We nearly always have oranges at home. To me, it’s no different than having lemons, limes, garlic and onions. They’re all essential. The only difference is that I can eat an orange by itself without having to do anything to it. More often than not, though, the oranges end up in something I’m cooking. Usually it’s a salad because we rarely eat salads with vinegar. It isn’t that we don’t like vinaigrettes, but being able to grab a piece of citrus, quickly juice it, then combine it with a fruity extra virgin olive oil and some seasonings is so easy, and very delicious. Often, if I’m thinking about it, I grate the zest from the fruit as well — the intensity of the citrus oil adding that much more flavor to a salad dressing or a dish.
Although I do have a newer (ergonomic) version of the box grater, and also a small grater with a handle, there’s nothing like my Microplane zester, or "microplaner" for zesting citrus. I’ve had mine for nearly seven years, and it’s still as sharp as the day I came home with it, marveling as I pulled it from my shopping bag. I’d never seen one before, so when the woman at the cooking store offered it to me free of charge as a bonus for purchasing my very first All-Clad sauce pan, I thought nothing of it beyond the expected, "Wow! Something free!"
But then I used it, and life zesting citrus, or grating fresh hard cheeses like parmesan, romano, or mizithra has not quite been the same. Of course, my knuckles haven’t been the same, either. It’s so sharp, that I inevitably scrape at least one knuckle and it’s taken me until recently to realize that I’ve gotten the method of using this amazing utensil all wrong. I expect my scarred knuckles to thank me from this time forward.
Do you have a microplaner? If not, you need one. When using one, instead of holding the item being grated over the microplaner and grating away, try holding the food under it. Instead of moving the food back and forth across the teeth, move the microplaner over the food. Not only can you actually see the progress you’re making removing the zest from the citrus, you can relax that you won’t have to stop for first aide due to skinned knuckles. I could go on and on about whether it’s best to grate upward or downward, but I’d rather discuss something that I’ve recently made using my microplaner.
I know this sounds like some kind of funky advertisement, but it isn’t. It was supposed to be my entry to Jolen’s Culinary Adventures event: "Tasty Tools" but I sort of blew the date. You think it’s a problem to have noted on my calendar that this entry was to be due on the date of her round up? Whatever. One of these days, I’ll have a clue.
In the meantime, get yourself a microplaner. You’ll never regret it. Your knuckles might, but you won’t. Besides, it will help you make this yummy bread. Or is it a cake? I’m not sure, but I did find the inspiration (um…I added blueberries?) for the recipe at Pinch My Salt and couldn’t resist whipping out my microplaner. I just happened to have some pink navels that were dying to be made famous.
Pink Navels? Yes. I nearly crashed my shopping cart in the produce section when I saw them. They’re beautiful!
Orange Blueberry Yogurt Bread
2/3 c. butter, softened
1-1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. plain nonfat yogurt
1/2 c. fresh squeezed orange juice and pulp
1 T grated orange peel
2-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
For the Glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-1/2 T orange juice
more grated zest to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 6" x 3" cake pan with a removable bottom. Cut a piece of parchment to fit in the bottom, place it in the pan, and butter it as well. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light in color and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yogurt, orange juice and zest and mix well.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk quickly to mix ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until all ingredients are moist.
Pour most of the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle the blueberries across the batter, then pour the rest of the batter over. Place in the center of the oven on a baking sheet. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center is clean. Allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing the cake to cool completely at room temperature.
To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, orange juice and zest until the desired consistency is achieved. Poke holes in the top of the cake with a wooden skewer, then pour glaze slowly over. Perch blueberries across the top if you wish, and then dust very lightly with additional powdered sugar.
Notes: The original recipe calls for a 9" x 5" x 3" loaf pan that is supposed to bake approximately the same amount of time — 55-65 min. I used a convection setting, kept a close eye on it thinking I’d have to take it out around 50 minutes and was surprised to find it not done. I did place a piece of foil over the top after it had completed its rise to keep it from getting too brown. I wasn’t going to make the glaze because I’m not a fan, but the intensity of the orange flavor was nice with this cake and I only poured as much as I wanted on it. The blueberries went nicely with this cake. Usually blueberries are something I see paired with lemon, but I couldn’t resist the orange, and there you go!
The cake is perfect for breakfast or a snack, and very nice toasted. It’s dense but very flavorful, and cuts into thin slices easily for sneaking a nibble or three when no one is looking.