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A sunny orange pie from a backyard windfall

Recipe: This light dessert requires minimal stove time

Got oranges? Some of them can be juiced to flavor a bright, light pie for early spring.

Got oranges? Some of them can be juiced to flavor a bright, light pie for early spring. Kathy Morrison

One meaning of the word "windfall" refers to the orchard fruit that is knocked off the tree during a windy day or storm. That's exactly what I have received from my navel orange tree, thanks to the intense winds we've experienced recently: Oranges everywhere.

I don't need any more marmalade, and we are drinking up some of the windfall as orange juice, but I couldn't let the oranges just sit there without exploring more recipes.

Chiffon pie is a retro dessert, and there are many versions of it out there. I passed up the ones with Cool Whip and/or orange juice concentrate to land on this one, an adaptation of the lemon chiffon pie from Williams-Sonoma. It does use gelatin, which is not vegetarian, and egg yolks that are cooked into a custard. (If you're concerned about the eggs being cooked enough, see this W-S method of making eggs safe for cooking.)

Saucepan with orange filling
The filling is gently cooked over medium heat.

Note: I made a simple graham cracker crust* for this, but use your favorite baked or no-bake single pie crust.

Sunny orange chiffon pie

Serves 8

Filling adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cold water

1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, about 5 medium oranges

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon or more finely grated orange zest (Note: Remember to zest the oranges before juicing)

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1-1/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

One 9-inch prepared pie crust, such as graham cracker crumb or shortbread cookie

Instructions:

Saucepan containing filling sitting in a bowl of ice water
If needed, a towel can anchor the pan in the ice bath.

In a large bowl place at least a dozen ice cubes and then add cold water to fill the bowl half-way. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, pour the 1/4 cup cold water, then sprinkle the gelatin over it. Allow the mixture to soften for 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in the granulated sugar, salt, orange juice, lemon juice, orange zest and the egg yolks. Set the pan over medium heat and stir continuously, 6 to 8 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the gelatin dissolves. Important: Don't allow the mixture to boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and place it in the ice bath to chill. (If the pan floats and is in danger of tipping, anchor it in the bowl with a dish towel or two -- see photo.) Chill until the mixture is cold to the touch. It will thicken as it cools.

Whip the heavy cream with the confectioner's sugar in a large bowl until it forms soft mounds. Fold in the orange/gelatin mixture until thoroughly combined, then spread the filling into the prepared pie crust.

(Note: If the orange mixture has jelled too solidly to mix in easily with a spatula, loosen it first by whisking briskly. The combined mixture also can be blended together using the low speed of an electric mixer.)

Chill at least 3 hours, then remove from refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with orange slice twists and more whipped cream, if desired, and serve.

A partial view of the filled crust with orange slice twists nearby
Chill the pie, then add garnishes as desired.

* Graham cracker crust: Pulverize or crush 1 sleeve (8 full-size) graham crackers into fine crumbs, or use 1-1/4 cups prepared crumbs. Stir in 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of orange zest (optional) and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Press evenly into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake at 375 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, until crust is firm. Allow to cool before filling.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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