The Orange Omelet experiment

I posted about the Orange Omelet recipe yesterday. It’s sweet, uses ingredients that are either on-hand or easily available, and looks relatively easy, so there was no reason not to try it immediately. (I discovered the recipe one day, bought the oranges the next, and made the recipe the day after that. I was on a mission.)

The version of the recipe I chose to use was from The Way to a Man’s Heart: The Settlement Cook Book, Tenth Edition, 1920:

Orange Omelet.
Rind of 1/3 orange,
1 egg,
1 tablespoon orange juice,
2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
Beat the yolk of the egg and add the orange rind and juice. Add the sugar. Fold in the beaten white and turn on heated buttered pan and cook until set. Serve with powdered sugar.

I had eggs and powdered sugar on hand. For the orange, I picked up organic Valencia oranges at Metropolitan Market. (Organic so the orange rind would not have pesticide residue.) Valencias are very sweet, but that doesn’t bother me. I like sweet. This might end up being a dessert omelet… but desserts are lovely things.

Orange omelet: this was a very tasty orange

Just look at those oranges. Is your mouth watering yet?

I separated the egg yolk and white. Did I mention I’ve never really cooked an omelet before? It was a bit of a gamble. I beat the yolk (“thoroughly,” as one of the older recipes mentioned) and added the orange zest, juice, and sugar. Then I beat the egg white with a milk frother, which was not 100% successful (hint: $1.99 IKEA milk frothers are great with milk, but not so much with anything that has more bulk to it, like egg white), but did eventually get the egg white to a soft peak stage, which seemed acceptable.

I folded the egg white into the yolk mixture, and off it went into the buttered pan. When it set, I put the pan in the oven for two minutes to finish it, then sprinkled it with a tiny bit of sugar, and (from one of the other recipes in yesterday’s post) served it with a spoonful of marionberry jam.

Orange omelet: finished!

Verdict:

Wow, that is tasty! It is fluffy and airy and orangey and sweet. Just a touch of jam with it is good, but it’s also very good without the jam. It is indeed dessert-level sweet — very much like a sweet crepe. I imagine that a little less sugar or a less-sweet orange would be just fine if you don’t want that sweetness, but I think it’s great as is.

I can’t really imagine why this recipe has been neglected over the last few decades. It’s lovely. I will eat this again.

Orange Omelets: “for ruffians and brazen harlots”

Photo by Vincent van Dam.

Photo by Vincent van Dam.

Those who know me know well that I love citrus flavors. Particularly citrus desserts. Lemon cake with raspberry filling. Lemon curd. The elusive “Gold-n-Sno Cake.” So when browsing late 19th century magazines, the phrase “Orange Omelet” leapt out at me. I had to try it. Oranges, sugar, and eggs — sounds lovely. When do we eat?

You can still find sweet orange omelets here and there, but they are decidedly old-fashioned. None of my modern cookbooks contain one, but they are frequently found in classic late 19th/early 20th century cookbooks such as Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, The Settlement Cook Book, and Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book.

The orange omelet, however, goes back a lot further than that — at least to the 1430s, when Johannes Bockenheim, cook to Pope Martin V, published this recipe in his cookbook:

How to make an orange omelette

Take eggs and break them, with oranges, as many as you like; squeeze their juice and add to it the eggs with sugar; then take olive oil or fat, and heat it in the pan and add the eggs. This was for ruffians and brazen harlots. (“Et erit pro ruffianis et lecceatrichus.”)

Ruffians and brazen harlots? Well, call me a brazen harlot, then.

Bockenheim’s recipe is not terribly different from those that followed about 100 years ago.

Good Housekeeping, February 1898:

An American Omelet.
Make an omelet of four eggs, the yolks and whites beaten separately, four tablespoonfuls of sugar, a pinch of salt, grated rind of one orange and three tablespoonfuls of orange juice, fry. The instant the omelet is cooked, spread the sliced oranges on it and fold or roll the omelet. Serve very hot.

Parisian Orange Omelet.
Take the whites and the yolks of four eggs beaten separately, very thoroughly. To the yolks add three tablespoonfuls of sugar, not more than a pinch of baking powder, two tablespoonfuls of flour, four of milk, one tablespoonful of orange juice. Pour into a heated saucepan, then the whites, fry rapidly, fold, serve very hot with raspberry jam. A delightful luncheon dish.

Good Housekeeping, March 1898:

Orange Omelet.
Four eggs, five tablespoonfuls of sugar, a little salt, two oranges, two tablespoonfuls of butter. Grate the rind of one orange on one tablespoonful of sugar. Pare and cut the orange in thin slices and sprinkle with two tablespoonfuls of sugar. Beat the whites of the eggs stiff, add the sugar and orange rind, salt, beaten yolks, and two tablespoonfuls of orange juice. Put butter in a hot omelet pan and pour in the mixture. When it begins to thicken well, spread over the sliced oranges (no juice). Fold omelet from the side of the pan over the sliced oranges, turn on a hot dish; put in the oven two minutes, and serve immediately.

Then, about 20 years later in The Way to a Man’s Heart: The Settlement Cook Book (about which I will be posting more soon):

Orange Omelet.
Rind of 1/3 orange,
1 egg,
1 tablespoon orange juice,
2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
Beat the yolk of the egg and add the orange rind and juice. Add the sugar. Fold in the beaten white and turn on heated buttered pan and cook until set. Serve with powdered sugar.

I tried the last recipe yesterday — it’s simple, and serves one, which is nice when I’m experimenting. Watch this space tomorrow for the results.

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  • profileWendi is a history geek and loves to bake, particularly recipes from her grandmother's collection. Kristen has been cooking her whole life. She has a BS in Family & Consumer Science and enjoys comfort foods and creating new recipes.

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Potential projects

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  • Welsh Rabbit (1909)
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