Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Baking orange bread

It all started with Valencia oranges sent from my sister, Christine, to Mom for Mother's Day.

Valencia oranges are rather large and very, very juicy. So when Mom attempted to peel them, she found the skin too tough to peel away, but assumed she could just cut them in half and then in quarters and eat them that way. She had orange juice dripping down her arms.

So she asked if I wanted them. Well, of course, I did. Living on Social Security is making a scrooge out of me and I figured there must be a way I could get all the nutrition and value out of a dozen free oranges.

First, I juiced them. I got the most wonderful glass of juice I ever tasted, and a sore wrist from all the squeezing. Then I looked at the 24 half-shells and thought, hmmmm, I should zest these and freeze the zest for later uses. How frugal is that?

And then I thought of Ruth Stephens' orange bread, calling for a cup of finely chopped orange peel, cooked with sugar to make a wonderful syrup.

"Miss Stephens" (we never called her anything else) was a teacher at Summit Academy, a private girls' school, and our neighbor on Lincoln Avenue as I was growing up. The day we moved into our "new" home (in 1953), Miss Stephens brought a loaf of orange bread to my Mom as a welcome to the neighborhood gift.

She always looked the same. She wore her hair pulled back in a bun and wore sensible shoes and plain clothes. She lived in a huge two-story home that was sparsely furnished and austere looking. She worked in her garden and her lawn was meticulous. She baked molasses cookies. And she was the most interesting person. We were fortunate to have her as a neighbor and friend all those years.

So it is Miss Stephens' orange bread recipe that is baking in my oven today. I wish I could transfer the aroma right into this blog for you.

I doubled the recipe and got two large loaves and three small ones. Here is the first batch fresh from the oven.