21 January 2011

A little bit of glamour

Save two meals of delicious cabbage-and-noodle soup from a local Chinese restaurant, I don't think I've eaten anything beyond toast, cheese sandwiches, and pasta for the past two weeks.

Thank goodness for homemade pesto, frozen by the tablespoonful in the summer and gathered into big bags. It was hard work not eating all of it right away, but it was worth it—nothing adds pizzazz to the litany of winter vegetables like summer, stocked away in the freezer.

Still, it's difficult to find something interesting for a food blog when one's diet is so unequivocally boring. I have a few Big Secret recipes for Secret people that I am working on, but Big Secrets aren't much good when posted on the internet.


In the meantime, I have a meager offering for you: Blood Orange Cream.

It sounds like a makeup shade for someone using artificial tanners, and I don't have any pictures to prove how light and lovely it is—even if I did, a mere photo couldn't begin to express how wonderful this stuff is—the creamsicle of your childhood, suddenly glamorous, sexy, and desired by everyone in the room.

Lighter than curd, the orange cream is made by heating eggs, sugar, and blood orange juice in a double boiler until the custard is cooked. After a few minutes to cool, the whole mixture is whizzed in a blender with a positively irresponsible quantity of butter, which melts and emulsifies. The resulting custard, when cooled, has richness from the eggs; a luscious, velvety texture from the butter; and a bright flavor from the oranges that makes for a surprisingly light dessert.

Spread this custard in a baked tart shell (this is my favorite recipe) for a simple, elegant-yet-rustic dessert (you can top with fresh fruit or serve with a compote of frozen berries for a little something extra); smear it onto scones or biscuits for an easy breakfast; or just scoop it into little shot glasses or bowls and serve with nothing but a few leaves of fresh mint.

Blood Orange Cream
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours
Use the best blood oranges you can find, as their flavor is the primary part of this dish. Be careful later in the season: the fruit that is heavily tinged with red on the skin is often bitter inside.

A note for those who don't eat gelatin: I've not tried this recipe without, but I make a similar lemon cream without gelatin that turns out fine. The lower level of pectin in oranges might result in a thinner custard—please let me know if you try it and tell me how it turns out.

1 scant cup granulated sugar
grated zest of 3 blood oranges
grated zest of 1 lemon (I used Meyer lemon for the zest and juice)
4 extra large eggs
¾ cup fresh blood orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ¼ teaspoons gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
10 ounces (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

You will need a good thermometer (preferably digital), a sieve, and a blender ready. Bring a few inches of water to simmer in a double boiler or a pot with a heatproof bowl that fits nicely over it.

Zest the oranges and lemon directly into that bowl with the sugar. Rub the zest together with the sugar until moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, then the blood orange and lemon juices (don't worry about straining chunks of pulp or seeds at this point).

Set the bowl over the simmering water; start lightly whisking as soon as the mixture is barely warm to the touch. Set up the thermometer and cook the custard, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 180ºF (usually 8-15 minutes).

Immediately remove the bowl from the heat and pour through the sieve into the blender, pressing out all of the custard. Discard the solids.

Mix the gelatin with the cold water to bloom and add it to the mixture; place the lid on the blender and pulse once, just to combine. Let the mixture cool, uncovered, until it reaches 140ºF (an additional 5-10 minutes).

Meanwhile, cut the butter into small pieces. When the custard has cooled to the correct temperature, turn on the blender and add the butter pieces, about ¼ cup at a time. Blending constantly (you can give you machine a rest from time to time if necessary), let the butter emulsify completely before adding more. You will notice the custard lighten from a salmon-pink shade to a very pale orange pink.

When all the butter is added, blend on high for an additional 3 full minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl, cover directly with plastic wrap to avoid forming a skin, and place in the refrigerator to cool completely, at least 4 hours and up to three days.

Makes about 3 cups


  1. Your photo of the citrus is so lovely and real.

  2. It's quite a good mix of Meyer lemons, grapefruit, blood oranges, and homegrown tangerines. And a candy cane that was orphaned at Christmas which seems to be peeking out from under it all...

  3. I completely agree with you that we have been plowing through our summer stash at such a rate that we will never make it to June! But the winter is really starting to get to me and I just can't keep putting it off!

  4. OOOO this looks amazing, and blood oranges are plentiful here in Rome right now. Does sound glamorous!