Tag Archives: citrus

Citrus Walnut Sticky Rolls

I freely confess that I am a big fan of the Pillsbury orange sticky rolls that come in the cardboard tube at the grocery store.  As a kid we were not allowed junk food except a box of any cereal we wanted around our birthdays, Hostess ding dongs when we went sailing, and these orange sticky rolls around the holidays.


Ohh, naughty!

As an adult, naturally, I felt the wild rush of freedom and indulged myself frequently in these rolls and then felt quite guilty for consuming a product full of trans fats and who knows what else.

This weekend I deliberately did not book anything for Saturday so that I could have a rest day at home. I planned to knit and recreate my childhood favorite holiday treat but in a healthier fashion.  It worked for the most part but I learned an important lesson.

The recipe I concocted for the sweet roll dough was quite healthy, it is a yeast risen dough similar to that used for cinnamon rolls but instead of egg yolks and lashings of butter I used fruity olive oil from Lodi.

The dough rose in my giant Wovo salad bowl for 90 minutes while I watched scifi shows on Netflix, knitted a shawl and sipped lungo shots of espresso.

Olive oil dough rising
This is a 10 quart salad bowl, almost brimming over with yeast dough

For the filling I zested some citrus – oranges and a grapefruit – with a microplane grater and mixed this into sugar, then added some juice to make a slurry to spread over the dough.

Getting busy with a citrus sweet roll filling
my apartment smelled wonderful at this point

I used a few tablespoons of the fruit juice to make a paste, then sprinkled over walnuts from Sonoma County that I toasted in a skillet.

This filling was inspired by some random food show I saw where a diner chef made enormous sweet rolls well sanded with sugar and butter.  In trying to make these healthier I omitted the butter entirely.

I rolled out the dough to a large rectangle, applied the filling and then rolled up the dough on the long edge to form a log about 16″ long.   I cut the log into about 12 even pieces and filled up a buttered pyrex baker.

Citrus walnut sweet rolls rising
About halfway risen

You can see how generous the citrus-sugar filling was and there were plenty of walnuts to go around.  I think perhaps I should have put fewer rolls in the pan though.

I had too many to fit so I made up an extra pan in a tin pie plate.  Lagniappe for the chef!

Bonus pan of sweet rolls
Ready to rise before baking

My apartment was nice and warm on this very foggy, dark day, and after about 45 minutes the rolls were puffed and yeasty and looking pleasantly plump – ready for the oven.

After baking I made up a quick frosting with more of the citrus juice and powdered sugar.  Despite using almost a full box of confectioners sugar there was barely enough icing to cover the rolls in both pans.

There is never enough icing
browned to a toasty golden

The aroma from the oven was mouth-watering.  A whiff of orange with a hint of grapefruit, the sweet sugar icing melting in between the rolls, citrus sugar caramelizing the walnuts, the yeasty baked rolls with a tang of rich, fruity olive oil, they smelled just like Christmas in my childhood home.

The citrus sticky rolls were best eaten warm out right out of the oven, but truthfully I think they would be much improved with some melted butter in the filling.  The icing wasn’t quite what I wanted either, I need to tinker with that a bit I think.

Citrus walnut sweet rolls

So luscious

I won’t admit how quickly this pan of rolls disappeared and will firmly disavow any knowledge of my actions.  They needed to be reheated if you don’t eat them right away.  Despite the liberal buttering of the baking pan they were hard to remove because of the caramelized sugar on the bottom.  They were not as tender the next day either and this is where I think the butter is essential.

The recipe includes the addition of butter but you can omit as your conscience dictates.  They were really wonderful and toothsome as is, but next time I make them I will use butter.

Citrus Walnut Sticky Rolls recipe 


Under the Calamansi Tree

As a California girl I grew up with the ubiquitous citrus trees in the yard; everyone had citrus coming out of their ears in my neighborhood. Our lunch boxes were stuffed with giant naval oranges, every mom’s kitchen had bowls of lemons and limes everywhere that were deployed for sherbets, and every kid on my block would set up a lemonade and limeade stand in the driveway.  I used to lie under the orange tree when it bloomed to just inhale the sweet fragrance.   Mom used to paint orange or lemon leaves plucked from the trees with melted chocolate and then slowly peel off a perfect glossy leaf to make decorations for our summer cakes. One horrible year our rabbit almost killed our trees by nibbling away all the bark, almost girdling them. It was a close call but we caught him and put him back in his hutch with a branch of leaves as an apology for his ongoing confinement. You just can’t trust a rabbit.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

What we didn’t have, however, was a calamansi tree.  The Citrofortunella microcarpa, aka the Calamondin or calamansi is a tiny green/orange marble-shaped citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between an orange and a lime, and is most commonly used in Filipino cuisine.   I first got to try this charming citrus varietal during my working days at the Bank. My coworkers, who were Filipino, had weekly potlucks with lots of halved calamansi to squirt over our adobo and pancit and as a flavoring in desserts. This group loved to cook and loved to have parties and I was instantly smitten with their cuisine and their beloved calamansi lime.

