I recently made a bit of a gardening splurge purchase at Home Depot, bringing home a heavy kumquat bush weighed down with fruits. I wasn’t familiar with the kumquat until I moved to California, as Oregon’s climate is not very conducive to citrus-growing and as a result the varieties we had in the markets there tended to be very standard (lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, etc). But when I was walking around my neighborhood in Los Angeles, I noticed a citrus bush with tiny fruits on them that looked like oblong oranges the size of grapes. Intrigued, and always down for a plant species-identification challenge, I scoured the internet until I came across the kumquat, and once I tried one, a kinship between myself and the fruit began.
Kumquats are like nature’s Sour Patch candies, the peel of the kumquat is very thin and sweet (so much so that you don’t remove the peel before eating, you just pop them in your mouth whole!) and the fleshy fruit inside is sour, but not in a bad way. Like sour as in the “sour candy” way, where it’s just a tang and not too offensive because of the sweetness of the peel. Very forgivable, indeed. And, after viewing a few kumquat-related flower arrangements on Pinterest and falling in love with them, I decided I would use kumquats in the arrangements at my wedding. But then promptly found out from my florist that they can’t be purchased in the state of Oregon. (Womp, womp.) Well, you all know how much I love DIY (and that my stubborn Greek side won’t let me take no for an answer), so I decided to try and grow them myself. And thus was born my giant potted kumquat bush.
I was reallllly looking forward to using my first harvest from it; I contemplated making a marmalade but I didn’t have quite enough kumquats for a near substantial amount of marmalade-making, so I decided to make a tart since I hadn’t had one in a long while. I candied the kumquats, which made them much sweeter and took the sour flavor down to a more muted level, and made a cream cheese filling for the center (I have a strange obsession with the pairing of citrus and sweet cheese, and needed to fulfill my mind’s pleading to smother the tart with it.) For the crust, I borrowed Smitten Kitchen’s sweet tart shell recipe, and in the end I was blown away by how it all came together. I’m serious guys, the buttery crumbly crust, the smooth and creamy cheese filling, and the extra sweet and very mildly tart candied kumquats united in this perfect melange of flavors and textures. Plus, the tiny candied kumquats just give it a really elegant look. It will be difficult to make a marmalade with my next harvest instead of just making this again…
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
First, begin making the crust. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch tart pan and set it aside. Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed until blended. Turn the mixer off, remove the paddle attachment, and attach the dough hook attachement. Cut the butter into pea-sized pieces over the bowl. Once all the butter has been cut into the bowl, turn the mixer on medium speed and allow to run for 1 minute. Then add the egg and almond extract and mix until a smooth dough just forms, but do not continue beating past that point. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a well-floured plate. Cover it and place it in the freezer to relax for a half an hour.
Meanwhile, you can begin candying the kumquats. Heat the sugar, water, and vanilla extract over medium heat in a wide and shallow pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil, stirring every 3 minutes. Once it’s boiling, reduce it to a simmer and gently place the kumquat slices in the pan in a single layer. Allow them to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove them with a mesh or slotted spoon and place them on a wire rack with a plate or paper towels underneath to catch the dripping syrup.
Roll the chilled dough out onto a greased and well-floured piece of parchment paper, rolling it into a 12-inch square or circle (depending on the shape of your tart pan), flouring and reflouring your rolling pin as needed. Once rolled out, flip the sheet of parchment paper over onto the tart pan and peel it off. Press the dough into the pan and smooth it out with your fingertips as best you can (careful though, it’s a bit sticky.) Trim off any excess dough hanging off the edges. Cover the pan and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to relax.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the cream cheese filling, beat the sugar and cream cheese in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at low speed until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until just blended, taking careful not to over-beat them. Set aside.
Remove the plastic wrap from the tart crust and puncture the shell in several places with a fork. Place the shell in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove it, pop any air bubbles that may have risen with a fork and allow them to air out until flat. Carefully spread the cream cheese mixture into the tart shell. Place the tart back in the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the crust turns golden brown around the top edges. Remove and allow to cool completely before decorating with the candied kumquats. Serve at room temperature or chilled.