Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Zest for Life

So here goes my modest little foray into the world of food blogging. I have blogged about food before, but those were casual one-offs, not written with the intention of making Red Moonrise a food blog. But that is what I'd like to focus on now, for the most part - my love of food, specifically all things baked, and even more specifically, all sweets decorated.

More on the sweet decorations later, though. For now, I'm going to go on about one of my favourite ingredients. Yup, 'ingredient', not recipe (I did say this was a modest foray :D).

Citrus zest! Or the peel, or the skin, of citrus fruits. Pictured above are the three most commonly used in cooking - orange, lemon and lime. I love them all, but am especially partial to orange zest. I toss a couple of teaspoonfuls of it into almost every cake, cupcake, pancake, muffin or cookie that I make, whether the recipe calls for it or not.

I use a zester to get those fine shreds, and you can see the tiny droplets of oil being sprayed into the air as you zest away. The fragrance at that moment is just heavenly! I love the extra dimension the zest adds to my food. Its not an overpowering taste (unless you use heaps of it!), but more of a subtle presence.  

You can coax even more flavour out of the zest by following this one tip I came across recently over here (ha! at least I can direct you to a good recipe!) While baking, mixing the zest with the sugar before creaming it with butter greatly enhances the zesty flavour in your final product. I tested it out with two batches of sugar cookie dough: introduced orange zest after creaming butter & sugar in the first, and then before creaming in the second. The orangey-ness was definitely more intense in the second.

It might seem weird, but I try to ensure that I'm never out of oranges. I always feel a blissful contentment whenever I glance at my fruit basket and see them nestled there. Whether its pancakes or muffins for breakfast, cookies for teatime, I know I can always give them a delicious boost with a bit of zest.