Baking Class: A bright pop of flavor

You don’t have to wait for summer to enjoy the zesty tang of citrus sweets.

January 10, 2012 10:56
Candied Orange Peel

Candied Orange Peel. (photo credit: Amy Spiro)

It may be the dead of winter, but I still like my desserts to have a bright pop of flavor, and this time of year citrus is the perfect choice. Whether it’s lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, pomelos or anything in between, citrus flavors are one of my favorite things to enjoy in desserts. From cupcakes to cookies, tarts and pies, a little zest is a great way to pack an extra punch of taste in any treat.

One of the best applications for citrus flavors is curd. The classic is lemon curd, but the flavor is great with lime or grapefruit as well.

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Coconut and grapefruit may not be an obvious pairing, but the resulting taste is inspired, transporting you to a tropical island with just one bite. Toasting the coconut before use gives it an extra punch of flavor, as well as emitting an incredible aroma throughout the house.

Either pink or yellow grapefruits can be used for the zest and juice; the pink has a slightly sweeter flavor.

Pink lemonade bars are a delicious way to enjoy a summery beverage in a dessert, even during the winter. In addition, their sturdiness makes them a perfectly portable snack to bring along to school, work, wherever.

I’ll admit to buying candy all the time, but there is still something very appealing about making it yourself. Plus with just some orange peel (you still get to eat the orange!), sugar and a few hours of time, you can have perfectly delicious, perfectly homemade candy.

Grapefruit, lemon, orange – what’s left? Limes! And the small, beautiful fruit really takes center stage in this tart, which is as gorgeous as it is delicious. A simple cookie crust and a basic citrus curd combine to a sum much greater than their parts in this tart, which you will make again and again no matter the season.


Makes about 18 cupcakes

✔ Zest of 2 grapefruits
✔ 11⁄4 cups sugar
✔ 1⁄2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, finely chopped
✔ 11⁄2 sticks (3⁄4 cup) butter or margarine, softened
✔ 2 eggs
✔ 2 egg whites
✔ 13⁄4 cups flour
✔ 2 tsp. baking powder
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 3⁄4 cup milk or soy milk
✔ Juice of 1⁄2 grapefruit
✔ 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar Mix the sugar and grapefruit zest together in a small bowl and set aside. Spread the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast at 175ºC for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted brown.

Beat the butter and sugar and zest together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and egg whites and beat to combine. Mix together the flour with the baking powder and salt.

Add 1⁄3 of the flour mixture, then 1⁄2 of the milk, then another 1⁄3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the remaining flour. Beat in the toasted coconut until just combined.

Bake the cupcakes at 175ºC for 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool. Whisk together the grapefruit juice and powdered sugar. Dip the cupcakes in the glaze and let dry.


Makes about 24 bars

✔ 21⁄2 cups flour
✔ 2⁄3 cup sugar
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 200 gr. butter or margarine, softened
✔ 1⁄2 cup oats
✔ 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
✔ 11⁄2 cups sugar
✔ 1⁄4 cup flour
✔ 5 eggs
✔ 1⁄2 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
✔ 1⁄2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
✔ Zest of 2 lemons Mix the flour, sugar and salt together.

Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or food processor until evenly distributed.

Reserving a cup and a half of the mixture, press the remaining in to a foil-lined 23x33 cm. pan. Bake at 175ºC for 20 minutes.

Mix the oats and brown sugar into the reserved crumb mixture and set aside.

Stir together the flour and sugar, then whisk in the eggs until smooth. Add in the jam, lemon juice and lemon zest and continue whisking until combined.

Pour over the crust and bake for 15 minutes.

Top with the remaining crumbs and bake another 20 minutes. Let cool and then chill in the refrigerator before cutting.

Store in the fridge.


✔ 3 medium oranges
✔ 3 cups sugar
✔ 3 cups water
✔ 3⁄4 cup sugar Wash and pat dry the oranges. Slice off the top and bottom of the oranges. Score the outside peel in four pieces, and peel off the skin. Eat the orange. Offer some orange slices to your friends.

Dice the peel into even strips, about 1⁄4 cm. each. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the strips of peel. Boil for 15 minutes, then drain and rinse well. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and 3 cups sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the orange strips and return to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, checking occasionally, for 45 minutes. Keep at a low, uniform simmer – the syrup should not turn brown.

Drain the peel, but do not rinse.

Spread out on a piece of foil, and sprinkle the remaining 3⁄4 cup sugar on top.

Toss until evenly coated. Here you can take two routes: Spread the peel on a baking sheet, and put it in the oven on the lowest setting (about 90ºC). Bake, tossing every 5 minutes, for about 20 minutes, until the pieces are dry to the touch. Or leave it out on a sheet for 24 hours.


Of course, without actual key limes – which come from Florida – this won’t be a real “key” lime tart, but it will be packed full of flavor, a gorgeous color and loved by all.

✔ 11⁄4 cups graham cracker or petit beurre crumbs
✔ 50 gr. margarine or butter, melted
✔ 2 Tbsp. sugar
✔ Zest of 4 limes (about 2 tsp.)
✔ 11⁄2 cups sugar
✔ 1⁄2 cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
✔ 100 gr. butter or margarine, melted
✔ 4 large eggs
✔ Pinch salt Mix together the crumbs, butter and sugar until combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of a greased 23- or 25-cm. tart pan. Bake at 175ºC for 10 minutes.

Set aside.

Mix together the zest with the sugar and set aside. Whisk the lime juice in with the eggs until combined. Add in the butter and continue whisking until well mixed. Add in the sugar mixture and salt and whisk until smooth. Pour into a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan and place over medium heat.

Heat, continually whisking, for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened (about 80ºC on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and pour into the tart shell. Let sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes, then refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

 Amy Spiro is a food writer and reporter.

She is currently a pastry student at the Jerusalem Culinary Institute and blogs at

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