For those of you not lucky enough to have met her, my sister is a badass. She's an amazing singer/songwriter, one of the founders of Girl's Rock Charleston, and just as cute as a button. This past Christmas she knocked it out of the park: not only did she get me a first-edition copy of a flat-out incredible book on old-time North Carolina cooking, but she also splurged on this beautiful copy of the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook by Christina Tosi.
I was totally enraptured by these books over the holidays, and I immediately started researching and accumulating the slightly out-there ingredients (citric acid, glucose) and equipment (new beater blade, acetate strips) I'd need to get rolling. Since then, I've made four or five recipes out of the Milk Bar cookbook, each one insanely sweet and over the top in its own amazing way, but from day one I had my eye on the grapefruit pie. It took a trip to a Hispanic grocery store in NC to get a hold of the necessary ingredients, but six weeks later, I finally had everything I needed.
As I learned from Beth Tartan, a more accurate name for this pie would be a grapefruit hypocrite pie, since the top layer disguises another layer of filling below it. According to the cookbook, the inspirations for this recipe were the Ohio Shaker pie (wherein thinly sliced lemons are tenderized in sugar and salt) and the key lime pie. The translation of these ideas to grapefruit is inspired, and the components work beautifully together.
The grapefruit pie starts off with a baked Ritz crunch pie shell, which provides the perfect sweet/buttery/salty counterbalance to the citrus explosion of the filling. Next up, a simple curd combines the bright, broadly "fruity" flavor of passionfruit pulp with the creamy mouthfeel of custard filling, into which grapefruit threads are stirred. This step, which involves suprêming the grapefruit (cutting away the rind and pith and slicing between the membranes) and spooning the segments over themselves in a warm, neutral oil, was pure magic.
Finally, sweetened condensed milk is curdled with grapefruit juice and citric acid, colored a velvety pink with a single drop of red food coloring, and poured over the grapefruit passion curd. The overall effect is something to behold. Each bite combines the salty, buttery base of the Ritz crackers, pockets of fresh grapefruit juice embedded in a rich pastry cream, and the tart brightness of the key lime pie-inspired top layer. Both the process and result are totally unique and really speak to Christina Tosi's talents.
Ritz Crunch Pie Shell
- 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
- 1/2 c (100 g) sugar
- 1/4 c (20 g) powdered milk
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 7 Tbsp butter, melted
- Heat the oven to 275 deg F.
- Crush the Ritz crackers with your hands into small pieces. Combine all the ingredients and press with your hands into a 10" pie pan, making sure to completely cover the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Bake the pie shell for 20 minutes until golden brown. Cooled completely, it can be stored, wrapped in plastic, in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Grapefruit Passion Curd
- 1/4 c (50 g) passion fruit puree, thawed
- 3 Tbsp (40 g) sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 gelatin sheet, or 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
- 6 Tbsp very cold butter
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 large grapefruit
- 1 tsp grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil
- Whisk the fruit puree and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the egg and vigorously whisk until the mixture is bright orange-yellow. Transfer to a saucepan.
- Bloom the gelatin by sprinkling evenly over 1 Tbsp of water and letting hydrate for 5 minutes. Heat the passion fruit mixture over low heat, whisking regularly, until it just comes to a boil. The mixture will thicken considerably: once very thick, remove from heat.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt. Blend until the mixture is shiny and smooth. Transfer to a heatproof container and allow to cool completely at room temperature, then the refrigerator, for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Suprême the grapefruit using the directions above.
- Gently warm the grapefruit segments in a small saucepan with the oil. After 2 minutes of gently spooning the grapefruit over itself, the segments will have separated into grapefruit threads.
- Stir the grapefruit threads into the chilled curd.
Sweetened Condensed Grapefruit
- 3/4 c (225 g) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 Tbsp (30 g) ruby red grapefruit juice
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp citric acid
- 1 drop red food colering
- Combine all ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula, folding until the mixture is homogeneous.
- Use immmediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.