It’s Citrus Fest at Central Market.  Our produce department is brimming with unique citrus: heirloom navel oranges, blood oranges, variegated pink lemons, honey tangerines, and Buddha’s hand are among a few.

In the bakery we are filling our case and shelves with stunning deep-dish key lime pies, lemon/lime/grapefruit tarts, tons of lemons bars (people are addicted to these things), and wonderful citrus sweet breads (my favorite is the clementine coffee cake).

In the midst of all this citrus madness, I got to take a class at Central Market taught by my all-time favorite pastry chef/blogger, David Lebovitz, all about incorporating citrus into desserts.  It was an amazing class, full of inspiration for citrus, pastry, and blogging.  The menu included: meyer lemon-buttermilk ice cream sandwiches with nonfat gingersnaps, spiced chocolate cakes with caramelized white chocolate (such a cool technique) and candied tangerines, goat cheese souffles with mixed citrus compote in sparkling champagne and yuzu jelly, and tangerine floating island with blood orange caramel.  Everything was superb, I can’t even pick a favorite.

It was the first time that I had tried a floating island and I was pleasantly surprised.  It was light yet flavorful and I particularly loved the blood orange caramel and candied salted almonds David used to garnish the meringue.  I definitely plan to make some floating islands very soon, but I really wanted to try those special garnishes again, especially when I could still get my hands on blood oranges.

Hopefully you run into some beautiful citrus this season!

Blood Orange Caramel

Makes 1 cup

Courtesy of David Lebovitz

Note:  The blood oranges lend their deep red color and tartness to traditional caramel.  If you can’t find blood oranges, regular oranges would work as well.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup blood orange juice plus 1/4 cup to finish

Spread the sugar in the bottom of a saute pan or saucepan with heavy bottom.  Pour the water over the sugar to moisten it.

Cook the sugar and water over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Add a few drops of the orange juice.

Continue to cook the sugar without stirring, until the mixture turns a light amber color.  Keep a constant eye on the caramel as it will cook very fast at this point.  When the caramel turns a dark amber color and begins to smoke and foam a bit, turn off the heat and immediately add the 1/2 cup of blood orange juice (preferably through a strainer if you have one).

Stir the caramel to dissolve any lumps of caramelized sugar and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.  Once it has cooled down, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of blood orange juice.  Let cool and then transfer to airtight container.  Serve over a meringue or ice cream…or just straight off the spoon.

Salted Candied Almonds

Makes 1 cup

Courtesy of David Lebovitz

Note:  In the class, Davide made these with sliced almonds, which was great, but I love the bite of a chunky almond so I used coarsely chopped almonds.  You decide which you prefer!

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 cup sliced or coarsely chopped almonds

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat the water with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar in a skillet.

Remove from heat and mix in the almonds until well-coated, then gently stir in the salt.

Spread the almonds on the baking sheet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the almonds are golden brown, 15-20 minutes.