July 16, 2014

Winter and Orange Bread

So, winter is a strange time here in Paraguay. This morning it's about 20 degrees Celsius, which equates to about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Normally, it's supposed to be rather cold this time of year. Since I've been here, it's gotten down into the low 40s (F), which feels pretty damn cold when the buildings aren't insulated and there's no central heating. Those types of things aren't worthwhile investments in a climate that isn't cold enough for long enough. Instead of the leafless, bug-less, frozen wonderland I'm used to, winter now means a time with variable temperatures, alternate heavy rain and breezy, sunshiny days, and a time of the year when trees flower, sugarcane is harvested, and citrus fruits come into season. We have lime, orange, mandarin orange, and pomelo trees in our backyard.

Lime is more of a garnish, but oranges are a main event. The folks I live with have the magical ability to eat several in one sitting. They carefully peel the rind away in a spiral pattern with a knife, then cut a small opening at the top and suck out the juice. Then the orange is opened and the flesh is consumed. As a stubborn American, I still plug away at peeling my orange with my fingers and eating the segments one by one. The oranges here are sweet. They are harvested while the rinds are still green. If you let them turn orange, the birds will get to them first, as they do with the mandarin oranges. Limes are referred to as limón here. The yellow kind we know as lemon is simply another variety of limón. There's also an orange variety, which you want to be careful not to mistake for a mandarin orange, or you're in for a bad time. You also want to be careful not to take down a naranja agria, or bitter/sour orange, which is grown for it's essence, not for consumption. As an American who is still learning to have a relationship with her food from its source, I am often confused by all the different types of citrus fruits hanging around the house. Luckily I'm surrounded by experts.

Orange bread, or torta de naranja, is a very popular sweet treat in my current household. While my boyfriend's mom has her beloved recipe, I, as the lazy baker that I am, came up with something quicker, simpler, and almost as delicious ;)

It's certainly strange to be enjoying a citrusy treat in winter, but then it's not all that winter-like to a Midwesterner, anyway. If you're looking for a warm, sweet, happy treat with a fresh, citrusy kick, this is the recipe for you. If you pass it along, I would appreciate getting credit for it. It's not particularly mind-blowing, but I came up with it myself! And I'm pretty pleased with myself :) Here we go:

Orange Bread (Torta de Naranja)

2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup of vegetable oil
juice from two small to medium sized oranges
3 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
orange zest

Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F). In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, and oil. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the flour and spices. Slowly add the flour mixture into the larger bowl, alternating with the orange juice. Make sure you finish adding the flour mixture first so you can determine if all of your orange juice is necessary. The consistency of your batter is important: not too thick, but definitely not too runny. At the end, mix in a little orange zest to taste.

Grease a cake pan or a couple of bread tins, whatever strikes your fancy, and pour in the batter. Stick into the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes. Tops should turn golden brown. Knife should come out clean. Bake time will depend on the whims of your individual oven.


Note: I wanted to add ground cloves, too, but was too lazy to grind up my whole cloves. If you try it, please let me know how it comes out! I'm guessing 1/4 teaspoon would be enough.

Is it bread or cake (torta)? Cakebread.

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