Baking is home to me. Whenever there’s an air of disquiet I find myself covered in flour, mixing batter in bowls. I like the tactical nature of baking, sifting dough, shaping it with my hands. There’s something soothing and melodic about the alchemy of baking, how it allows you to create something from nothing. Cakes and cookies and pies have been my constant through the years, and I often feel there’s nothing that some time alone and a batter can’t cure. Well, almost. Hot ovens comfort me in a way that’s sometimes difficult to explain, and there’s nothing, at least for me, that replicates the feeling of putting on the mits, getting a blast of hot air on my skin as I unearth the next great object of devotion.
While I’ve taken a holiday this week, I’m experiencing a bit of personal frenzy. Amidst the wintering, I’m trying to find some space, some quiet, and although I feel the next few months will be challenging, I’m hopeful for the magic that lies on the other side. So today I spent the morning baking my heart out. Baking it out like song, like sermon.
And I couldn’t stop reading this passage from Alice Munro’s story collection, wondering if the reason why I cleave to it so has something to do with my current state of affairs. We’ll see, see, see:
It still seemed as if we could make our way out of the crowd, that in a moment we would be together. But just as certain that we would carry on in the way we were going. And so we did. No breathless cry, no hand on my shoulder when we reached the sidewalk. Just that flash, that I had seen in an instant, when one of his eyes opened wider. It was the left eye, always the left, as I remembered. And it always looked so strange, alert and wondering, as if some whole impossibility had occurred to him, one that almost made him laugh.
For the loaf
1 1/2 cup (150g) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp freshly-grated blood orange zest (you’ll need two large blood oranges for this recipe)
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 tbsp (30ml) blood orange juice
1/3 cup coconut milk
For the glaze
2 tbsp brand orange juice
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Spray a 9×5 inch with coconut oil cooking spray (feel free to butter the pan if you don’t mind dairy).
In a large bowl, rub the blood orange zest into the sugars with your fingertips. Not only does this release the grapefruit essence and some of the juice, you’ll find your sugar wonderfully damp and fragrant. Add the sugar mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in the oil until smooth, and then add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a second bowl. In another bowl, combine 2 tbsp blood orange juice and coconut milk, and whisk together until combined. Add the flour and the coconut milk mixtures, alternating between them, to the oil-and-sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
Spread the batter in the pan, smooth the top, and rap the pan on the counter to ensure there are no trapped air bubbles. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
For the glaze, whisk the sugar and juice until a thick glaze forms.
When the loaf is finished, let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting it onto a rack set over a tray or tin foil. Poke holes in loaf with a skewer or toothpick, then spoon or brush the 2 tbsp of reserve juice over the loaf. Let the loaf cool completely while it absorbs the syrup. Pour over the glaze once the bread has cooled. I couldn’t wait, as you can see, so I had a bit of a mess. But WHO CARES? It was still good.