The colorful bounty of the citrus season is a welcome treat for bakers in the darkest winter days. Ruby Red grapefruit, maroon blood oranges, verdant Key limes, sunny yellow lemons—it’s a rainbow of edible sunshine. Citrus fruits are tangy and sweet, whether they’re juiced or zested. Each citrus fruit has its own quirks, and can be tricky.
Let’s begin with the most popular citrus fruit: the orange. The orange family, which comprises more than 50% of all citrus produced in the world is divided into a juicing category and a eating category. Numerous biological adaptations, made by growers over many centuries, are what distinguishes the two categories. Citrus oranges for juice, such as Valencia, are characterized by thin skins and seeds (occasionally). They also have a sweet juice. Eating oranges like navels have thicker, easier-to-peel skins and no seeds. On the flipside, navel oranges produce juice that can quickly go bitter right after extraction— within 30 minutes. Navel oranges are often used in baking because they can be found at most grocery stores. They also produce good juice and zest if you use them immediately. When a baker is in a hurry, they can use navel oranges. They are readily available at grocery stores and produce good zest and juice if used immediately.