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Hi!

Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the sagas found here!

Orange Chocolate Almond Bread with a Blood Orange Glaze

Orange Chocolate Almond Bread with a Blood Orange Glaze

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For most of my childhood, I wasn't really into citrus. I didn't drink orange juice every morning--or any morning for that matter. I had no interest in eating those Cuties mini-oranges that some kids ate by the crate, and at the snack table at any sort of after-school/church function, I'd bypass the orange slices and head straight towards the Chex Mix/Goldfish/popcorn/Oreos/bowl of candy. 

Even now, the most common phrase you'll hear come out of my mouth regarding citrus is: "Oranges make me drool. No, really, they activate my salivary glands." And I say this as a warning to all who read this and come in contact with me around an orange, because it's true. I can vividly remember riding on a bus to a lacrosse game as a sophomore in high school. I leaned over the seat in front of me to talk to my friend, only to realize she was snacking on an orange. I then proceeded to accidentally drool on the back of her head, much to both of our dismay. I'd like to say that is the only scenario where a situation like this occurred, but that would be a dirty-rotten lie. I can hack away at onions with no reaction 99% of the time, but peel a single orange anywhere in my vicinity and suddenly I turn into a Newfoundland dog on a summer day. (Hot, I know). (Also, I'm clearly exaggerating, before anyone goes and gets any ideas that I'm a rabid animal of a woman). 

Now that I've got you visualizing that very attractive image, I would like to say that in the past few years, I have made great strides in regards to citrus. And that is all thanks to the semester I spent living in Florence.

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From my experience, Italians snack in a very different way than Americans do. For one thing, there is much better access to fresh, local, better quality ingredients than there is in a lot of places in the United States. For another, food is thought of in a more purposeful and reverent mindset. And finally, there's an entirely different attitude towards the idea of "grocery shopping" and "meal prepping" and cooking in general.

Grazia, the Italian nonna in whose house I lived, went "grocery shopping" almost every single day. I say that with quotation marks because it was nothing like grocery shopping in the United States. The grocery stores in Italy are quite a bit smaller, and are filled with quite a bit less processed, bagged, and boxed food and quite a bit more fresh food. There were also many more stands on the side of the street and outdoor markets selling fresh produce and eggs than you see in America. Rather than going out to an enormous supermarket and loading up ginormous shopping carts with bag after box after carton, popping it in the car and lugging it all home, and then proceeding to meal prep and cook from these supplies for the next week, Grazia seemed to shop for pretty much for that day only. In the morning, she took the handle of her little bag on wheels and rolled it either down the street to the little store or to the farmers market, filling it with fresh ingredients before rolling it on home and getting to work making lunch and dinner for that day.

There were two things that she got almost every time: unshelled peanuts and clementines. This is because the two other study abroad girls I lived with--Nicole and Carolina--and I ate our way through them in lightning speed, having them for both snacks and dessert. Grazia was always very excited to report that she had bought fresh clementines or more peanuts (which she called simply "American nuts") that day, gesturing towards the little basket that she kept them both in.

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I come from a family of snackers. In opposition, my Dad and I are more of "eat a big meal and then dessert, and then wait for the next meal" type people, although with my lack of self control around food, if there's a snack table than by all means do I help myself. It was therefore a bit of an adjustment when I moved to Italy, where the meals are spaced out quite a bit. Dinner wouldn't start sometimes until 8 or later at night, which was a long time after lunch, especially when coupled with the fact that I walked absolutely everywhere in Firenze and therefore burned a lot more calories in a day. 

The only "snack" foods that Grazia had were those fresh clementines and peanuts. It became a habit to walk home from school and have a late afternoon snack of a handful of peanuts and a clementine while I watched Modern Family and worked on some homework before dinner. And thus, my lifetime of avoiding citrus ended with one delicious clementine peeled after another in second-floor apartment in the city of Florence.

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I now proudly say to you that I love citrus. I regard orange juice as a treat, and have a bag of cara cara oranges in my fridge even now. And while oranges will always activate my salivary glands, I am pleased to report that I haven't drooled on my friends in years. 

In case you haven't noticed by all the oranges and grapefruits on your Instagram feed, it's winter citrus season. In honor of this, I've developed a recipe for a sugary "breakfast" bread, Orange Chocolate Almond Bread with a Blood Orange Glaze. Keep in mind, this bread is for breakfast the same way that pumpkin chocolate chip bread is for breakfast, or chocolate chip pancakes, or waffles slathered with syrup and whipped cream. It is not healthy, or nutritious. It's a dessert disguised as a breakfast food. But it is also full-on delicious, and I've enjoyed a slice for breakfast for the past week straight.

A couple of quick tips for this recipe: 

1. Don't over-mix the bread batter. You don't want scrambled eggs showing up in your sugary bread--that's a little too much breakfast for this "breakfast" recipe.

2. Make sure the bread has cooled completely (or at the very least, almost completely) before you frost it with the glaze, otherwise the glaze will melt off of the bread before it has a chance to set and, you know, glaze it.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! The blood orange glaze rocked my world, I loved the mixture of sweet and tart. And as always, if you have any questions or if you make this recipe and want to share, feel free to reach out to me in the comments, on social, or by email!

Happy winter citrus season!

xoxo Alexa

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Orange Chocolate Almond Bread with a Blood Orange Glaze


Makes: 2 small (8"x4") loaves

Takes: 1 hour & 15 minutes

The Characters:

For the orange bread:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. orange zest (1 orange)
  • 1 & 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the blood orange glaze:

  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

The Saga:

For the orange bread:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ยฐ.
  2. Grease bottom and sides of two 8"x4" bread pans.
  3. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a bowl with a hand mixer.
  4.  Add vanilla, eggs, and milk. Mix until incorporated.
  5. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Mix for a few seconds, just until ingredients are stirred in.
  6. Add 1 cup of the flour and the orange juice, and mix together slowly. Add the last 3/4 cup flour and mix until batter inc completely smooth.
  7. Stir in almonds and chocolate chips with a spoon.
  8. Divide batter evenly between the bread pans, filling them halfway.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each loaf comes out clean.
  10. Let loaves cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool completely. 

For the blood orange glaze:

  1. Add vanilla, milk, and orange juice to a bowl.
  2. With a whisk or a spoon and some arm muscles, begin mixing slowly, gradually adding the powdered sugar. Mix until the glaze is smooth and all sugar is incorporated.
  3. Immediately pour the glaze over each loaf of bread (or a cookie, or whatever you're using this recipe for) and let harden. 

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