Baker’s Delight: Citrus Desserts

I LOVE citrus desserts. I grew up enjoying lemon glaze cake, lemon meringue pie and more. The combination of sweet and tart is delightful.

These orange brownies were unbelievable!There is no chocolate in them – they are simply a dessert bar. We will definitely make them again for a wonderful treat!

ORANGE BROWNIES
(slighly adapted from Paula Deen)

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 eggs
2 tsp. pure orange extract (I didn’t have this so I used 2 tsp. orange juice and 1 tsp. of a citrus extract)
Zest of one orange
1 recipe Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 pan.

Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add butter, eggs, orange extract, and orange zest. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and set. Remove from oven, allow to cool and pierce entire cake with a fork. Spread the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting over completely cooled brownies. Cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

ORANGE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
4 Tb. butter, softened 
1 (1-lb.) box confectioners’ sugar (3-4 c.) 
 zest of one orange 
2 Tb. fresh squeezed orange juice

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter and cream cheese together with a hand-held electric mixer. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until it is all combined and smooth. Beat in the orange zest and juice. Spread over brownies.

I’ve not been a huge fan of key lime desserts until the last few years. This key lime cheesecake is delicious. It’s light and creamy and the fresh squeezed limes make it so fresh. I like to garnish this with fresh whipped cream, fresh lime slices, and white chocolate curls.


KEY LIME CHEESECAKE

CRUST:
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
6 Tb. butter, melted

FILLING:
24 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. white sugar
1 Tb. cornstarch
3 eggs
1 Tb. grated lime zest
2/3 c. key lime juice

Combine cookie or graham cracker crumbs with butter or margarine. Press into bottom and partially up sides of 9 inch springform pan. Refrigerate.

In a large bowl, beat with an electric mixer the cream cheese, sugar, lime peel, and cornstarch until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, blending just until smooth. Add key lime juice with mixer on low. Finish mixing by hand. Do not overbeat, or cake will crack during baking. Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake at 300 degrees for 55 to 65 min., or until set. To minimize cracking, place a shallow pan half full of hot water on lower rack during baking.

Turn oven off, and let cheesecake stand in oven 30 min. with the door open at least 4 in. Remove from oven. Refrigerate cake overnight, and up to three days.

This cake is so lemon-y! We all loved it! I served it topped with blueberry sauce but it’s great by itself, too. It’s like a pound cake.

LEMON CAKE
(Ina Garten)

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c. grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 c. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

GLAZE:
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
3 1/2 Tb. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-in.) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 min. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 c. lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 min. to 1 hr., until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 c. granulated sugar with 1/2 c. lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

BLUEBERRY SAUCE
3 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 c. sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp. cornstarch

Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened.

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Holiday Feast: Christmas Breakfast

Who doesn’t love breakfast food?! Especially on Christmas! Here’s what our families do for breakfast on Christmas morning:

HeatherChristmas breakfast is eaten around the tree as the children open their presents. The first year we were married I discovered the recipe for Swedish Tea Rings and have made one for Christmas breakfast ever since. The rest of the menu may vary some, but it always includes fruit. In recent years we’ve enjoyed bacon-wrapped sausages sprinkled with brown sugar and then baked and I often buy some thick, Greek yogurt to serve alongside the fruit. Drinks consist of juice and plenty of hot tea.

CITRUS FRUIT SALAD WITH LIME
(Heather)

1 pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small cans mandarin oranges or 3 large navel oranges peeled and sectioned
1 can apricots
zest and juice of 2 limes

Cut pineapple into pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add the mandarin or navel oranges and the can of apricots. Sprinkle over the zest of lime and stir in the lime juice. Best made the same day as eaten.

For variety I sometimes add dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds. For those who like ginger, one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger adds a wonderful zing or try a few tablespoons of finely sliced candied ginger.

Serves 8.

SWEDISH TEA RING
(originally from Fleishmann’s New Treasury of Yeast Baking)

3 ½ — 4 ½ c. flour
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 c. milk
¼ c. water
½ c. butter
1 egg (at room temp.)
½ c. flour
½ c. nuts
½ c. brown sugar
1-2 c. fruit (canned cherries, apricot, etc. well-drained)

Mix 1 ¼ c. flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a bowl.

Combine milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat to warm liquids and melt butter. Cool until warm. Add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes. Add egg and ¾ c. flour, to make a thick batter. Beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff batter (but not as thick as bread dough). Cover and refrigerate dough at least 2 hours. (Can be kept in fridge 3 days.)

Combine nuts, ½ c. flour, and brown sugar. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and divide in half. Roll ½ of the dough into a 14×7-inch rectangle.

Spread with ½ of the fruit. Sprinkle with ½ the brown sugar mixture. Roll up from long side as for jelly roll. Seal edges. Place sealed edge down in a circle on a greased cookie sheet. Seal ends firmly.

Cut slits 2/3 through ring at 1-inch intervals; turn each section outward, on its side.

(Note: This picture shows only one-half of the ring slices turned out — be sure to turn out every ring)

Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled – about 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack. Frost while warm with confectioners’ sugar glaze.

Often I don’t have the canned filling I want so I make an apple filling by chopping about 3 large, peeled apples and mixing them with 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, juice of one lemon and a few dried cranberries. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Glaze: mix 3 tablespoons soft butter into about 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Add enough milk to make a drizzling consistency. Add more sugar if needed to thicken.

Makes 2 rings.

Alaina – We traditionally enjoy an egg casserole, fruit, some kind of bread or coffee cake, and a few special drinks. The coffee pot is kept going for those of us who were awakened early by eager children. We have breakfast after stockings and gifts are opened or in between the stockings and gifts depending on the time. It’s a leisurely affair and one that I find makes me incredibly content and reflective.

I use the same base recipe for my egg casserole and just switch out the meats and cheese and sometimes add vegetables to make it different. We love it and I’ve been making it year-round for years. One of my favorite combinations is bacon, spinach, and swiss and we also love the traditional classic of sausage and sharp cheddar (onions & peppers add great color and flavor). You could easily make this vegetarian by omitting the meat. This egg casserole also re-heats very well if you have leftovers. I’m sharing one of my favorite versions.

SPINACH-MUSHROOM-BACON-SWISS EGG CASSEROLE

6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb. bacon, cooked and finely cut up (I often use less than a pound)
3 c. milk
8 oz. swiss cheese
1 1/3 c. crushed crackers (I use a butter cracker like ritz)

1 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 lb. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed w/liquid thoroughly squeezed out
pepper & salt*

Combine all ingredients. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour until golden brown.

*May not need much salt.
**May be made the night before and refrigerated.

These muffins are delicious! You could make them even more special by drizzling a little glaze over them.

LEMON-CRANBERRY ALMOND MUFFINS
(adapted from Taste of Home)

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 c. fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. slivered almonds, toasted

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in zest and cranberries.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full; sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Makes 1 1/2 – 3 dozen muffins.

This icy drink always reminds me of my childhood. My mom used to surprise us with it and now I love to share it with my children.


ORANGE JULIUS

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
6 oz. water
1 c. milk
1/8-1/4 c. sugar (opt.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 ice cubes

Chill glasses in freezer.

Combine all ingredients in blender or smoothie machine and blend until ingredients are mixed and ice is pulverized. Makes 4 servings.