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Simple, Seasonal Baking: Blood Orange Recipes
One of the seasonal joys – indeed, maybe even kitchen saviours – at this time of year is the arrival of blood oranges. The zesty freshness and heady aroma of blood orange is enough to brighten even the darkest of Winter days, not to mention adding welcome colour to the kitchen. Blood oranges have a limited season but are all the sweeter for it - full of flavour and so much seasonal goodness. If you’ve not tasted one before, they’re like a more intense, subtly floral orange with hints of Summerfruit and a bitter note of grapefruit. They’re harder to peel but blood oranges reward you with their zest, which is easier to remove.
Their sweetness depends on the variety and there are three main varieties of blood orange: the first and longest in season, Tarocco (December - May, lighter in colour), followed by Moro (January - February, dark red in colour), and then Sanguinello (March - May). The colours inside often vary, and to “blush” they need night-time temperatures to fall below freezing - so consistent, darker blood oranges are often a sign of a harsher Winter. It’s like nature knows we need the colour! The area South of Mount Etna in Sicily is renowned for its blood oranges, but sadly many of the smaller growers are being squeezed out by increased competition from bigger European companies.
Blood oranges are one of my favourite ingredients to cook with - both savoury and sweet recipes. I love to include slices in a Wintery salad of fresh kale, massaged with olive oil and sea salt and topped with toasted pecans. The other week I served some with roasted halloumi and fennel with sourdough croutons. It also makes a lovely addition to apple juice if you’ve got half an orange left to use, or you could make a simple granita by combining the juice with a little sugar to taste, gently heating to dissolve the sugar and then freezing the mixture for a few hours, breaking it up with a fork once an hour.
But of course, the best thing to do with blood oranges in my opinion? Bake with them! Here’s a round-up of five of my favourite simple, seasonal recipes starring blood orange. If you click the name of each recipe it will take you to the full recipe on my blog. The first three are of my own invention, and the last two are adapted from recipes by Edd Kimber and Anna Jones respectively. The opening image is of sticky blood orange and vanilla upside-down cake, adapted from Donna Hay, which I heartily recommend as well.
Melting moments, Viennese whirls – whatever you call them, buttery, moreish biscuits are sheer baking comfort. These blood orange and vanilla melting moments combine a rich, zesty biscuit with a blood orange buttercream, balanced with sweet notes of vanilla.
These blood orange, cardamom and pistachio buns were inspired by one of my favourite bakeries in Edinburgh, our local Bits Bake Shop – which has one of the best selections of sweet treats in the city – these buns are lightly spiced and zesty, with the richness of pistachios and a fresh blood orange glaze.
This blood orange drizzle loaf starred in my 2021 seasonal baking round-up and for good reason: it’s a crowd-pleasing classic with a twist. The cake is a cross between an upside down cake and a drizzle cake; a moist, orange flecked sponge topped with fresh, slightly caramelised fruit, and covered with a zesty blood orange drizzle.
This blood orange pound cake, adapted from Edd Kimber, makes the most of the fruit’s flavour with a buttery, rich sponge and bright pink blood orange glaze. The original recipe has an optional drizzle, but I felt the cake was moist enough. I’m keen to try another pound cake recipe soon using cardamom in the mixture too - my favourite.
These blood orange and double chocolate rye muffins – via one of my fave cookbooks, Anna Jones’ ‘A Modern Way to Cook’ – are like a grown-up, healthier riff on Terry’s Chocolate Orange. You could quite justifiably eat these for breakfast as they have no refined sugar, dairy and just a little rye flour. The milk and oil make for a really moist sponge, and if you wanted to make them even more of a treat you could add more chopped chocolate sprinkled at the end for some more gooey goodness.
Happy blood orange baking! You can find more blood orange recipes on my blog.