Bloody marvelous

RECIPES: Blood oranges are a colorful and tasty addition to Valentine’s Day recipes

Chocolate Loaf Cake With Blood Orange Glaze (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Chocolate Loaf Cake With Blood Orange Glaze (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Blood oranges, with their deep, rosy-red flesh, are the most striking and beautiful of citrus fruits. With their season corresponding with Valentine's Day, they're a natural choice for adding a burst of color and flavor to dishes intended for romance.

The fact that they play well with other noted culinary wooers — chocolate, tequila, caramel — makes them all the more appealing.

If you can't find blood oranges, don't fret. Any orange or tangerine will taste great in the following recipes.

Here, blood orange juice blushes a simple confectioners' sugar glaze while providing a seductive whisper of orange flavor topping this rich, dense chocolate loaf cake. If you'd like a more pronounced orange flavor, swap orange extract for the vanilla.

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Chocolate Loaf Cake With Blood Orange Glaze

  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional, to enhance chocolate flavor
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk, at room temperature
  • Glaze:
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • Splash vanilla OR orange extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons blood orange juice, or more as needed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper a 9-by-5-inch or an 8 ½-by-4 ½-inch loaf pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking powder, espresso powder and cocoa to make a sandy, clumpy mixture.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add half the flour, mixing on low to combine. Add all of the milk, mixing on low to combine. Add the remaining flour, beating gently just until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out almost clean. The top may look slightly damp; that's OK. (If you have an instant-read thermometer, the center will register about 205 degrees, while just under the top will register about 195 degrees.)

Remove the cake from the oven, loosen the edges by running a knife between the cake and the pan, wait 10 minutes, and then turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, salt, vanilla and 3 tablespoons orange juice and whisk until smooth. Add more orange juice, a teaspoon at a time, until glaze reaches desired consistency. Spoon or pour glaze onto cake and allow to set for about 10 minutes before slicing into cake.

Store completely cooled cake well wrapped, at room temperature.

Cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Baking Co.

My Bloody Valentine Mezcal Margarita (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
My Bloody Valentine Mezcal Margarita (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

This is no ordinary margarita. Mezcal gives this cocktail a touch of smokiness while orange juice adds depth.

My Bloody Valentine Mezcal Margarita

  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated blood orange zest
  • Ice
  • 3 ounces freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 ounces mezcal
  • 1 ounce orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Gran Gala
  • Wheel of thinly sliced blood orange, for garnish

In a shallow dish, combine the salt, sugar and zest; mix well.

Moisten the rim of a margarita or low-ball glass and dip it into the salt mixture. Fill glass with ice. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the orange juice, lime juice, mezcal and orange liqueur. Shake to mix well and then strain into the ice-filled glass. Garnish with a wheel of sliced orange and serve.

Makes 1 drink.

Blood Orange Creme Caramel (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Blood Orange Creme Caramel (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Silky and smooth, creme caramel is the satin sheets of desserts.

Blood Orange Creme Caramel

  • Butter, for ramekins
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Zest and juice of 1 blood orange (or 2 clementines), divided use
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided use
  • 2 eggs PLUS 2 egg yolks

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter 6 (6-ounce) ramekins; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and orange zest and place over medium heat until milk is steaming and bubbles are forming round the sides of the pan. Do not boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place ½ cup of the granulated sugar evenly in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the strained juice of ½ the zested orange over the sugar. Place pan over medium-low heat until sugar melts and boils. Swirl, but do not stir. The melted sugar will quickly turn from rosy to amber. Immediately remove mixture from heat and divide it among the buttered ramekins -- a generous tablespoon of caramel per ramekin.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and remaining ½ cup sugar just to combine. Strain the milk and then gradually stir — do not whisk — it into the egg-sugar mixture. You do not want the mixture to froth or foam. Let the custard rest for 10 to 15 minutes while the caramel sets.

Divide the custard among the ramekins and cover each ramekin with foil. Do not wrap the foil around the bottom of the ramekin because you will be removing it during baking.

Place the ramekins in a roasting pan and add enough just-boiled water to come up two-thirds of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Place roasting pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes, remove foil and then continue baking until centers are just set — they will be wobbly — 15 to 30 minutes more.

Remove ramekins from roasting pan and let cool completely and then cover and refrigerate until chilled.

To serve, run the blade of a thin knife between the custard and the ramekin to loosen, and then invert on to a serving plate.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted from "Citrus: Recipes That Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet" by Catherine Phipps

Caramel Oranges With Cocoa Nibs (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Caramel Oranges With Cocoa Nibs (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

For a lighter dessert, skip the dairy and go straight to the caramel.

Caramel Oranges With Cocoa Nibs

  • 5 blood oranges or tangerines
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs

Cut top and bottom off 3 oranges to expose flesh. Stand each orange upright, and cut off peel (including the white pith) in vertical strips. Cut flesh into ¼-inch rounds, reserving juice in a bowl. Juice remaining 2 oranges, adding enough juice to the juice in the bowl to make ½ cup total.

Fill a large bowl half-full with ice and water.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Cook, swirling until sugar is dissolved; continue cooking without stirring until mixture is amber in color, about 6 minutes total. Remove from heat, and slowly and carefully add the juice and a pinch of salt, stirring until smooth (you should have a generous ½ cup sauce). Transfer pan to ice-water bath, and let cool for 15 minutes.

Divide orange slices among 4 shallow bowls, and top with caramel sauce and cocoa nibs.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

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