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This week I’m eating: blood oranges

Oranges are so irritating to eat that I usually forget how good they are until I see them on a fruit platter, where someone else has gone to the trouble of neatly segmenting them for me. I don’t get excited about the prospect of eating an orange.

Unless it’s a blood orange.

Blood oranges are the gorily-fleshed cousins of the regular kind. They are perhaps even more irritating to eat, because in addition to possessing all the drawbacks of regular oranges – hard to peel with fingers alone, sticky, juice squirting everywhere – said juice is anything from pink to blood red (no kidding), and it stains.

So, given the fairly extensive list of negatives involved in eating blood oranges, why am I recommending you immediately rush outside and buy bags of the things?

Because they’re delicious, why else?

Blood oranges are in season from August to October. They are quite tart, and while citrusy, they can also taste a bit like raspberries. In fact last weekend I had both blood orange gelato and raspberry gelato at the same time and it was quite difficult to tell which was which. Try it, it’s even harder if you shovel ice cream into your mouth like it’s your last meal, which is my preferred method of ice cream consumption.

You can use a blood orange the same way you’d use a regular orange, except it looks prettier and tastes better. Try a duck, blood orange and quinoa salad. Or make your own sorbet. Squeeze it for juice. Or just eat the thing in your underpants in the bath. Sexy.

This week’s recipe is blood orange and dark chocolate cupcakes. I am a firm believer in the idea that anyone can bake. It’s not as hard as the baking-industrial complex would have you believe.

And finally, I’m not ashamed to admit that I love cupcakes. If that makes me a bad feminist so be it. A cupcake is cake that fits in the palm of your hand, how is that anything other than completely awesome?

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g cocoa
  • 50g dark chocolate (Don’t even think about using cooking chocolate; if you wouldn’t put in your mouth it shouldn’t go in your cake)
  • 1 cup blood orange juice
  • 125g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I’m pretty particular about vanilla, use the best you can afford or leave it out)
  • Grated rind of 2 blood oranges
Icing:
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Grated rind of 1 blood orange
  • Icing sugar
  • Blood orange juice

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Sift the flour, bicarb and cocoa into a bowl.

In another (small) bowl, juice your blood oranges; three or four should be enough. Given you need the rind for later I very strongly recommend you zest them before cutting them up and squeezing the juice out. When I was quite young I tried to zest a lemon or something after I’d juiced it. It… does not work. Melt the dark chocolate – the correct way to do this involves a double boiler or at least a stove, but it’s only 50g and I think you’re probably pretty smart, so you can do what I do and zap it in the microwave. Just make sure you watch it, and do it in 15 second bursts with plenty of stirring in between. Combine the blood orange juice and the melted chocolate.

Now get a third bowl (of a decent mixing size) and cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy and the sugar is mostly dissolved. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl every now and then. Add the eggs ONE AT A TIME and beat for a minute until they’re thoroughly combined. If you don’t add the eggs one at a time the mixture will curdle and your cupcakes will be crap. Add the vanilla and blood orange rind and beat again. The mixture should be fluffy.

Add about a third of the flour mix to the butter mix. Combine with a wooden spoon, and don’t over-mix it. Lumps are your friends. Add about half the combined chocolate/blood orange mix. Combine. Repeat until your disparate ingredients look like cake mix – not so thick you can’t put a spoon in it, not so runny that it goes all over the place. It should be pleasantly gloopy. You’ve seen pictures of lava slowly making its way down a hill, yeah? Your cupcake mix should be of a similar viscosity.

Spoon the mix into a cupcake tray lined with cupcake papers. You should easily get 12 cupcakes from this recipe. Put them in the oven for about 20 minutes, but you know your oven better than I do so keep an eye on them. Poke a likely looking cupcake with a skewer if you’re not sure, it should come out clean if done etc, etc. When they’re done remove them immediately to cool on a wire cake rack. This stops the cupcake going soggy.

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For the icing, cream the butter, rind and vanilla. Do this with electric beaters, you want it fluffy. You’ll notice that I haven’t given you precise measurements for the icing sugar and blood orange juice, and for good reason. This is a process of trial and error. Add some icing sugar, beat until stiff, add some juice to soften it, beat again, add more icing sugar. If you really insist on a guide, have 1/4 cup of blood orange juice and 300g of icing sugar on hand and go from there. Please don’t dump it in all at once. Also it helps if your electric beaters don’t suddenly decide to stop working during this process. That happened to me and my icing was a bit dodgy as a result, so there’s no picture of it.

When the cupcakes are cold, ice them. Use a butter knife as this will help you create attractive swirls. And be generous, the cake part of the cupcake is not overly sweet so most of the sweetness will come from the icing.

They should taste like grown-up jaffas.

 

Image by Jacqueline via Creative Commons Licence

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