To tell the truth, I hesitated. I've made kumquat marmalade in years past, but my refrigerator is still full of last year's fig jam, December's cranberry sauce, and last week's experiment with some loquats. Past marmalade, I've never found a way to use kumquats in quantity. And flicking out all those little pits - well, it can drive a woman to madness. I can get my kids to chop figs in the summer, but there's no way I'd be able to convince them to tackle seeding kumquats on a school night.
And then: "Sure," I heard myself saying. "I'd love some." Because, after all, it's still free fruit, right? Can't turn down free backyard fruit. I'm sure turning down homegrown fruit is against all kinds of laws in southern California. Michael dutifully, if not exactly cheerfully, walked down the street to pick up the kumquats from Sue's front porch. He's no fan of the kumquat.
It took half an hour to take the fruit off the branches Michael brought back. (And another half hour to get the tree dirt out from under my fingernails.) Three quarts of kumquats stared back at me from the colander. You want to bake something, said the kumquats. We would be so delicious, so fragrant, in a nice tea bread! Don't boil us in hot sugar syrup like last time. That hurt. And no one likes kumquat marmalade around here except you.
And so it was. I found a recipe for kumquat bread, tinkered with it a bit, and turned out two loaves that made the whole house smell like orange blossoms. The bread is perfect for breakfast or tea, not too sweet. One loaf is going with me to work today; the other, to Sue and Paul. It's a symbiotic relationship we have - they share the bounty of their gorgeous garden, I bring them back cake. It's happened before. And no doubt it will happen again.
By the way, see the gorgeous plate in the photo above? It was made by my friend Laura Schare, who does all kinds of glass and has a kiln in her backyard in the San Fernando Valley. She does sell privately, so let me know if you'd like her contact information. I love her work.
Kumquat olive oil bread (adapted from Kumquat bread from Margaret O'Dell)
- 2 heaping cups ripe fresh kumquats
- 1 1/3 cups milk
- 4 eggs
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
Puree the kumquats in a blender or food processor. I used the whole fruit and decided to leave the pits where they were, mostly out of laziness. The kumquats I was using had small seeds, though. If your kumquats have big pits, you'll want to flick them out before pureeing the fruit. (Cut a few in half to check.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, olive oil and sugar until they are well combined. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a spatula; don't over mix or the bread will be tough. Fold in the pureed kumquats and wheat germ.
Pour the batter into two greased loaf pans and bake about 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (start checking after 45 minutes). Remove the loaves from the pans and cool on a wire rack.