Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and this week I’m making Blood Orange Marmalade for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and “challenges” along the way along with suggestions on how to adapt Ina’s recipe to a small kitchen.

Episode: “Say It With Food”

The Set-up: Ina’s helping her friend Cassandra make a gift basket of treats for her mother.

The Menu: Date Nut Spice Bread, Anna’s Orange Marmalade, Homemade Museli with Red Berries

0:45 – We’re mixing up the order as Ina shows us the finished gift basket – a wicker hamper stuffed to the brim with treats and wrapped in cellophane and raffia.

1:30 – Rewind! Now it’s the night before as we see all the effort that went into the gift starting with Date Nut Spice Bread, the star of the basket.

2:14 – Ina must have read my mind as she mixed the butter and sugar, followed by the eggs, 100% the same steps for any cake.

3:36 – She’s a master of layered flavors and this time it’s orange zest, liqueur, and juice to give the bread a strong note of citrus.

4:51 – Random Thought: when I squeeze oranges by hand the fresh juice always seems a bit thin and watery, I wonder if I should invest in a juicer to get more pulp involved…

5:07 – Dry ingredients are sifted together and then Pro Tip #1: add them alternately to the batter with the juice to keep the cake nice and light.

6:18 – Now that the batter is done it’s time to add the pecans and dates. I used to love dates, but now they’re a little too sweet for me. I have a feeling I’ll never make this bread unless I run across a devoted date lover someday.

7:29 – Okay, bread is in the oven. Pro Tip #2: a professional grade metal loaf pan will help get really crisp sides on the bread.

10:34 – The evening of prep continues with a batch of Anna’s Orange Marmalade. Ina finally pried the recipe out of her friend Anna Pump after years of buying jars at Loaves and Fishes.

11:42 – As you might have guessed, making orange marmalade requires a lot of thinly sliced oranges. Ina recommends just doing it with a sharp chef’s knife, the mandoline and food processor options don’t work as well.

12:19 – The oranges and lemons are in the pot with some water and later sugar. The process seems fairly straightforward but does involved heating and cooling the mixture at different intervals while the fruit cooks down.

13:27 – Marmalade is done and looking very New England pioneer in its canning jars and now it’s time to assemble the basket and Ina has some tips on how to make them look good.

14:54 –Step 1: Use a high quality basket, here she’s using a picnic hamper. Step 2: put some thing soft like raffia in as a base layer, then place a solid element, here it’s the Date Nut Spice Bread, in the center.

15:13 – Step 3: Fill in on either side with smaller items like the jars of Anna’s Orange Marmalade. Step 4: Soften the presentation by placing a bit more raffia in between the jars and add a few colorful items like lemon leaves and fresh fruit.

19:35 – Part 2 of the spice bread is orange scented cream cheese. The original idea was a cream cheese swirled bread, but after testing it “about 10 times” with little success Ina just decided to serve it on the side. Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks of recipes that don’t work in practice!

20:58 – Cream cheese is done and packed in a ramekin for the basket, so now we switch over to Cassandra who’s making her way over to Ina’s house to pick up the basket.

21:20 – Last item for the basket: Homemade Museli with Red Berries which Ina describes as “a Swiss breakfast that’s really good for you, but usually tastes like the cardboard box it came in.” Oh snap. Also, super true, sorry muesli.

22:46 – Presumably, Ina is going to rescue muesli from it’s sad, bland state and make it worth eating. Mostly this seems to be taking place with the addition of honey and toasted hazelnuts, not a bad place to start.

26:29 – Now we’re getting both macerated berries and greek yogurt in the mix, which sounds pretty awesome to me.

27:02 – Ina layers the museli and greek yogurt in more canning jars and that’s the final touch on the basket of treats.

28:43 – The last step, wrap the entire basket in cellophane and tie it with a bright orange bow and wait for Cassandra to arrive.

29:55 – Cassandra initially claims responsibility for the basket, but the jig is up. Barbara could recognize a Barefoot Contessa production blindfolded. Meanwhile, Ina enjoying some toast with marmalade over the New York Times looking like the cat that ate the canary.

