WHO DOESN’T like a good holiday miracle? That is what I ask of you. Well, fellow holiday miracle fans, I have happened upon the holiday miracle to end all holiday miracles. Look at what I have done to a pile of once-unassuming and humble oranges:
I have transformed them into cherry and frangelico-striped oranges. VOILA, HOLIDAY MIRACLE.
I could keep my methods a secret and I could claim my magical act of orange transformation was achieved through the powers of alchemy, but instead I will err on the side of honesty and admit that I learned it from a book. Specificially, I learned it from Jellies and the Moulds, by Peter Brears, which I purchased at the British LIbrary bookshop and which has proven to be the single most important book purchase that I have made since I upgraded to a new copy of Harriet the Spy. Brears is a food historian, so this is not just a recipe book, but is really a social history of jellies in the UK, from the middle ages (MEDIEVAL JELLIES! My eyes have been opened to a new and slightly revolting world) to the 20th century. I have learned so many things from this book: disgusting things about boiling calfs feet until they became gelatin; fascinating things about flummeries, which are soft gelatins made by boiling gultinous stuff like wheat and rice down and extracting the goo; the use of gelatin as a food for sick people, which was useless as it has basically no nutritional value; and about the manufacture of moulds, which grew more and more elaborate and fussy through the 19th Century.
The stripey oranges are called Oranges a la Bellevue, and the recipe dates from the British Regency period, although, according to Brears, it enjoyed popularity well into the Victorian era. I don’t know a whole lot about the Regency period, but from what I’ve seen (ie: fancy jelly recipes and the Brighton Pavilion) I have to say that I really appreciate the spirit of utter idiotic frivolity that characterizes the Regency-era approaches to both decorative arts and cuisine.
Anyhow! Here is how I made my Oranges a la Bellevue. The original recipe calls for the jellies to be orange and almond-flavored, but I opted for cherries and booze because I can’t leave well enough alone. The results were delicious! One warning: I am impatient and tried to rush the setting period for the jelly layers by popping them in the freezer. This resulted in some expansion and contraction of the layers, so they weren’t as perfect as they could have been, and they shrank a bit once they’d thawed. If and when I do this again, I will put on my patience pants and just wait for things to set at refrigerator temperature so that the oranges are prettier. Also, I used regular gelatin, but I think this recipe would be an excellent candidate for using agar agar to do a veggie-friendly version. Agar agar sets a bit firmer and crunchier than gelatin, which I think would work well for slicing and presentation here.
On with the oranges! Click an image to enlarge and to show recipe steps.