Growing up in Southern California, always available sweet, ripe oranges were a way of life and completely taken for granted. I gave them nary a thought until I moved to London to attend the Cordon Bleu. Oh my! Small, green and sour were the only “oranges” around. I was told they were picked green and shipped by boat from Israel. I remember thinking that if these had been my introduction to oranges, I would never eat them! Until then, I had no idea just how spoiled I was having grown up in California.
Spiced Oranges Yesterday
This recipe goes back lots of years to my first job as a pastry chef at Narsai’s Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant located in Kensington, just north of Berkley in Northern California. I created it as a non-alcoholic syrup for “lacing” cake layers when building multi-layered cakes. Lacing (it must be British) is the term I learned for brushing a highly flavored syrup onto cake layers to infuse an additional flavor into the finished cake. This technique makes for a wonderfully moist and flavorful cake.
Although I no longer remember the specific inspiration for this particular syrup, I do remember a British chef that I worked with suggesting that a bay leaf or two be cooked with the syrup. I loved this savory addition, and added it to the recipe right then and it’s still a part of the recipe almost 40 years later.
I’m also not remembering why I decided to prepare a compote with this syrup using additional fresh oranges. . . . Wait a minute, I just remembered my inspiration—from traveling in Europe and seeing “macerated fruit” on the menu. Maceration is the term used for soaking fruit in a flavorful syrup in order to infuse its flavor into the fruit. (Note: it’s the same process as putting something into a marinade, only maceration refers to fruit.)
Spiced Oranges Today
These macerated spiced oranges were served as a light and refreshing finale to a special dinner the other night—my first time ever cooking pheasant and grouse. The pheasant and grouse were incredible and the Spiced Oranges as delicious as I remembered them. Maple Pecan Shortbread hearts provided something crisp. And the Greek Honey Yoghurt afforded a creamy contrast to both.
By the way, Spiced Oranges are excellent for breakfast or brunch as well as dessert.
Adapted from a recipe in my book, Sweets for Saints and Sinners
A light, refreshing and colorful treat for dessert, breakfast or brunch.
Spiced Orange Syrup
Makes about 1½ cups of syrup
In a heavy saucepan, dissolve the honey in the water over low heat. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the mixture simmers. Add the cloves, allspice, bay, cinnamon, lemon and oranges. Simmer the mixture, uncovered, for about 50 minutes, pressing on the oranges and lemons to extract their juice. Strain the syrup, pressing against the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
4-8 navel oranges
1 recipe Spiced Orange Syrup
Greek Honey Yoghurt
Mint sprigs for garnish
Plan on serving one orange per guest, plus it is nice to have an extra one or two for seconds or leftovers. Remove the peel and pith from the oranges, leaving them round and nicely shaped. A serrated knife, using a sawing motion, works well.
Place the peeled oranges in a container and add the warm syrup to cover them. Let the oranges macerate, refrigerated, at least overnight, though preferably for at least 2 days.
Slice the oranges into ¼ inch slices and serve one sliced orange per person along with some of the syrup.