Monday, September 17, 2007

Naranja Cupcakes

In Puerto Rico oranges are called chinas, in the rest of latinamerica oranges are naranjas, but in Puerto Rico naranjas are bitter oranges that I don't have a clue what they would be called in english. Some think we call the oranges chinas because they would arrive to the ports in boxes that said "made in china", but this theory to me sounds kinda made up. The naranjas are not eaten in Puerto Rico, only the zest and pith are used to make dulce de naranja, a kind of preserve cooked in heavy syrup for a few hours. But I decided to use them for something something other than the dulce de naranja! For I don't think it's fair for the poor fruit to be tossed away... yes, I made cupcakes with them. I used a Seville Orange recipe from Dressing for Dinner with a few changes. The result was a bitter sweet combination, a soft dense cake with a hint of citrus paired with a strong sweet and sour icing.

Naranja Cupcakes

1/4 Lb sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 Lb self-raising flour
2 eggs
3 teaspoons naranja juice
1 1/2 teaspoons naranja zest
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F, line a muffin tin with paper liners. In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment mix the butter and sugar until soft and creamy. Then add the eggs one at a time until it's all blended. Slowly add the flour in three additions alternating with the milk and vanilla, ending with the flour. Divide the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing.

Naranja Icing

1 stick unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup naranja juice
2 tablespoons orange zest

Cream the butter, then add 2 cups confectioners' sugar and mix. Add the naranja juice, zest and remaining cup of sugar; mix until all is well blended. Ice the cooled cupcakes

Childhood memories

Recently I went to visit my grandma at her farm in Aguas Buenas. There still a few fruit trees from when my grandpa used to work the land, he was a farmer. There used to be hundreds of banana and plantain trees, acerolas (caribbean cherries), guanabanas, limes, a huge mango tree, even papaya trees and oranges. I remember he even had a corn field from which he would kee some of the cobs. He used to dry them in the sun adn then he would toast them with sugar and out them in banana leaves to cool; I don't know how I never broke a tooth eating those things. My brother, my cousins and me would pick the limes from the tree and make lime juice after a long day playing in the farm and sometimes my grandpa would get coconuts from the coconut trees and serve us coconut water, I used to love to sit with a spoon and scrape the sweet white flesh from the coconuts insides. After lunch I would go with my grandma to the chicken coop, where I would help her get the eggs the chickens had layed before they began eating them (I think they get jealous from one another and try to destry each others eggs). Coffee! I miss picking coffee on the afternoons with grandma; she would place them outside to dry in the sun, then peel it in the pilon (mortat), toast it, to finally grind it... no coffee will ever be good enough for me after years of drinking our coffee. We lived about 5 minutes from the farm and sometimes I wish I could have stayed living in the country, but we moved to the city and even though we would visit weekly, it was never the same.