Thursday, March 19, 2015

Blood Orange & Ricotta Pound Cake

All things are only transitory. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you think it’s been a long time since my last post, you’re right. Things are very interesting around here right now. It’s like the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.” I feel pulled in about 4 different directions at once. 

I know Goethe is right, it’s just being in the middle of it that sucks. I won’t bore you with the details. Instead I’ll bore you with a recipe...

Blood oranges, also called Moro oranges, are a type of orange that has tart, sweet flesh that is unexpectedly red – hence the name. Although grown commercially in California, many blood oranges come from Southern Italy, particularly Sicily. They are usually available from January through April. So you have to take advantage of them while they’re around.

This is what "creamed" butter and sugar
looks like. Light and fluffy.
You can tell a blood orange (besides the name on the bag or the sign above them...) by the reddish blush that appears on the skin when fully ripe. They can be smaller or larger than a regular Valencia (common) orange, and contain very few seeds.

I find that the flavour of a well-ripened blood orange is still tart, but almost raspberry-like. They are quite delicious.

Here’s some orange facts, thanks to the folks at Sunkist®:
All oranges contain carotene — that's what makes them orange. Moros get their red color from high concentrations of a pigment called anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are the agents believed to be responsible for cancer, aging and other health ailments.

Since I’m on my third bag of blood oranges, I thought it might be okay to sacrifice one for a cake. Orange pound cake is always a favourite, especially for a dinner with one’s mother – which I had the evening I made this. She was pleasantly surprised. :-)

Abraham Lincoln said: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Show yours some love. Do something nice for her today. Just like blood oranges, you are only blessed with her presence for far too short a time. 

Blood Orange & Ricotta Pound Cake
Prep 15 min  |  Bake 60 min  |  Yield 9” loaf
The dough is pretty stiff. Don't worry.
1-1/2 cups white flour + 1 tbsp
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup low-fat ricotta
juice and rind of 1 blood orange
1-1/2 cups white sugar
3 lg eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
icing sugar, for dusting after baking

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Wash, and then zest and juice the orange. Set aside.

Cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until light, fluffy, smooth and no longer grainy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs one at a time – beating just long enough that they are incorporated. Then beat in the rind, orange juice and vanilla.

Beat in the dry ingredients until mixed.

Scoop the batter out into the pan, taking care to not trap any air pockets in the corners and level the top with a spatula. 

Bake for about 50 minutes and then test the cake by inserting a toothpick in the centre. If the toothpick does not come out clean, put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes and test again. It may take longer than an hour to bake, depending on the amount of juice, moisture content of flour, wetness of the ricotta, etc. Toothpick testing is reliable. Mine took longer, by a fair bit.

Expect the top to mound up and crack open – it’s the sign of a classic pound cake.

The classi pound cake crack. 
Remove from the oven, let cool for 10-15 minutes; then remove from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar after it cools.

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