All this citrus!!

It’s funny how after a long 40 hour week of work in a kitchen I just want to come home and relax…….IN A KITCHEN! Ah yes! I enjoy the soothing hum of my KitchainAid as it obidiently carries out my orders to mix, blend, and whisk and the precision of my scale to guide me through my science/art experiment acurately. Why do I love this so much you ask? Because baking is just like an art project that requires science and that can be eaten afterwards. Because it always makes SOMEONE happy, baking is always a win!

The baking bug bit me this weekend as I wondered what to do with the pounds of oranges and lemons that had made their way into the kitchen in only a couple of weeks. My friend Rhea brought over some oranges at one point, then lemons went on sale ( an offer I could not resist). And so this is the story of citrus season in Florida. Oranges are everywhere to be found; they have been since Christopher Columbus brought the first citrus plants to the new world in 1493.  Ponce De Leon transported the citrus seeds into the St. Augustine area years later where they thrived and became a booming industry. They still remain an important part of Florida as they can even be found on license plates!

Determined to make good use of the fragrant “golden apple” I decided to make me a little pound cake to go with my morning coffee.

To make Florida Citrus pound cake start by zesting 2 oranges and mixing the zest with 200 g of sugar.  Rub the zest against the sugar with your hands. It’s really fun, it smells amazing and it will release all the orange oils into the sugar making it much more fragrant.  Set aside for about a half hour so it may infuse. Meanwhile, gather 190 g of fresh eggs, 100 g melted butter, or vegetable oil  (heck, even brown butter if you’re feeling like a rock star), and 90 g freshly squeezed orange juice. I used a self rising cake flour for this recipe, which already has the baking powder in the mix. I used 260 g of self rising cake flour.  Add a pinch of salt!

Start by setting the oven to 350 degrees F. Then mix the sugar + zest + eggs. You can do this by hand or using the mixer, either way, make sure that these ingredients mix until creamy, then slowly pour in  the fat. Mix some more until the fat emulsifies with the rest of the egg and sugar mixture. By now, you will have a separate bowl with all your dry ingredients.  Fold in dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix just until you create a creamy batter. Be gentle when you mix and careful not to OVER-MIX. stop as soon as everything is incorporated. add orange juice.  pour batter into a 9 inch loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes or until its golden on the outside and the toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Be careful not to open the oven too frequently to check on your cake otherwise the center will collapse. It happens to me all the time =(

A delicate drizzle of dark chocolate goes amazing with this. Happy baking!!

Check out this article on citrus and hopefully get more ideas to use up your citrus.

 

 

Birthday Biscotti

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I have been working on this recipe for approximately 2 weeks in preparation for my mom’s birthday. She is absolutely in love with biscotti. Unfortunately she lives 1,500 miles away from me, so I can’t bake her a cake and mail it. However, biscotti are so small and stay fresh forever when they’re stored in an airtight container, perfect for long distance travel!

Everytime I talk on the phone with her she tells me about the biscotti that she bought in the store, some are good and some are not so good. One thing for sure though, they’re not made with love like mine.

Biscotti is a long Italian cookie that is made primarily of egg, sugar, and flour. The cookie originated in the city of Prato, Italy centuries ago. One amazing fact about biscotti is that it means “twice baked” and because this double baking removes alot of moisture from the final product, it stays fresh longer. Because it is baked twice, the second baking determines how hard the cookie will be and because it is traditionally very hard, it is served with coffee or any other drink.

My first attempt at baking biscotti was not very succesful because I used fat (butter). This gave me a crumbly cookie, as opposed to the dense texture that I was looking for. It was still very delicious, but I would not call it biscotti.

The second time I made biscotti, I omitted the fat and just mixed the eggs and sugar before adding in the flour and leavening agent. This time around I would have been succesful had I not overbaked it. The first time I baked them in the slab form I did not take them out of the oven until the slab was very hard. The second baking made it even harder and by the time I was ready to enjoy I almost broke my tooth off because they were so hard. I dubbed that batch the “post apocalyptic biscotti” because they could have made perfect weapons.

After taking some tips from my friend at work ( who loves food just as much as I do), I made the perfect biscotti. The texture is dense, a bit crumbly ( not too much) but not tooth breaking hard. Perfect for mailing across the country!

