Oranges and the "Holidays" have always gone hand in hand for me. There is something about the smell of the citrus, the burst of essence inhaled as I peel open a naval orange and shove my thumbs into the center of the fruit to pull apart the sections one by one, biting into them, and savoring the sweet/tart juice. I always hoped that Santa brought me the big fat orange instead of the shiny red delicious apple or the dull green pear. Santa always put fruit in the toe of each of our stockings back then. It was a welcome tradition to reach into the long, knit sock to pull out the fresh fruit, my fingers already knowing by touch which one I would get.
Around the time I was ten years old, at Girl Scout meetings, we crafted hand made gifts to give to our parents. (Now everyone calls them DIY and puts photos of their accomplishments on Pinterest.) We sang Christmas carols and drank Hawaiian Punch as we labored over studding every inch of an orange with whole cloves and wrapping it with a strand of green velvet ribbon that was pinned into place so that the lucky recipient could hang the old fashioned air freshener in his or her closet.
A few years ago, I transformed my mother's Christmas Braid Bread recipe by substituting candied orange peel and chocolate chips for the chopped mixture of candied fruit and raisins that the recipe normally calls for. I always plucked out the red, green and yellow fruit "candy" leaving behind only the raisins which drove Val mad, that candied fruit was not cheap! But the sweet dough, is a perfect vehicle for the two flavors that I always associate with Christmas and December: chocolate and oranges. I crave the contrast of intense flavor of the dark chocolate with the brightness of orange and the combination feels to me like cause to celebrate no matter what day or season.
Perhaps for the reason of needing something, anything, to celebrate during the ridiculously long winter of 2014-2015, I resorted to dehydrating all sorts of citrus and other fruits and then decorating them with melted chocolate and an assortment of other items such as sea salt, etc. This resulted in an excellent way to use up the oranges and other fruits that my children refused to eat and left to slowly dry out on the kitchen counter. This drives me insane, the wasting of fruit (and food, in general), so I confiscated just about all of it, sliced it thin with my sharpest knife and put it all in the food dehydrator that I often forget I own until I pull it out and begin again to dry everything I can find until the project becomes dull again. Regardless, the result is chewy intense, sweet/bitter orange slathered in a coat of dark chocolate. The perfect snack for on the go and packaged into a small cello bag and tied with a ribbon, makes for an excellent hostess gift. Also, to my delight, I've just recently discovered, they are an excellent accompaniment to a chilled glass of Chardonnay. Next, I'm looking forward to trying them with Champagne, because of course, everything goes well with bubbly. Cheers!
For my variation on Val's Christmas Braid Bread see:
http://www.valscapecodkitchen.com/ News: Fruits of Christmas Past, December 2012
For other great ideas for things to dip in chocolate: