Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ingredient: MARMALADE

Marmalade is a most decidedly British food. Which is a little strange when you realize that oranges don’t grow in Britain. So how did this chunky orange jam join scones and treacle as one of the quintessential English foods? The answer is a combination of Spaniards, scurvy, and seafaring.

The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese word marmelo which means quince. Ancient Greeks and Romans made marmalade by preserving quinces in honey. They found that when the fruit was cooked, it began to set up and gain a gelatin-like consistency. What they didn’t know is that this is the effect of fruit pectin, which makes jams and jellies so delightfully coherent yet wobbly. (In my opinion, all the best jams still rely solely on the fruit’s pectin and not artificial stabilizers.) As language and tastes evolved, any citrus fruit which was boiled with sugar and water became known as “marmelata.”

When did the British get in on the game? Probably as soon as they started making long sea voyages: marmalade was a good way for sailors to get vitamin C and prevent scurvy. Spain was already producing a popular marmalade made from their Seville oranges, which have a high level of fruit pectin. But who wants the truth? Legend has it that Henry the VIII received a box of “marmaladoo” (a hilarious spelling of their pronunciation of marmalado, and hopefully what we all call marmalade from now on) from a Mr. Hull of Exeter. Because it came in a box, the marmalade Henry VIII received was probably more like a quince paste, and let’s hope he ate it spread on some delicious Manchego cheese.

A competing legand comes from a man named James Keiller from Dundee, Scotland who claimed to have invented marmalade in 1797, despite the multiple accounts of marmalade’s existence for centuries prior. (My only guess can be that he was in Scotland, where news doesn’t travel fast.) To his credit, Dundee still makes very good marmalade from bitter Seville oranges, and frankly I don’t mind eating the food of the deluded so long as it’s good. Kenny Shopsin, case in point.

No matter how we got marmalade or who popularized it, I’m thankful, because I absolutely love the stuff. Hurrah for Marmaladoo!

Marmalade Bread

I was turned onto marmalade by this guy:

Meet Paddington Bear. Paddington Bear loved England, Getting into Trouble, and Marmalade. As a child, I liked two of those things.*

Really it should come as no surprise that I love, love, love marmalade. It’s jam with large chunks of fruit! I hate to name drop, but if you’re a marmalade novice, try Tiptree Tawny (thick cut) Marmalade. It’s my favorite traditional marmalade: slightly bitter with big pieces of peel and nothing in it but sugar and oranges. Less traditionally, Sarabeth’s makes a blood orange marmalade which tastes fresh and sweet-tart. It's divine on a toasted baguette.

Speaking of bread, I came to make this particular loaf because my next column for Serious Entertaining will be a menu for a Royal Wedding-watching party. Do you know what time we have to get up to watch the royal wedding here? 4 am. Yikes. So obviously I need to make a breakfast menu. The first two dishes I plan to make are my breakfast interpretations of the two wedding cakes: Fruitcake muffins for Kate, and whole wheat scones with chocolate glaze as a nod to Mcvities biscuits for Will.

But last night I began to wonder, what would my last offering be? What was another of my favorite British products?

Marmalade sprung to mind. I searched around for a recipe for marmalade bread but came up with precious few results. This recipe from Something the Dog Said was about the only recipe that came up on the internet, and luckily it also had the best photos backing it up. So I decided to give it a try despite its strange ingredient list. Whole wheat flour, salt and a whole lot of baking powder make the base. There is some milk but no eggs or butter or sugar.

On top of that, the recipe called for some homemade orange-honey-almost-marmalade mixture that takes an hour to make but I thought hell, if you’re going to call it marmalade bread, why not use real marmalade? And so I did, along with some honey to maintain that honey-wheat combination.

The result is a dense loaf with exactly that hearty, toasted honey-wheat flavor I hoped for. The marmalade perfumes the bread and despite my reservations about how much went into the loaf, it's actually incredibly subtle, with just the faintest hint of orange. The best bites are the ones in which you get a piece of orange peel and the marmalade flavor bursts through. (See exhibit A)

I've decided I like this bread cut into a thick slice and eaten plain with a cup of Earl Gray tea. But I also like it smeared with marmalade. Because if there is one rule on which I never waiver it's YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH JAM.


2 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold whole milk
1 cup thick cut marmalade, microwaved for 30 seconds to loosen it.
1 tablespoon honey


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, making sure to knock out any extra flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, marmalade, and honey.

Beat milk mixture into flour mixture until thick, about three minutes. The dough will be very, very thick. Use a spatula to help get it into the loaf pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for 55 minutes or until loaf is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.

Exhibit A: the flecks of orange

*I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I was never really into trouble.

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