This is an image of near perfection. Oh sweet orange, sun-kissed and dripping with goodness, I can almost smell the pure warmth and sunshine that you share so selflessly. What a thoughtful gift from nature and the sunny state of Florida.
Growing up, my family would spend many a cold, February day thinking about the warmth of the sun that we were so desperately missing. We would travel south, seeking solace from these bitter, New England winters. The most logical destination for us was Florida. This was the hospitable climate we craved during those long, gray days. Florida was also where my grandfather called home.
My grandfather, my mother's father, had retired down there long before I had the chance to start forming any solid memories of him. To the best of my knowledge, I don't even have any candid photos of him, let alone he and I. All that I could find was this sole portrait of him from an old church bulletin and me as a little one in his Floridian yard.
But in addition to Grampy's house, with all that there is to see and do in that part of the state, as a young girl one of the things that I liked best about these trips was all of the orange groves that we passed in our travels. (I was an odd child.) Being a New England girl, I knew damn well that citrus wasn't one of those things we could grow up this way. Apples, yes. Pears, yes. Peaches, yes. But oranges? Nope. I was truly enamored by the sights and smells of these wonders. I fixated on every glimpse I could get of these magical, majestic trees. We would always end our trips by purchasing one of these huge bags of Florida oranges.
I can think of nothing better to do once the calendar flips to February, back up here in New England, than to put all of those glorious oranges to work for me. While we may not be taking our winter breaks down south anymore, those beautiful Florida oranges are in abundance here in our local food marts all winter long. This citrus bread is up for the challenge. It takes on just enough of that orange flavor to satisfy any citrus-loving sweet tooth.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 T self-rising flour
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter a 5x8 inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and the self-rising flour. In a large bowl, cream the eggs, sugar and orange zest. Add the butter and stir until combined. Add the orange juice. Fold in the dry ingredients and pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake the citrus bread for about 1 1/4 hours, or until the top is golden and cracked and a skewer inserted in the center comes our clean or with a few crumbs on it. Cover the loaf with foil about half way through baking. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let cool completely before slicing.