This is the recipe I used: ( remeber, the secret is in the baking time)

Orange pistachio biscotti

1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 organic sugar
2 large eggs (divided)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c crushed raw pistachios
2 Tbs orange zest
I tsp allspice
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 °F
2. Mix 1 egg with sugar and orange zest. Mix well until eggs begin to get slightly frothy. This will give the cookie a bit more volume. Add nuts to this wet mixture.
3. In a different bowl mix flour, baking powder, allspice, and salt.
Mix dry ingredients into wet mixture and mix just until a sticky dough is formed. Do not mix any more after this point because the gluten in the flour will develop and it may cause the final product to be hard and dense
4. Grease a baking sheet and form a log out of the dough. In a small bowl mix the other egg with a tbs of water to form an egg wash. Brush egg wash over the dough log and throw into the oven for about 30 minutes or until the dough turns slightly brown.
5. The first baking is very important because you need to make sure that the dough is firm but still soft to the touch in the middle. Do not leave in the oven until it is hard. Remove and let it cool for 10 minutes
6. Slice diagonally and set the sliced biscotti on a baking rack. Bake for another 10 minutes. Once done, allow to cool and place In an airtight container.

Enjoy with a nice cup of coffee!

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Orange Glazed Tofu

I was supposed to try pho for the very first time this past Thursday. I was very excited.  However,  it did not happen because that very same morning, during my long run, which is the time when I just think of what foods to make, try, create, eat, taste, I remembered that I had some oranges that desperately needed to be eaten before they went bad. They were tucked away in a dark corner of my fridge, so I decided I needed to use them for something delicious and postpone my pho indulgence until next week!

I still wanted something with Asian flavors so I made Orange Glazed tofu with sesame seeds. The sauce that I used is very similar to the sauce used for my coconut crusted tilapia, except this sauce was reduced longer until it became nice and thick.  Making this was very fun ( when is cooking not fun eh…)

Ingredients

  • Firm tofu block (cut into 1″ cubes; drained)
  • 1 tbs oil
  • Breading procedure set up ( 1/2 c white flour, 1/2 panko crumbs, 1 egg with 1 tbs water)
  • 2 tbs toasted sesame seeds

Glaze sauce

  • 1/2 c white vinegar
  • 1/8 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon 5 China spice blend
  • 1/2 tbs corn starch

1. When working with firm tofu, I like to make sure that it  has been completely drained. In this case, the flavor of the sauce it very strong, so I did not find it necessary to marinate. I cubed the tofu and used a paper napkin to absorb excess moisture. I then set up my breading station and placed the tofu into the flour, patted away excess flour before dipping it in egg wash, and finally tossed it in the panko crumbs. In that order

2. I can be a health nut most of the time, so I try to avoid frying foods anytime that I can. I decided to coat a baking sheet with oil and then I lined up the breaded tofu cubes on the sheet and placed in the oven @ 350 degrees until they were nice and crispy on all sides. I checked about every 7-10 minutes to make sure there were no burning accidents and to turn the cubes to ensure equal crispness.

3. While that baked, I heated up my stainless steel pan and poured in the vinegar and sugar and wisked it until the sugar dissolved. While that was simmering, I mixed the starch into the orange juice and added in the China spices. I mixed everything very well and added it into my simmering vinegar and sugar mix.  I added my tbs of soy sauce  but more can be added to taste, i only used 1 tbs because of sodium. Finally I let it reduce down until it thickened into a glaze and when the tofu became nice and crisp, I just tossed it into the pan and let the glaze get all over it.  I then added the final touch by sprinkling some sesame seeds over the glazed tofu and served with steamed white rice. A healthier alternative to white rice can be quinoa, which is very easy to make, simply rinse it before cooking to get rid of the sour taste. Quinoa is very high in protein, it has all 9 essential amino acids found in “complete”proteins, so it is perfect for vegetarians!



The hubby really liked these, although he did suggest adding a hint of red  chili pepper paste to the sauce just to get a spicy kick. We are absolutely in love with spicy foods, so a tablespoon of the chili paste from the Asian isle in the supermarket can really take your sauce to a way spicier level! Enjoy!!