Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf

Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf | Kitchen in the Hills

I must be the only person I know who is looking forward to daylight savings time. I will happily lose an hour of sleep once if it means later sunrises, later sunsets, and longer days. I have been craving those extra hours of light. Days long enough and light enough to allow time for work and a sunset hike. Clear skies and brighter stars and everything in bloom. And I somehow feel like I have more time to get everything done if the sun is out longer— it may not make perfect sense, but my brain works in crazy ways.

It finally feels like the start of spring over here— warm weather and sunshine, iced coffee, longer days, better photographs more time outdoors.

But the start of spring means the end of winter produce, and I’m determined to try as much of it as I can before it goes out of season.

Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf | Kitchen in the Hills

I enjoy produce, and I try to buy a lot of it. How I went so long without having a blood orange is a mystery to me. Finally this year, at the tail end of the season, I tried one for the first time.

The flavors were such a surprise to me. A bittersweet orange, with just the faintest hint of tart. The minute I bit into a slice, I thought, “this would go perfectly with vanilla.”

I turned those blood oranges into this loaf, with poppy seeds I spotted in the bulk aisle of my grocery store. I had never baked with either before, but citrus + poppy seeds has long been one of my favorite pairings, and I decided to go for it. The loaf turned out beautifully– butter, sugar, eggs, yogurt, blood orange, poppy seeds, and yes, just a hint of vanilla.

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My favorite way to add citrus zest to baked goods

citrus zest

I love lemons. And limes, and grapefruits, and oranges. There’s no citrus fruit that I don’t love. The irresistibly bright scent just gets to me. Especially in the middle of winter, when all of the food is too heavy, too dark, too much. I like to add citrus zest and juice to baked goods, to add a little interest and a lot of flavor. Meyer lemon zest in cookies. Orange zest in chocolate tarts. Grapefruit zest in browned butter cookies, a completely unexpected pairing but totally awesome. Today, I thought I’d share my favorite way to add citrus to baked goods— complete with photographs!

I like to rub my citrus zest into granulated sugar, a tip I picked up from Joy the Baker. This method releases every last bit of essential oil from the zest into the sugar, so you can have a totally flavor-packed cake or cookie or brownie.

microplane grater

I’ll be working with blood oranges, but you can do this with any citrus you like.

To zest your citrus, begin by cleaning and drying it thoroughly. Any variety of citrus will do, but try to buy organic— you’re going to be eating the zest, and that’s often where the most pesticide residue ends up.

Grab a grater or zester. I use this microplane grater, which is pure magic. It’s sharp, it’s precise, and it lets me zest citrus without getting into the bitter pith. I highly recommend buying one of these, but if you have a regular grater, that will also do!

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Strawberry Lime Iced Green Tea

strawberry lime mint iced green tea

There are times for over-the-top cakes, lovingly prepared salads with twelve ingredients, and cups of coffee brewed with exact precision.

But sometimes?

Sometimes you just need something simple.

strawberry lime iced green tea

And this strawberry lime iced tea is exceedingly simple. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it feels weekend-appropriate. I made this for a Saturday afternoon picnic with some friends, and it was just right.

Warm weather, sunshine, a beautiful park, and good friends. (I feel lucky to live in Northern California, which is currently 100% snow-free.)

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Cherry Crumble Muffins

cherry crumble muffins

Soft, sweet, almond-flavored muffins. Topped with a rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth crumble. Studded with fresh cherries, baked, soft, juicy.

These muffins are something special. They’re just decadent enough, without being too much for the morning. I’ve been trying out protein shakes for breakfast recently, and these muffins are a welcome break.

They would also make a beautiful Valentine’s Day breakfast.

fresh cherries, pitted

Just last week, I found myself with a bag of cherries to cook with and no clue what to do with them. I searched through so many recipes. I exhausted the possibilities of jams, sauces, and pies.

And finally, I settled on the one thing I found no cherry recipes for.

Muffins.

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White Chocolate Pomegranate Bark

white chocolate pomegranate bark with chia seeds and pistachios

This is a sweet, silky white chocolate bark studded with fresh pomegranate arils, dusted with ground pistachios for color and flavor, and sprinkled with chia seeds for extra crunch.

white chocolate pomegranate bark

It’s bright, sweet, and just a little tart. It is familiar but unexpected, a new twist on an old treat. It’s exactly the combination of flavors that I feel like I’ve been needing recently.

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Dipped + Crisp Peanut Butter Cookies

dipped + crisp peanut butter cookies | kitchen in the hills

Let’s talk cookies.

Big, cripsy peanut butter cookies. Semisweet chocolate. Sprinkles.

I’ll admit something— I was never big on peanut butter cookies.

The flavor was never appealing to me. The texture was a little too goopy for my taste— I would eat a soft cookie, but not a grease ball. Cafeteria cookies left me with bad memories, and homemade and bakery versions were never as good as I imagined them to be.

Leave it to Joy the Baker to convert me into a peanut-butter-cookie-lover. Every time I’m on Joy’s website, I want to make every single thing I see. And if I had time to, I would. The even better thing is that every recipe of hers I’ve tried has turned out perfect, often better-than-perfect. Unexpected flavor combinations turn out to be surprisingly satisfying. Techniques are nailed down with detailed descriptions. Proportions of flour, butter, and sugar are on the mark. I end up making recipes I never thought I’d want to try, and loving them.

In fact, these are Joy the Baker’s Dipped + Crisp Peanut Butter Cookies, turned GIANT and topped with sprinkles.

dipped + crisp peanut butter cookies | kitchen in the hills

This is a batch of warm peanut butter cookies, just out of the oven. They’ve been rolled in sugar, crosshatched with a fork, and baked until golden brown. They set into crispy, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Trust me, these are like no other peanut butter cookie you’ve had before.

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Homemade Pumpkin Butter

Homemade Pumpkin Butter | Kitchen in the Hills

It’s that time of year again. And I am one of those people that gets way too excited for the holidays.

I’ve been listening to Christmas music on Rdio, and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. I’ve started making mental lists of fun winter activities I want to do— the people I want to see, the places I want to visit. I’ve been looking out for the best winter store displays, and wearing flannel and sweaters like they’re going out of style. (This is odd, of course, because I live in Berkeley, California. The weather rarely drops below 55 this time of year.)

Homemade Pumpkin Butter | Kitchen in the Hills

But, of course, it’s too early for holiday cheer. Today we pull back. This is a recipe that feels appropriate in November— it’s a real fall treat. It’s something that you eat as the weather grows colder, but doesn’t quite work once Christmas and New Year roll around.

Unless, of course, you just love pumpkin that much. Nothing wrong with that.

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