I forgot about the rare calamansi until years later when I was at the Russian festival and one of the volunteers gave me a shot of a unique sour orange infused vodka. Served ice cold in tiny shot glasses the stuff was lethal and the guy explained that he found a tiny tree growing these strange round mini oranges in his back yard of his new home in Daly City.  They looked like oranges but were so tart and aromatic, so naturally he made vodka with them. What else? He didn’t know what they were called but I knew they looked familiar to me.  It was such a puzzle.

Fast forward again to a month ago when food blogger Gapultos of Burnt Lumpia. was touring his new Filipino cookbook, The Adobo Road. It was a wonderful event and the book is really exciting, a mix of traditional Filipino recipes with local California ingredients and a modern edge.  Of course Marvin’s delicious food was served and much to my delight decorating his noodles were a few halves of calamansi!


(you will want to buy this)

One taste and suddenly everything clicked. I remembered the fruit from the bank and from the vodka tasting booth and I think I might have shouted, “That’s it!!!”   I relayed this all to Marvin and we had a good chuckle.

I have been meaning to shop in the Mission and pick up a bag of calamansi so that I can cook some of Marvin’s recipes and also infuse some vodka of my own, but again, the thought slipped my mind. However, today, my coworker brought me a treat from her weekend visit home where her grandparents were visiting from the Philippines – she brought me a bag of calamansi!


I was so excited! I dashed to the kitchen immediately and sliced up a few to add to my ice water. The bright flavor really perked up the stuffy afternoon. We are going through a mild heat wave and the chilled citrus tang in cool water was a most welcome treat.

A chilly treat

When I got home I washed them and piled them in my favorite souffle pan, which doubles as my fruit bowl. Humming my version of the song from Dr. No I started perusing my other Filipino friends’ blogs for recipes using calamansi.

“Underneath the calamansi tree me honey and me can watch for the moon…..”

(apologies to Diana Coupland)

My coworker had suggested making a syrup from the calamansi or just squeezing the juice and freezing it.  This bowl of calamansi is especially ripe so I must work with them quickly and I plan to zest them with my microplane grater before juicing them.  One idea I bookmarked for the juice is a marinade with soy sauce and garlic for pork or beef.  Another popular use is squeezed over fried or grilled fish.  This made me think about the delicious shrimp poke I had over the weekend with D___, wouldn’t a shrimp cervice with calamansi be delicious?  I am working on a recipe for this.

I came across Jun’s calamansi whiskey sour.  I just happened to have everything required and it was perfect (thanks Jun!) way to relax while I read a mound of cookbooks for inspiration.


While I was relaxing a friend called and we decided to go out to a movie that started in 23 minutes at the theater down the street.   Hurriedly I made up a rather large batch of calamansi whiskey sours and strained it into a canteen, then filled up a baggie with ice cubes and added some plastic cups and shoved my illicit cocktail party into my capacious handbag. There is a reason ladies carry large handbags and sometimes my handbag is the happiest place on earth!

Dayum. Calamansi rye sour.

During the movie I poured out the heady cocktail into ice filled cups, filling our row with a heavenly scent of citrus, rye and honey. We sipped them slowly and enjoyed watching a very handsome Superman; it is truly a most civilized way to see a movie!

Tonight I will marinate an orphaned pork chop from 4505 Meats with soy and garlic and broil, and add some some sauteed baby bok choy and steamed brown rice to complete my dinner.  While this cooks I will zest and juice the remaining bowl of calamansi to be stashed in my freezer.  The rinds will go into a rather large bottle of vodka to infuse it with the sweet tang of the fruit.   A few weeks from now I will have a rather lovely bottle of infused vodka to drink over ice with splash of bubbly water or in an elegant version of a “calamansi” drop.

If you ever see calamansi in your shop or see a tree at your garden center I highly recommend you scoop them up.

Comforting Myself with Citrus

a bowl of love

Sundays are supposed to be cozy, comfort-filled days with family rituals and a wonderful meal with everyone at the table.

As a kid, I remember occasionally going over to my grandparents for dinner. Grandpa was a jolly fellow with a huge sweet-tooth and Granny was a bit fearsome, but under that facade she was warm, loving and a whiz bang in the kitchen. She was an amazing fiber artist too, knitting, crochet, embroidery, crewel and who knows what else. I have fond albeit vague memories of sitting at her feet holding skeins of yarn away from her mischievous Burmese kitty and Granny wound yarn and taught me these gentle arts. I wish I had the pleasure of learning how to cook with her, that was something she and my mUm did together. They would laugh and chat and finish each others sentences, just like mUm and me in the kitchen fast-forwarded four decades later. mUm was lucky to have such a great relationship with her mother-in-law, and I feel lucky to have a few treasured family recipes from Granny that I can recreate in my own kitchen.

Granny made many amazing and delicious desserts that are my favorites, recipes she made to keep Grandpa and his sweet-tooth happy.

