Blood Orange Yogurt Cake

This is the best thing you've ever made, and you make a lot of good things.

Alexander, you are lovely.  And those of you who read this blog hopefully consider me, at least, a competent force in the kitchen.  That quote is lightly paraphrased, since we were amidst the chaos of friendly chatter, laughing, and beligerent (but loving) demands for food that define Maclean study break - but you get the idea.  Just take it from Alexander, you have to make this.  I've made it may times before, using the original recipe from Ina Garten which features lemons rather than blood oranges.

How fabulous is that?  

Some people find Ina and her show insufferable, but I love her.  I can understand the aversion of others, though, with her near-constant remarks about Jeffery this and Jeffery that, her fabulous bffs from the Hamptons, who never fail to arrive exactly when dinner is ready, bearing subtly elegant (and incredibly expensive) flower arrangements, not to mention bottles upon bottles of wine.  Oh, and her insistance on using beautiful, seasonal produce from her immaculately groomed garden, of which I myself am all too jealous, would be enough to create a significant barrier between her show and the viewership of Foodnetwork (especially those who watch this channel for Cupcake Wars and Foodnetwork Challenges, *facepalm*).  I'm sorry, but after the fall of Emeril Live and Good Eats, I became cynical about the quality of actual cooking shows on Foodnetwork.  Some oases of real cooking remain, but they've become fewer and farther between.

I'll admit that I tend toward the more yuppie, buy the best ingredients you can afford, let's all hold hands and skip to the local farm stand, end of the foodie spectrum.  I am a food snob.  Self-diagnosed. It's true and I accept it.  So on some level, Ina and I have similarly refined, or otherwise snobby, sensibilities about food - that you should use the best ingredients you can get your hands on, or at least the best ones you can afford.  But we agree that these ingredients need not be upscale or at all inaccessable.  We're not talking about fois gras, caviar, and black truffles here.  We're talking about unbleached flour, fresh cream, and seasonal produce.

This goes back to my wholesome foods rant back in December (I think it was December), which illustrates where Ina's cooking perspective and mine diverge somewhat.  We both devote ourselves to this best-ingredient philosophy, but I am more conscious of how these ingredients, and what I create with them, interact with my entire body as well as with my mouth.  The flavors, textures, and sensations that these pure ingredients allow me to compose and to express through my food drive my creative process - but I remain aware of how the final composition of these ingredients will contribute to the health of my body (which, as I have said, does not simply reduce to counting calories; it takes into account the physical and psychological wholesomeness of what I eat).

Okay, clearly I'm not always so meta about my food.  I'm not always this conscientious about what I put into my body.  But I've found that my best and most creative meals have come from this consciousness of and intuition about ingredients and their composition.

Now let's back up for a second to the actual recipe again.  I made this for Maclean study break on Wednesday night, since it's both incredibly delicious and incredibly simple to put together.  I quadrupled the recipe, and it was just as easy to make as when I've made a single batch.  Even if you're not a Barefoot Contessa believer, trust me.  You should make this.  It may just be the best thing you've ever made.

Blood Orange Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c plain whole milk yogurt
3/4 c sugar
3 eggs
2 blood oranges
1/2 c canola oil
Confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a loaf pan, then set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, sugar, and eggs.  Zest both oranges into the bowl, and stir.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, then stir to combine.  Gently fold in the canola oil.

Segment the oranges by cutting away the top and bottom to reveal the flesh beneath and creating a flat base.  Stand the orange on one these now-flat ends, then run your knife down the side of the orange, removing the peel and the pith (the white part).  You should be left with a naked orange, stripped of everything but its flesh and the membrane separating each segment.  Now, cut along the membranes on an angle to liberate each piece of pure flesh from the membrane, then drop it into the bowl of batter.  I would perform this segmenting process over a bowl to catch the juices (you'll need them later).  Reserve the remaining core of the orange with the membranes and bits of flesh.  Fold in the orange segments, then pour batter into the reserved pan.  Bake for ~60 minutes until set.

Meanwhile, squeeze the remaining orange core into the bowl of juices.  You could even squeeze the peels, if any of the flesh came off with them, but don't bother if you think it's too tedious (I didn't).  Add enough confectioner's sugar to thicken the orange juice into a glaze, then pour into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over low heat, simmer for ~2 minutes, then set aside to cool.  Once the loaf comes out of the oven, prick the surface lightly with a fork or toothpick, then pour in the glaze.  Let cool completely before slicing.

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