This orange pie is made from a crunchy saltine crust, a cheesecake filling, and topped with an orange curd made with orange juice concentrate for an intense orange flavour. The pie is finished with orange marmalade to glaze the top
Key components to make this recipe
This orange pie recipe has several sub recipes, which can make it feel intimidating. Actually, each sub-recipe is easy enough on it's own. Let's break down this pie into the key components:
- Crumb crust: the orange pie is made with a saltine crust, which is similar to a graham cracker crumb crust, made from crushed crackers, melted butter, sugar, and salt.
- Orange curd: the orange flavour in the filling comes from an orange curd. This filling is very similar to the filling I used for these easy lemon bars, with the addition of gelatin to ensure the perfect set for slicing and serving.
- Liquid cheesecake filling: there's a baked cheesecake filling tucked underneath the orange curd. The cheesecake layer is prebaked so that you can fill the pie crust with it without having to bake it again.
- Orange marmalade glaze: the glaze on top of the pie is straight orange marmalade, brushed on before chilling the pie.
To make this pie, I recommend getting the fillings made so that they can cool down enough to fill the pie.
Crunchy saltine crust
The saltine crust recipe for this pie yields a very sturdy, crunchy saltine crust that is thick and salty-sweet. If you prefer a more crumbly crumb crust, you will have to play with the ratio of ingredients in the recipe.
This is the same crust as for the Milk Bar grapefruit pie. The saltine crust can be replaced with a graham cracker crust, either homemade or store bought, if you prefer.
I brushed the baked saltine crust with melted white chocolate to seal it before filling the pie. The French pastry term for this is "chablonner," where melted chocolate is brushed on the inside of baked tart shells before filling.
The liquid cheesecake comes from Christina Tosi's first Milk Bar book (available on Amazon). I followed the recipe pretty closely except for the baking instructions: Tosi recommends baking in a 6x6-inch square baking pan lined with plastic wrap.
Knowing home bakers might not have the same heat-resistant plastic wrap that Tosi uses in her commercial kitchens, and also because the 6x6 pan is very uncommon in home kitchens, I baked the filling in a greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. This worked out perfectly.
Another option might be a glass square pan, but given that glass is slower to heat up, but also retains heat longer, this can be risky in that the filling will take longer to bake, but also may overbake after pulling it from the oven.
The key to this filling is to let the cheesecake bake long enough for it to be almost cooked through, but still raw and very jiggly in the middle. Mine took about 35 minutes to bake at 300 ºF in a loaf pan.
Orange curd filling
Gelatin to ensure the perfect set
We know from making lemon curd and lemon bars that if you cook your fruit curd fillings to roughly 80 ºC, that the curd will set firm enough that you can use it as a filling and baked goods with a lemon curd, if properly chilled, will slice cleanly.
To further stabilize the filling, you can add gelatin to the curd when it's still warm. The gelatin melts into the curd and completely disappears, but also provides stability and makes the filling more firm so that the pie slices perfectly.
When working with gelatin, remember that gelatin melts around body temperature, roughly 40 ºC. This means a few things:
- the curd has to be warm enough to melt the gelatin so that it mixes in completely and disappears
- the gelatin will not melt if the curd is cold so make sure to add it when the curd is warm
- the gelatin breaks down with heat, so take your pot off the heat and add the gelatin to the curd in a blender, thus ensuring that it won't degrade from the heat of the stove.
- because gelatin melts around 40 ºC, this means that the pie should be kept cold so that you can serve it without worrying that the gelatin will melt.
Types of gelatin
Gelatin is sold in two forms: as a gelatin powder and as gelatin sheets (also called leaf gelatin). Where I live, the powder form is sold in all grocery stores and the brand is Knox. Most pastry chefs use gelatin sheets, and they are graded as silver or gold, referring to their power to gel. The gold gelatin sheets are more powerful than the silver gelatin sheets. My local market sells Dr. Oetker gelatin sheets and that's what I used for this recipe. You can order them from Amazon.
Whether you use gelatin powder or sheets is entirely up to you, but they are used in different ways:
- to use gelatin sheets, place the sheet(s) in cold water so that they are completely covered. Let soften for about 5 minutes, then drain and gently squeeze out the excess water, then add the soft gelatin sheets to hot curd. 1 sheet will gel 2 cups (500mL) of liquid if you are using the Dr. Oetker sheets like I did.
