Life has been busy these days. Between getting sick, entertaining visiting friends, and working long hours to prepare for a big presentation at work, I feel like February has flown by. Winter is quickly coming to a close and spring is right around the corner. But, winter isn't over yet, and that means that here in San Diego, beautiful citrus is still plentiful.
At the markets, local farmers are still sharing sweet Cara Cara oranges, large Ruby Red and Oro Blanco grapefruits, and popular Meyer Lemons. But it's the tart Blood Oranges that I really can't resist.
From the outside, blood oranges look just like any other orange. You might be lucky enough to spy an blood orange by a slight blush on the rind, but not always. Usually the dimpled skin the color of late-afternoon sun belies the crimson flesh that is characteristic of this citrus. I am powerless to resist the hidden beauty of the blood orange, so when I decided to create a cupcake for the POM Wonderful cupcake contest, there was no question that I wanted to work blood oranges into my recipe.
After some careful thought, I decided I wanted to flavor a basic cupcake recipe with pomegranate and blood orange, and then top the cupcake with pomegranate glaze and a whole candied blood orange slice. The idea was originally inspired by a vanilla bean cupcake topped with a candied lemon slice that I had seen in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes; I thought the candied citrus topping the cupcake was really beautiful and unique and I figured blood oranges would work just as well as lemons for candying.
If you have never had candied citrus before, you can expect it to taste extra sweet but also still have some bitterness in the rind. Depending on how long you cook them, the rind will become softened and will yield easily to a bite.
Isn't the color just incredible??!
The candied blood oranges turned out to be a huge success (I couldn't stop snacking on the extras!), and also a catalyst for the pomegranate glaze: I had originally planned to make a separate glaze from scratch but when I saw the ruby-colored syrup leftover from candying the oranges, I had a stroke of genius and decided to use the syrup as the base for my pomegranate glaze. Waste not want not, right?
I added pomegranate juice to the cooled syrup, and reboiled it to reduce it and increase the thickness. I didn't want to add any other thickening agents to the glaze, because I felt that would just further complicate the recipe and might mar the lovely glassy appearance.
And with all this talk about glaze and candied citrus, lets not forget the cupcakes which were delicately flavored with pomegranate juice, orange zest, and vanilla. They had a light-as-air bouncy texture, and a less dense crumb, which I liked.
Check out this adorable tea towel. My equally adorable friend Jill got it from Anthropologie. Love it.
With all the flavors combined (should I insert the appropriate Captain Planet joke here?) I could taste both the pomegranate and the blood orange, but the cupcake was only slightly tart; the sugar from the candied citrus as well as the glaze gives enough sweetness so your mouth will stretch into a smile rather than a pucker when you take a bite.
Now I should mention there is one caveat: These cupcakes don't have a dense crumb and they don't have anything thick such as frosting that prevents the glaze from soaking into the cupcake, so these beauties are best glazed, served, and eaten immediately. With these lovely flavors, I can't imagine that these cupcakes won't be devoured on the spot, but if they sit for a few hours the glaze will saturate the top of the cupcake. Just f.y.i.
And lastly, I want to mention that the recipe for the candied blood oranges is fantastic on its own, and you could use it to candy almost any thinly-sliced citrus (and make a corresponding glaze). Think of the possibilities!
If you feel so inclined, my cupcake is still entered into the POM Wonderful Cupcake Contest and I would love your vote! Honestly, unless you start voting for my cupcake in droves, I think my chances of winning are slim; some recipes have over 500 votes already while mine only has a meager 90 or so votes. If you think these are winning cupcakes, just head to the POM Wonderful site and click the 'vote' button on my recipe. There is also the option to share the recipe on facebook or twitter. The contest is open until February 28th, and you can vote once a day until then. Thanks for your support!
Blood Orange and Pomegranate Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup POM wonderful pomegranate juice
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
zest from two small blood oranges (or other small orange)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup, plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
Line a muffin tin with baking cups and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, POM juice, vanilla extract, and orange zest, and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy, then add sugar and continue to beat for about 3 minutes, or until butter and sugar is fluffy and pale yellow. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until mixed well. Turn the mixer to low speed, add half of the flour mixture, and beat until incorporated. Next, add all of the milk and POM mixture and mix. (The batter will look lumpy.) Finally, add the remaining half of the flour mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat until everything is just incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the prepared baking cups to fill them about ¾ of the way to the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-23 minutes. To test for doneness, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack completely.
To decorate, spread the top with a small amount of pomegranate glaze, and then top with one candied orange slice. Serve immediately, as the glaze will soak into the cupcake over time.
Candied Blood Oranges, and Pomegranate Glaze
2 medium blood oranges
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/3 cup POM wonderful pomegranate juice
Slice the top and bottom off of each orange, and then slice each orange into approximately 1/8-1/4 inch slices.
In a large, wide stockpot, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar granules are all dissolved. Add the blood oranges in a single layer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn the orange slices over, and simmer for another 10-20 minutes or until they are translucent and the rinds look softened. Let them cool slightly, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with wax paper. (If you make these ahead of time, transfer them to a container and pour the syrup over them to store.)
To make the glaze, add the POM juice to the syrup still in the pot, and reheat over high heat until boiling. Let the mixture boil uncovered for about 5 minutes, or until the top of the liquid is covered with bubbles. Turn off the heat, and let the glaze cool before using.