I know a lot of people who talk about eating oranges in the winter to get a little taste of the sun during the long, grey days but sometimes, I think, it is important to remember how wonderful oranges are for a light dessert in the summer. Citrus hits all the right notes for a dessert on a scorching hot day—subtly sweet, just a punch of tang, gushing in the mouth. Yesterday, while we were Canada’s hot spot, and especially humid, my French Beloved and I completed our dinner with the results of my Orange Float kitchen tests. The trials took longer than expected but the final product pleased me not only in taste but managed to produce a small miracle. The Beloved doesn’t usually care for fruit desserts but pronounced it especially good and just right for the kind of sweltering weather. ‘Very light yet full of flavour,’ I think he said.
I have spent more time on this recipe than others because there really seemed to be a snag in the instructions. The sauce repeatedly didn’t turn out the way I believed it should. It called for four—yes, four—tablespoons of cornstarch. In my past experience that usually points to a sauce with at least some thickness. Yet, test after test seemed to squelch that notion if I tried following the instructions just as printed. I had to take matters into my own hands.
I googled the main ingredients and almost immediately came up with a lemon sauce recipe. Of course the quantities were different but it was the steps I was interested in. I took the same ingredients—sugar, water, cornstarch, lemon juice and pulp–and ended up with a very different creature. The original recipe calls for the sugar, water and lemon to be brought to a boil, corn starch added and then the whole thing boiled for fifteen minutes. Based on the tests, this just wasn’t going to happen. The outcome always resulted in a sauce that begged the question ‘Why bother adding cornstarch’ since it was so thin. I took the new googled recipe and used it as the basis. I took the same quantities but used their procedure rather than the original. The cornstarch and sugar were mixed together, the boiling water added to it, the mix gently brought to a boil and then the lemon and lemon pulp mixed in. It took less time than the original, too. The result was thicker and tangier.
Since I am going to quibble, in this recipe, with methods, I will also quibble with quantities. I don’t know how big Victorian oranges were but, if you supreme the oranges like I did, the four or five suggested isn’t enough. Eight or nine seems to be the better choice if you are using the Valencia oranges I used. I suppose it might be accurate for navel oranges but the juicy Valencias are smaller.
I can’t say for sure if I totally changed the dessert as it would have been eaten by the Victorians but the recipe provided the basis for one smashing dessert that I am bound to make many times in the future.
ORANGE FLOAT.– Original recipe
To make orange float, take one quart of water, the juice and pulp of two lemons, one coffeecupful of sugar. When boiling hot, add four tablespoonfuls of cornstarch. Let it boil fifteen minutes, stirring all the time. When cold, pour it over four or five oranges that have been sliced into a glass dish and over the top spread the beaten whites of three eggs, sweetened and flavored with vanilla. A nice dessert.
ORANGE FLOAT–based on original recipe
8-9 Valencia oranges
1 scant cup of white sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
4 cups water
3 eggs whites
6 tablespoon white sugar
¾ tsp vanilla flavouring
1) Supreme the oranges—cut off the ends of the oranges right into the pulp. Cut off the peel, pith and outer membrane of the entire orange. You will see sections of orange. Slice your knife beside the membrane sections and pull out just the slice of inner flesh. You can see it pictorially here at Baking Bites.
2) Set aside supremed orange sections in a glass or ceramic container along with the juice from the cutting board. Put in the fridge to chill until needed.
3) Supreme the 2 lemons. Squish out a lot of the lemon juice from the sections into a glass or ceramic container but leave the pulp in the juice after squeezing. It will go into the sauce as well. Set aside.
4) Put sugar and cornstarch into sauce pan. Stir until completely blended.
5) Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a kettle. With kettle in one hand and spoon in the other, mix the hot water slowly into the sugar mix until all the water is in the sauce pan and the sugar and cornstarch are completely dissolved. Place sauce pan on stove element
6) Put stove on medium heat and stir the liquid constantly. Gradually the liquid will thicken and then start to come to a boil, about 8 minutes.
7) As soon as the liquid begins to boil, add the lemon pulp and juice. Turn down the heat to low. Mix the liquid until completely blended.
8) Take sauce off the stove. Set aside and allow to cool. When cool enough, place sauce in the fridge until needed.
9) Place egg whites into a metal bowl that has been completely washed of any fat or grease spots (a lemon juice wash helps). Begin to beat eggs until they start to froth thickly. Add one tablespoon of sugar and continue beating. Continue in this fashion until all the sugar is used up and the egg whites have at least reached the soft peak stage. Add vanilla and continue to beat for another minute.
10) Set oven on low broil.
11) If you are making individual bowls or glasses of the dessert, place parchment paper on a baking sheet and draw around the circumference of the bowl/glass on the paper with a pencil. Your meringues should be placed within those circles to fit the bowl/glass properly. If you are using a large container, you can do the same with the larger container on the parchment paper.
12) Place small piles of meringue within the drawn circles on the parchment paper.
13) Place baking sheet with meringues on a middle rack under the low broiler for 3 minutes, or until lightly toasted golden-brown.
14) You can use the meringue at this stage or you can take out the meringues, turn the oven to 185 degrees and let them gently bake for about a half hour or until firmer.
15) To put together as if in bowls or dessert glasses– place about 12 to 15 pieces of orange in the dessert cup, pour sauce over top orange sections, top with meringue cap.