Final Thoughts:
Ina makes everything look so easy I could almost see trying to make a gift basket – coming soon to a special occasion near you!

Sadly, when I looked up this recipe I learned that Anna Pump passed away last fall, so it seems appropriate that her orange marmalade is bittersweet.

Cassandra is pretty ballsy to pretend she made that basket…

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
One of the pitfalls of being citrus mad all through January is that eventually your fruit bowl is overflowing with lemons or blood oranges and come February you’ve worn out your welcome and no one can bear to eat another grapefruit segment. What’s a thrifty person to do? Cue: (Blood) Orange Marmalade!

I have never canned or preserved anything in my life (unless quick pickles count?) so frankly I was a little concerned and I learned a ton along the way.

Blood Oranges vs Navel – Since I had lots of blood oranges in the aforementioned fruit bowl and I like their sharper flavor I subbed them in, while simultaneously halving the recipe. They’re a bit smaller than a navel orange, so I went with a 2:1 ratio looking for about 4 generous cups of orange slices, plus the lemon. I like my marmalade pretty tangy and not overly sweet, so I left the sugar as is and I was pleased with the results.

Slicing Fruit – Contrary to Ina’s recommendation I did try to use a mandoline at first and found that either the blade on mine is really dull, or that citrus was just meant to be sliced by hand. I have since relegated that piece of kitchen equipment to the good-will since every time I’ve tried to use it the produce gets totally mangled. Just rock this out old school with a chef’s knife and a cutting board while you listen to a podcast or a beachy Spotify playlist.

Candy Thermometer – Most instant read thermometers won’t reach 220 degrees F and they’re tricky to use for this purpose since the stem isn’t very long. Boiling sugar is not to be trifled with, so this is an occasion when a $20 investment could save you a nasty burn. If you have trouble seeing the hashmarks on an analog model, then digital is the way to go.

Timing – Other than the slicing and jarring there really isn’t too much hands-on time, but it is the sort of recipe that requires several hours over the course of about a day to prepare. On the other hand, it will fill your kitchen and probably most of your home with a gorgeous orangy scent.

Canning Jars – Many people, including Ina recommend disinfecting the jars by running them through the dishwasher (no soap!) just before filling them. It’s definitely simpler than dealing with the pot of boiling water, tongs, etc.

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Actually, yes. I used a large pot, a chef’s knife, medium cutting board, 2 canning jars, a spatula, liquid and dry measuring cups, a large spoon, and a candy thermometer.

The Verdict:
As my tastes have changed I’ve really come around on marmalade’s bitter and sweet flavor, so this version of (Blood) Orange Marmalade was perfect for me. If you’re giving this as a gift your friends will definitely be impressed and if you’re looking for ways to use this fantastic concoction, may I suggest as a topping for a not-too sweet, might even please egg-lovers French Toast…?

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast (serves 4-6)

1 medium loaf crusty, French-style sourdough bread
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons whole milk
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

For Serving:
1 1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt (I like Chobani)
1/2 cup Blood Orange Marmalade
1/4 cup orange blossom honey

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the bread into 12 (1-inch) slices and set aside. It’s okay and actually preferable if the bread is on the dry side, all the better to soak up the egg without getting soggy.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cloves, vanilla, and salt until well combined.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.

Working one piece at a time, place the slices of bread in the egg, turning to coat both sides, and then into the hot pan.

Cook the French toast in batches over medium heat, don’t crowd the pan, for 3-4 minutes per side until the egg-coated bread turns golden brown and the edges begin to crisp.

Remove to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Add the remaining tablespoons of butter one at a time, as needed, to the pan before repeating the process with the remaining slices of bread.

Serve warm, and invite your guests to top with vanilla Greek yogurt, a spoonful of blood orange marmalade, and a drizzle of honey.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
You know it. You’ll need a large non-stick sauté pan, a rimmed baking sheet, shallow bowl, serrated knife, cutting board, and tongs (I find them easier than a spatula). Measuring spoons are helpful or you can eyeball it!

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith