I love how the use of a citrus zest flavors baked goods. However, having the right tool - a microplane grater - makes getting zest exponentially easier. I bought my microplane five years ago and it was a revelation. I no longer shuddered at the amount of energy it would take for me to get the tablespoon of zest required for a recipe. When I was home for Thankgiving, my mom used the microplane for the first time. Her oohs and ahhs reminded me of what an incredible tool it is. Yet someone like my mom who has been baking for years had never seen one before.
So if any of you out there don't have one yet, do yourself a favor and spend $10-15 for one more tool to clutter up your kitchen drawer. You won't regret it. The versions that have come out since I bought mine even have convenient handles and plastic covers.
When you are zesting an orange (or lemon or lime) wash and dry the fruit thoroughly. As you are zesting be sure to stop as soon as you reach the pith. (The white pith won't add flavor or moisture to your baked goods so don't expend that extra energy.) After you get all of the zest off of the outside of the fruit, you can keep the orange in the fridge and peel and eat it later.
I used the zest pictured above for some yummy orange vanilla cookies I will write about tomorrow.