- to use powder gelatin, sprinkle 1 pouch Knox® Unflavoured Gelatine over ¼ cup (60mL) cold liquid in a small bowl. Let stand for 1 minute. Then mix it in with your hot curd. For Knox gelatin, 1 pouch is about 2 ½ teaspoons (7g) unflavoured gelatine. Each pouch will gel 2 cups (500mL) of liquid if using Knox® gelatin.
With both types of gelatin, it's very important to first soften the gelatin in cold water before mixing it with the hot mixture you want to gel.
Orange marmalade is brushed on top of the curd, using the back of a spoon. It acts as a glaze not only to provide shine, but also to add a ton of bittersweet orange flavour to this pie, it also keeps the curd from drying out on top, which is a problem with curds. The orange marmalade seals the curd and protects it so that you can store the pie for several days or even freeze it, without worrying that the curd will dry out or become unstable.
This step prevents the crust from getting soggy. I used it for these Earl Grey panna cotta tarts because the panna cotta filling is quite wet and I wanted to stop the pastry from absorbing all that liquid before the filling sets. To be honest, the saltine crust is so sturdy, I don't think a little moisture from the filling would hurt it.
If you like Milk Bar recipes, this orange pie is a fun variation on them. If you want to try other Milk Bar recipes, here are a few great options:
- Milk Bar birthday cake
- Blackberry almond cake
- Milk Bar birthday cake truffles
- Milk Bar pie
- Compost pound cake
- Compost cookies
- 1 gelatin sheet
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 85 grams frozen orange juice concentrate defrosted and undiluted
- 45 grams fresh lemon juice
- 15 mL orange zest
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 115 grams unsalted butter cold, cut into cubes
- 250 grams Philadelphia cream cheese (full fat, regular)
- 150 grams granulated sugar
- 15 mL cornstarch
- 2.5 mL Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt
- 30 mL whole milk (3.25 % fat)
- 1 large egg
- 125 mL orange marmalade room temperature or warm to make sure it's soft enough to spread
- In a small bowl, place the gelatin sheet. Top with cold water and let soak, immersed, for about 5 minutes, while you prepare the curd.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, defrosted orange juice concentrate, lemon juice, orange zest, and eggs.
- Set the saucepan on low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and reaches about 80 °C.
- Take the pan immediately off the heat and transfer the curd to a blender. Add the butter.
- Drain and squeeze the softened gelatin sheets to remove the water. Add it to the blender. Blend the mixture until it is homogenous. The butter should have melted and mixed in.
- Transfer to a container and refrigerate for a few hours while you make the other components.
- Preheat the oven to 300 °F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese on low until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and mix until it is completely incorporated and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
- In a small bowl, gently whisk together the cornstarch and salt. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the egg mixture to the cream cheese. Beat until the mixture is smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes on medium–low. Scrape down the sides of the bowl every minute to make sure all the ingredients are properly mixed in.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, gently shake the pan: The outside edges should be firm and the centre loosely set. If the cheesecake has not reached that consistency, allow it to cook for an additional 15 minutes. Mine took 35 minutes total to achieve set edges with a soft middle.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven, set aside to cool completely before using. Transfer to a large piping bag to make it easier to fill the pie later.
- Keep the oven at 300 °F for the crust.
- Place the crackers in a medium bowl. Crush them with your hands to form crumbs with a little texture. Add the milk powder, sugar and salt, and toss to mix.
- Add the butter and toss to coat. As you toss, the butter will act as glue, binding the dry ingredients to the cracker pieces and creating small clusters.
- Take a pie plate and line the bottom with a round of parchment (to make serving easier). Dump the cracker mixture into the plate.
- Press the cracker crunch into the sides and bottom of the pie plate. Using your fingers and the palms of your hands, press in firmly, making sure to cover the bottom and sides evenly and completely.
- Put the pie crust on a sheet pan and bake for up to 20 minutes (mine took 18 minutes). Cool the crust completely, then brush gently with melted white chocolate.
- Now that all your components are ready and have cooled completely, you are ready to assemble the pie.
- Pipe the liquid cheesecake in the bottom of the pie crust in an even layer. Smooth with an offset spatula.
- Whisk the curd to loosen it, then dollop it over the cheesecake layer. Smooth with an offset spatula.
- Dollop the orange marmalade over the curd and smooth it with the back of a spoon, gently to not disturb the curd layer.
- Chill the pie for a few hours in the freezer to set the layer and make unmoulding easier.
- To serve, take the pie out of the freezer and use a knife or an offset spatula to separate the edges of the crust from the pan. This way you should be able to lift the entire pie out of the pan to cut it.
- Cut the pie into 8 pieces. Store in the refrigerator.