Citrus in the spotlight

The rest of the country is probably digging out shorts and sandals. But here in the Northeast, that happy ritual is still some distance away. Around here we’ve had it with all the layers, slush, mud, and the pile of boots in the entryway.

But there’s ready therapy in the produce aisle: citrus.

Colorful packages of last summer’s sunshine, the perfume and zing of citrus do great things for baking. Citrus species cross and hybridize quite readily, which has led to a broad range of shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors. From tiny kumquats (a symbol of good luck in China) to the squiggly and aromatic Buddha’s hand citron, the world of citrus is a lot bigger than that slice of lemon in your tea.

It’s time to queue up your Abbey Road album, crank up Here Comes the Sun, and choose which citrus flavor you’ll bake with to cheer up the house.

sift_orange-groveSun’s up. What’s for breakfast?

lemon-zephy-pancakesWhy not branch out from your comfy pancake recipe, and try some Lemon Zephyr Pancakes?

These delicious cakes offer a hint of lemon on the first bite, and the texture is light as a breeze. They’re especially lovely with some strawberry-rhubarb or raspberry syrup.

orange-sunshine-coffeecakeLittle darlin’, it’s been a long, cold lonely winter… But the vernal equinox happened a couple of weeks ago, and it’s time to celebrate with this Orange Sunshine Coffeecake. For some of our employees, it’s become an Easter tradition; but we think it suits springtime in all its forms.

vegan-clementine-cupcakesBefore they disappear from the produce aisle, grab some clementines and make these light, tender beauties. Vegan Clementine Cupcakes sit squarely between cupcake and muffin territory. Add some dried fruit for a morning snack, or use the frosting for “company’s coming” occasions.

lemon-meringue-barsIf you dream of lemon meringue but dread dealing with pie crust, give these Lemon Meringue Bars a try. The base is a buttery shortbread that’s simple to do; and the filling and meringue topping will remind you for all the world of a summer picnic on the porch.

lime-rollout-cookiesLime Rollout Cookies are cookies for grownups: simple, tart and sweet. Sunhat and flowing dress on, pinkies up!

There’s no better antidote when waking up from winter than the clean, pure tang of citrus.

What’s your favorite lemon/lime/orange/grapefruit/clementine/kumquat(!) treat? Please share in comments, below.

Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.


  1. "black angus"

    Here’s a question. Are citrus flavours interchangeable? By this I mean can I make a lime meringue pie instead of lemon? I ask because I tried and it looked perfect and then got bumped in the car during transport and became lime meringue soup! I’ve never seen anything like it! hahahahahaha Good thing my guinea pigs at work had spoons!
    Soooo, before I try again, I want to know if it’s me or chemistry!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      In many cases, yes and others, no. It really depends on what you are making. Since the citrus is the main ingredient and flavor in this pie, we would recommend finding a lime meringue pie recipe for best results. Meringue soup is probably pretty tasty but not exactly what you were after! There may have been an additional issue with technique here. Elisabeth@KAF

  2. jcornwell

    Key lime cheesecake is my favorite and my poison. It’s a high cheesecake on a cookie crust with a lemon-lime baked sour cream topping. The cheesecake isn’t heavy and the key lime taste has the right amount of tang. I wheedled the cheesecake recipe from a friend of a friend and started experimenting until I came up with my version. When the snow melts away from these Rocky Mountains, I’ll get some key limes and start baking. My cheesecake pan has been lonely too long. It’s been a long time since the Ginger Pumpkin cheesecake I made for Thanksgiving.

  3. Kalisa

    I used my little bottle of Fiori di Sicilia for the first time and it was great! I used it in the KAF strawberries and cream scones and it was great. Citrus is so bright and wonderful for all kinds of baking and cooking.

    My favorite savory use of citrus is with roasted chicken. Butter and herbs under the skin, lemon juice all over, then throw the used lemons in the chicken’s cavity for extra aromatic action!

  4. EL

    The recipes above are great, but they are all sweet. While I love sweets, I try to avoid making too many of them. Citrus also works its magic without sugar. I challenge you folks at King Arthur’s to give us a second post focusing on savory recipes. Those of us that try to limit our sugar will thank you!

    In particular, I remember a lemon-sage bread that a bakery in Casper made when I lived there. It may have been lightly sweetened, but not so much that it was desserty (I would have preferred no sugar though). It was great for tomato sandwiches. It was also great toasted with butter and blackberry jam. I bet that lemon or orange biscuits would also be good, made without sugar. I’m sure you can come up with more.

    I sure would love to get my hands on that bread recipe though (since I don’t live in Casper anymore). The only recipe that I’ve seen to compare with it is a lemon-barley bread which I haven’t had time to make yet.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      I like the sound of your lemon-sage bread very much; both of those flavors can be very bitter without a teeny bit of sugar for balance, though. Do recall if the sage was fresh or ground? I’m more than willing to have a go at that kind of flavor combination in a savory bread. Susan

  5. EL

    Yes, the recipes above are great, but citrus is wonderful in savory dishes as well (and not just fish). Perhaps you could do another post that focuses on that aspect. In particular, one bakery where I lived made a lemon sage yeast bread (not sweet though). This bread made the best tomato sandwiches, but also toasted up well with butter and blackberry jam. I have only been able to find one recipe for unsweetened lemon bread — a lemon barley bread which I haven’t had a chance to try yet.

    I bet lemon biscuits would also be great. Lime and even oranges also can shine without sugar. Please consider doing this.


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