Smile For Grapefruit Custard Pie

A sunny pie with a bitter edge.

A sunny pie with a bitter edge.

Grapefruit was one thing I didn’t grow up eating.

Sure, our house was filled in the winter with the scent of fresh oranges, lemons and tangerines.

But grapefruit was noticeably absent.

Its powerful bitter edge is not something kids naturally gravitate to.

It took becoming an adult for me to appreciate its singular gifts.

After all, bitterness has a pleasing way of balancing out sweet, and adding a sophisticated character.

That’s especially true in “Grapefruit Custard Pie.” This sunny recipe is from “Sweet and Tart” (Chronicle Books) by food writer Carla Snyder, of which I received a review copy.


The book includes 70 recipes spotlighting citrus in both sweet and savory preparations, such as “Key Lime Bars with Tropical Nut Crust” and “Lemony Pesto-Goat Cheese Dip with Vegetables.”

Spring may have sprung. But there’s still plenty of winter citrus gracing grocery store bins and backyard trees.

The recipe in this book is from “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” (Grand Central Life) by Melissa and Emily Elsen, owners of the Brooklyn pie shop of the same name.

It uses unsalted saltine crackers as its base, which makes for a thin, barely sweet crust.

The filling blends honey, sugar, butter, eggs, plenty of fresh grapefruit juice, and a dash of Campari, a liqueur with a bitterness of its own.

As with any custard pie, the key is to not over-bake it or else the filling will turn grainy, not smooth as well, custard. I could have probably pulled mine a couple minutes earlier, so that’s why I noted in the recipe to possibly remove it from the oven five minutes earlier than the recipe states. But every oven is different, so just judge it carefully. You want the filling to be jiggly, not completely firm, when you take the pie out.

Remember, it will continue to firm up as it cools on a rack. It will also firm up even more after you store it in the refrigerator.

This tart is by no means sour. There is a brightness to it. And the bitter citrus rind flavor is present but evened out by the sugar and honey. Garnish with fresh grapefruit segments and a fluff of softly whipped cream, if you like.

This pie will have you embracing the bitterness, if you haven’t already.

It's pleasantly bitter, tart and sweet.

It’s pleasantly bitter, tart and sweet.

Grapefruit Custard Pie

(Serves 8)

35 unsalted saltine crackers

3 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 cup

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

2 tablespoons Campari liqueur

3/4 cup heavy cream

Dash of orange bitters (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the saltines and 3 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Pour in 5 tablespoons of the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened.

Dump the crumbs into a 9-inch glass pie plate and, using the bottom of a glass or measuring cup, press the crumbs on the bottom and all the way up the sides. Chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Turn the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Whisk the 1 cup sugar, honey, flour, salt, remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, and egg yolk in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in the grapefruit juice, Campari, cream, and bitters (if using). Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into the cooled shell.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until set but still wiggly in the center. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Adapted from “Sweet & Tart” by Carla Snyder


More Citrus Recipes: Meyer Lemon Cake


And: Blue Chair Cooks “My Roast Chicken” with Lemon Marmalade


And: Lemon Squares by Emily Luchetti


And: Cold Candied Oranges


And: Pork Loin with Oranges by Charlie Palmer

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