Pomander: Clove-Studded Oranges (+ a simple plum crisp)

I had forgotten all about these, how they could smell so good and hang so prettily in my kitchen.  My friend Anna suggested them as stress relief, and if sticking pointy cloves into an orange isn’t good enough, the smell will make you melt, literally, into a holiday state of mind where peace, joy, and all good things reside.  I also made a plum crisp with a mixture of almond nut pulp and other delicious things on top.  You could make a traditional crisp topping, like the ones here, here, or here instead, but I do recommend planning some sort of holiday baking after making a clove-studded orange, because, well, you’ll see.

The clove-studded orange smelled so good that I couldn’t wait for the plum crisp to come out of the oven and I was forced to make some spiced chai tea.  How does one make spiced chai tea?  Start by boiling water in the volume of 2/3 of the amount of tea you want to make (the other 1/3 will be milk).  Use a mortar and pestle to crush a couple cardamom pods and whole cloves.  Add a cinnamon stick (or a dash of ground cinnamon) and some slices of fresh ginger (or again, ground ginger) to soon-to-be-boiling water, along with the cardamom and cloves.  When the water has boiled with the spices for a few minutes, add a couple bags of black tea and simmer until the tea is done.  Add milk to the pot and bring almost to a simmer.  Fish out the tea bags at any point.  Drink piping hot, perhaps with a spoonful of sugar and a tea biscuit (slightly sugary and buttery cracker) on the side.

Plum Crisp with Almond Nut Pulp
(bake in a regular-sized bread loaf pan)
For the filling:
5-6 plums (mine were small and not very delicious raw, luckily that changed when they were cooked) sliced into ~1/4 inch thick slices
1 tablespoon port or other such tasty alcoholic beverage
1/4 cups raisins, or to taste
1/2 lime worth of fresh lime juice
Dash of salt
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1/4 tablespoon of butter or a couple small pats of butter for the top of the fruit

For the crisp topping:
1 cup of almond nut pulp from making almond milk, or 1 cup almond meal/flour
1 heaping tablespoon of virgin coconut oil or butter
1/2 tablespoon port or other such tasty alcoholic beverage
2 teaspoons honey (I like my desserts not too sweet)
Dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a regular-sized glass loaf pan, or similarly sized baking dish.  Layer the plums in the dish and sprinkle them with the port, lime juice, nutmeg, salt, raisins, and a couple small pats of butter.  For the topping, mix together the ingredients in a small bowl (almond nut pulp, port, honey, salt, and coconut oil).  If using coconut oil in the topping recipe, scoop a heaping tablespoon from the jar while the oil is still solid (I realize that sounds like a contradiction, since oils are usually liquid at room temperature), which should be the case normally unless you live in the tropics or keep your house unnaturally hot during the winter.  If you set the heaping tablespoon of coconut oil on top of the other topping ingredients in a very warm place, such as on top of your preheating oven, or in the microwave (we actually don’t have one of those nifty things… not enough counter space in our kitchen), the oil will melt at 76 degrees F at which point you can stir it in with the other topping ingredients.  Simply spoon the topping over the fruit and bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until there is delicious fruit syrup in the bottom of the pan and the topping is starting to brown.

Perhaps you are wondering why I use coconut oil in this recipe?  Well, it was on sale at the Co-op  and I had been meaning to try it for a while.  The unrefined version I bought has a delicate coconut flavor that almost goes away when it’s been cooked.  As such, it is absolutely perfect in baked goods where you don’t mind a bit of extra flavor.  I’m sure that butter would make a fine substitute in the above crisp topping.

Now, on to the fun part: sticking cloves into oranges.  Step 1: find an orange.  Step 2: find some cloves (or use up the old ones that have been in your cupboard forever).  Step 3: find a ribbon and tie the orange up like a present.  Step 4: use your fingers or a thimble to poke the cloves into the orange in a nice pattern.  Step 5: bake some holiday yum yum yum.  You’re done!

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