Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Love Lemon!

Today, I got my boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Along with the required boxes of Thin Mints, I ordered a box of the Lemon Chalet Cremes, a new flavor this year. The Lemon Chalet Cremes are sandwich cookies with lemon cream filling. Even though I stared at the cookies on my desk all day, I didn’t open them, so I can’t tell you how they taste. But, I can tell you how much I enjoy lemon in cookies, cakes, tarts, teas, pastas, and chicken. You name it. If it has lemon in it; I like it.
A few weeks ago, I hosted some friends for a light dinner of panini sandwiches, spinach salad, and a lemon cake for dessert. The recipe for the lemon cake came from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. This cake has a triple dose of lemon. You put lemon zest and lemon juice into the cake batter, then you boil lemon juice and sugar to make a syrup to pour over the cake, and then you mix lemon juice and powdered sugar to make the glaze. The result was a light and lemony cake everyone enjoyed, and it satisfied my lemon craving, for a time at least.

Next time I make this cake, I will poke holes with a skewer in the top of the cake, so when I pour the lemon syrup over the cake, it will sink into the cake rather than puddle on the cookie sheet beneath the cake. When I made the cake this time, the syrup sank into the very top of the cake where there was a slight split. That spot was the best part of the cake. The glaze and the syrup intersected for a moist, tart and sweet bite.

Lemon Cake
½ pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lemon Syrup

½ cup lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar

Lemon Glaze

2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
3 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the over to 350°. Grease, flour and line the bottom of two loaf pans with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine ¼ cup lemon juice, the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter between the two pans, smooth the tops and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until cake tester comes out clean.

Combine ½ cup granulated sugar with ½ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

After the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, then take them out of the pans and onto a cooling rake over a tray. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer. Pour the lemon syrup over the cakes slowly. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cool, whisk confectioners sugar and the lemon juice until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes, and let drizzle down the sides.

In my next foray with lemon, I used Smitten Kitchen’s Whole Lemon Tart recipe. This tart got mixed reviews from my audience. I made it on a weeknight, and brought it into work the next day; although, my family implored me to leave some at home, which of course I did. Most of my co-workers said they liked the tart, but I’m not sure if they were just being nice. One co-worker told me the tart wasn’t her favorite, and she didn’t mind telling me since the recipe wasn’t my original recipe. I wasn’t insulted. I liked to hear her honest feedback. I thought the tart was tasty. It was not as sweet as lemon bars, but the texture was close. I liked the flavor of the tart, but I didn’t enjoy chewing on the bits of lemon not pulverized by the food processor. I will probably make this tart again, but the next time I do, I will pulse the filling in the food processor longer. My love for lemon is undimmed!

Whole Lemon Tart
from Smitten Kitchen

1 partially baked 9-inch (24-cm) Great Unshrinkable Tart Shell, or your favorite sweet tart shell
1 average-sized Meyer lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces; 130 grams), you can use a regular lemon, but it will not be as sweet.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Preheat the oven 325°. Put the tart shell on a baking sheet. Slice the lemon into thin pieces, and remove the seeds. Add the lemon and sugar into the food processor. Pulse the lemon and sugar mixture in the food processor, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the lemon is thoroughly pureed and blended with the sugar, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and, wisk in the whole egg and the yolk, followed by the cornstarch and melted butter. Pour the filling into the crust but be sure to leave 1/4 inch between the top of your filling and the top edge of your crust.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the tart for 20 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350° and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling, lightly browned and set. Don’t take the tart out until it is clearly set, however — you’re looking for a slight jiggle only. Transfer the tart, still on the baking sheet, to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. Serve the tart at room temperature.


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  2. We opened our GS Lemon Chalet cookies this past Thursday night and they're pretty good. The middle cream has a nice tartness. I'm going to make the Lemon Cake today - the picture makes it look SO good. And, just a few weeks ago I had a slice of lemon cheesecake made from a Cooks Illustrated recipe. It was terribly delicious. Yes, I agree. Lemon desserts are great!! Sandy



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