This week’s obsession: Chocolate and Orange
I found that I’ve been a lot happier since I switched from drinking coffee in the morning to drinking orange juice. My doctor said that it’s because of all the Vitamin C and natural sugars, but honestly I think it’s the vodka.
Ok ok ok, that’s not true at all - I still just drink coffee and wish it was boozy. But in all seriousness, who remembers those chocolate oranges from obscure places like World Market (and probably Walmart for all I know)? Full disclosure, I LOVE them! I avoided them for the longest time since I discovered them as a pre-teen because I thought that it was a weird combination, but then something made me decide to try one (it was high school peer pressure. One of my friends had one and cracked it open and the smell just pulled me in. She held out a piece to me and asked if I wanted to try it. I told myself that one little nibble couldn’t hurt, right? So I tasted it. And I couldn’t control myself... I ate the entire orange slice! It was unbelievable!! I knew I needed more and got my hands on them whenever possible). And that’s the story of how I became a chocolate orange addict at such a young age. Is there rehab for that? Whatever, I’m not going.
My point is that citrus and orange seemed like such a strange combination to me that I never gave it a chance, but in all honesty it works and has been working for a long time! There is a particular style of cake in New Orleans that's been around forever called a Doberge that is half lemon and half chocolate. Maybe I’ll have to make one soon to show it off, but it’s an excellent example of citrus and chocolate. And then of course there’s the ever-present key lime pie which can always be enhanced with a chocolate drizzle or a chocolate crust.
It should be no surprise, then, that while I was craving chocolate hardcore for some reason this week (it’s PMS), I landed on the idea for a chocolate and orange cake. Being that I love some spice in my chocolate and how well cinnamon works with just about everything IMHO, I grabbed my Dead Velvet recipe - which is absolutely divine - and dumped some cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper into it. Since I spent most of this week showing some visiting friends around the island, I was a tad bit strapped for time as far as making a filling from scratch goes, but I came across this super delicious Organic Sicilian blood orange marmalade that I just knew had to be in the middle of my cake layers.
The reason that I point out that it’s an organic marmalade is because of the pesticides, fungicides, and disinfectants that are sprayed all over fruits and vegetables that none of us really want to think about. However, if you’re eating fresh fruits and veggies or things like marmalade that use the peels and zests of the fruit, you really need to be aware of what’s on your produce. (I read a really great article about all of that here.)
Which brings me to my tip of the week for you - it’s not sexy to think about the chemicals that are sprayed onto our fruits and vegetables but if you’re going to eat them, cook with them (and I’m not just talking about the rind or skins, because the chemicals seep through to the flesh of the fruits), and/or serve them to other people you really need to have a solid game plan to remove them. Now the obvious choice is to just buy organic all the time, but most of us know that paying for organic produce is not even close to being cost effective.
So what’s a chef to do? Here are two more ways to avoid chowing down on unseen chemicals on your produce: the first is to soak them in a baking soda solution and the second is to wash them in a vinegar solution. Disclaimer: Neither of these methods has been proven to remove 100% of the pesticides, but hey it’s better than nothing, right? And you’re doing yourself a big favor by not consuming these chemicals whenever possible.
Ok, enough talk of things you don't want to eat and back to this amazing chocolatey spiced goodness of a cake. I don't know why but something told me that just chocolate buttercream was NOT going to cut it for this little baby, so I made an ultra-rich dark chocolate ganache to coat it with. It was absolutely the right way to go! Plus there is something so satisfying about smoothing out ganache (especially with the brand new acrylic cake scraper I just bought for myself), almost like my own delicious zen garden, which made creating this whole thing even better.
But still, it wasn't enough. I decided to dust on some whimsical sprinkles to top it all off, and then to bring the photo drama to the next level I did something I never do. I cut into my own cake! Really, I hate cutting my own cakes because so much work goes into it on my part and then I just... slice it open, Like it's nothing. And I'm supposed to act like I'm not dying a little on the inside because apparently it's unnatural to get this attached to your works of art, but in reality on the inside I'm all:
But today I think it was the right decision. Because now you get an inside look at all of that orange marmalade. Just think about it melding with all of the smooth chocolate ganache, the aromatic cinnamon, and that hint of spice. Kinda makes you want to eat it, right? ;)
Happy eating, y'all!
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