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I am a sucker for those cute little crates of tangerines the grocery stores stack tall this time of year.  Sometimes, instead of boxes, there are piles of 5-lb. bags pyramided high, and sometimes the crates and bags are filled with clementines or navel oranges or minneolas instead of tangerines. It doesn’t seem to matter what’s inside; I can’t resist the fragrant citrus.

Here’s my secret shame: I get them home and don’t eat them. It’s ridiculous! I want to eat them and I plan to eat them, and I make sure they are visible for easy grabbing– but I always seem to throw some of them away, and lately that makes me furious. I am working really hard to meal plan and minimize food waste, and we’re doing a great job so far, but oranges and the like are in my blind spot, if you will, and I just don’t know why. I buy and use lemons with no problem, and have never thrown away a grapefruit. So, when I went into my kitchen last night and noticed 8 tangerines starting to lose their luster, I decided to do something with them right then and there.

An internet search for dessert recipes made with fresh orange juice or pulp returned surprisingly few results. There were marmalades and citrus marinades and candied peel recipes, a few icings for bundt cakes or cookies, but not many baked goods. I should point out here that I was looking in a narrow window that eliminated pastries, breads and many cakes from the list of what I was willing to undertake. I hoped to find a cookie, bar, even chocolate-orange brownie recipe to try, but the results were few. Many orange-flavored desserts used zest only, or orange jello, and that wasn’t what I wanted to work with. Then I found a promising orange pudding cake on a nice looking blog and thought I would try that: officially the third pudding cake recipe I have seen this week, having never made one, I wondered if it was a sign. At almost the same moment, I wondered if there was such a thing as orange pudding (think creamsicle) and started looking for that. Would you believe that I found zero mentions of orange pudding on the entire internet? (I realize this may be an exaggeration, since I searched for all of three minutes.) I get stubborn ideas sometimes, and I thought that I should be the first person (yes, exaggerated) to make orange pudding. So I did. Actually, I made tangerine pudding, and it’s quite nice.

Here’s the lemon pudding recipe I used as a template. The result of my experiment tastes great– both R & I really like it– but the consistency is thinner than the vanilla and chocolate puddings I am used to making. I wonder if it’s because the citrus juice is added at the end and doesn’t really get a chance to thicken? That’s probably a factor. The thinness is a minor issue to me but might be more concerning to others. Back to taste: it’s remarkably similar to the creamsicle flavor I remember from popsicles as a child. You get a lot of bright tangerine flavor and a nice accent of vanilla: not too much, not too strong of a flavor, but it definitely highlights the citrus in a good way. I tried it without vanilla and it felt like something was missing. So, hooray for tangerine pudding! I used up 6 of the 8 tangerines I wanted to use and “invented” a new treat. I have some in the freezer right now and will let you know if it’s even better frozen, which it just may be.

Tangerine Dream Pudding

3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 1/2 c. whole milk
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 T. lemon zest (you could use tangerine, but I like the extra citrus kick lemon gives)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. freshly-squeezed tangerine juice (or orange, clementine, minneola, etc.)
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the milk, egg yolks, zest, and salt and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at first and constantly toward the end, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the citrus juice and butter; let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate, loosely covered (tightly covered will trap too much moisture, making a watery pudding) for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Serve chilled by itself or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.