During this time of year the markets and neighbors trees are exploding with citrus of all types. Well, not in my neighborhood of course, but many of my friends neighborhoods. The largess sometimes lands in my lap, and I joyously accept all contributions, especially Meyer lemons. I have also been long on the hunt for yuzu, a Japanese citrus kind of a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit. They aren’t pretty fruit, or at least not the yuzu I found at my local Japanese market. The fruit are the size of clementines but yellower with pebbly, deeply pored, extremely aromatic rinds.

I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but I have been missing my family a great deal this week and feeling a bit indigo in mood, so I pulled out my ancient box of recipe cards and found Granny’s recipe for lemon cake pudding. I supplemented the yuzu with some Meyer lemons from a friend’s tree. What better way to comfort myself on a solitary Sunday with a wonderful dessert and one that was my childhood favorites.

It seems very fitting that the bowl I use to bake this pudding was one of Granny’s; the medium size of the nested Corningware mixing bowls. This pudding is easy to put together and is baked in a buttered bowl set into a larger pan of hot water. The finished pudding has a tender lemon cake atop a lovely, thick, warm lake of lemony pudding. I am staring at the oven right now willing it to bake faster!

First I zested the yuzu and really enjoyed the way my whole apartment was filled with the flowering scent of citrus. And my hands smell divine too. I also started the tea kettle because all the citrus really put me in the mood for a cup of green tea with citrus, a gift from a lovely lady at the NASFT Fancy Food Show.

Zesting the yuzu and lemon

After zesting the yuzu, I cut it open and was surprised to see how little pulp and the abundance of seeds. I juiced my four fruits anyway, which yielded a scant tablespoon of  juice. Fortunately I had a half of a Meyer lemon to fulfill the 1/4 cup of juice needed for the pudding.

Juicing the yuzu
(super seedy fruit)

I measured out the milk into the measuring cup with the zest, and measured out the flour, sugar and salt into a little sieve set over a small bowl.

Measuring out the dry stuff

Then, I separated the eggs and beat up the yolks to an appropriate lemon yellow color. They got mixed into the milk along with the lemon juice. The flour mixture was added next and this thin batter was mixed until smooth.

egg yolk collage
(yolks, before and after)

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Quickly, I beat up the egg whites, and then poured in the batter, and with a few folds with a spatula the batter was ready for its buttered bowl.

white collagefolding in the batter and the egg whites
(it doesn’t look very nice at this point, but a few quick folds with the spatula and
the batter becomes nice and smooth – but barely mixed)

The bowl was sitting in an ancient metal roasting pan, a Foley pan from my other grandmother actually. I poured super hot water from my tap into the metal pan and popped the whole assembly into the oven.

Finished batter in a buttered bowl, set in a bain marie

Finished Yuzu Lemon Cake PuddingDetail of Granny's Bowl
(Granny’s bowl, does anyone else have this set?)

a bowl of love

A word about these pictures, this is a homey, homely dessert. It does not photograph well, but it tastes fantastic!

I dug in after it cooled off a bit.  I could really taste the yuzu in this, despite the juice being primarily lemon.  Just so homey and wonderful.  I miss my Granny, but making her recipes help me miss her less.  And I can’t wait to call my mUm and sister and tell them what I’ve baked tonight!  Envy will ensue, I guarantee. heh heh…

Lemon Cake Pudding

My mUm’s comments:

If you are looking for some different way to use lemons – here is the fabulous recipe of Granny’s:

¼ c. sifted flour
1 c. Sugar
¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ or 2 T grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
¼ c. lemon Juice (exact)
2 Egg yolks (well beaten)
1 c. milk

2 egg whites (beat until stiff, not dry)

Sift flour before measuring. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat egg yolks, with a whisk, until lemon yellow. Whisk in milk,
lemon zest and lemon juice and when well blended. Mix the milk, etc. into flour and mix until well blended. Fold in the beaten egg whites just until blended. Pour into buttered heat-proof bowl. Place bowl in pan of hot water in 350 F oven. Bake for ~30 minutes. Cake will rise to top of bowl with a brown top and will draw away from the sides of the bowl, slightly.

Cool. Can be served in shallow bowls with the extra “sauce” over the top.  Does not have to be cold.  A word about the name – its really more of a pudding than a cake. Very, very light.


Note: I often leave the pan of hot water (or bain marie) in the oven overnight to let it cool because it can be a bit tricky to pick up a sloshing, steaming pan of water and transport it in my tiny kitchen, ever mindful of the cat who stealthily flops behind my feet at every opportunity.  Also, I love my silicon hot pads because when I use fabric ones to lift the bowl out of the hot water I inevitably dip them in the hot water and that’s messy.  Plus wet hot pads do not protect your hands.  A bonus is that the silicon pads come in such citrusy colors!

But tonight I braved maneuvering the bain marie out of there because I wanted to roast off a butternut squash while the oven was hot (an energy-economy measure to bake multiple things while the oven is on).  I split it in half, put it on a foiled tray, tossed some butter into the cavity and a sprinkle of Turkish barbecue spice, and a final drizzle of maple syrup.  So my comfort dinner tonight is dessert first, followed by squash. And wine…. Pure bliss…

Hope you have a lovely cozy Sunday night too.