-inch Shun was my first professional knife, and even though I’m not working in a kitchen these days, that knife, tucked away in its case, is like a book mark holding the place for that part of my life. Brings back great memories…I hope yours is serving you well!

  • I just bumped into this recipe and at such perfect timing! Grapefruit trees grow like the plague where i live and right now they’re in season. I was running out of ideas of what to do with them! ;)

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