8/3/09

When life gives you lemons...



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t all started innocently enough. I picked up a needle.
You're probably seeing the recklessness of my actions, but, at the time, I didn’t see the harm in it. An occasional fix was all I needed to get by —or so I thought.

This little escapade spun out of control, progressively taking over my life, as I struggled to find a more intense rush with every line.
For a while, this ineffectual road to nowhere, consumed my very soul. Disrupting work, relationships and even my health. Yes, this addiction had (seemingly) provided boundless energy, causing sleeplessness and weight loss.

The needle consequently led to experiments with Jute Twine —and even Sisal!— just a couple of spools, mind you. I went from crocheting one bag a week to one bag a day!

Give me a moment (choke!)

I've completed 6 bags so far. The one pictured was my first one. Ain't it precious?
However, being $8.37 in the hole, I've contemplated pawning away my Chia Herb Garden kit (a Christmas gift), to support this ungodly habit. I've hit rock bottom. Do I need intervention?


Update.

I'm happy to report that I've found new coping skills to resist temptation.
Praise be unto thee, Elvis.

I have dropped the devil's crocheting pitchfork, and traded one addiction for another. Baking. I quickstepped into the kitchen to play with some white stuff. Fortunately, flour washes off quite easily.

So, let me to put a lid on my A & E special, and focus instead on some favorite recipes, using lemons. Lisbon, Eureka, Meyer, whatever makes you pucker.
And hope this will help those who are still battling Martha-ism.
Unless, of course, you're one of those people who feel you can quit (tee hee) any time (snort!) you want to. ROFL!

First up is the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake. Using regular lemons in this recipe added a slight bitter edge to the cake, which I liked. But, less acidic Meyer lemons will result in a sweeter cake. Delicious, either way.




Whole Lemon-Poppy Seed Cake

For the cake:
1½ unpeeled lemons, washed well
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups AP flour
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

For the glaze:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice


Position rack in the center of your oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 1½ quart loaf pan*.

Quarter the lemons, and in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the lemon pieces with ½ cup of sugar, until pureed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure no large pieces remain.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and remaining sugar until smooth. Add the lemon pulp. Whisk in the melted butter to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds to combine. Gently fold into the lemon mixture until combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cake is done when a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack and cool 15 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to glaze.

For the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice with the sugar and bring to a high simmer. Simmer 2 to 2 minutes, or until reduced by half. Brush the glaze all over the cake while it is still warm. Adapted from: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.

*I baked these individual cakes using (greased and floured) water cooler paper cones I found at a local, restaurant supplier. I placed them in a jumbo cupcake pan for support, while they baked. Coffee mugs also work.



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f you have ever preyed upon an entire cheesecake —and who hasn't— then lock up that guilt into the steamer trunk of your psyche and throw away the key, because this dessert will deliver a one-two punch of cheesecake-flavored awesomeness, without so much as a whimper of guilt.
You will forgive me for using the word: "awesomeness," won't you? My 10 year old has been quite the influence.

Lemon Buttermilk Ice Milk

1 ¾ cups sugar
Zest from 2-3 lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 quart buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon salt

Put the sugar and zest in a medium size bowl. Add the juice to the sugar and mix well.
Add the buttermilk and salt. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved (I prefer to store this mixture in the fridge overnight, and stir again, just before freezing). Freeze in an ice cream maker, and chill 4 hours or overnight, before serving. Serves 8. Adapted from Desserts 1 - 2 - 3 by Rozanne Gold





Here's another favorite for my lemon people. These are as light as soufflés, with a delectable layer of lemon pudding.

Steamed Lemon Pudding

Softened butter for ramekins
¾ cup granulated sugar plus additional for ramekins
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup lemon juice
3 eggs, separated
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Zest of 2 lemons, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Grease eight 4-oz ramekins with butter and coat with granulated sugar. Combine in a mixing bowl the buttermilk, lemon juice, and the egg yolks. Mix the flour, remaining sugar, salt, and lemon zest in another bowl. Whip the egg whites in a third bowl until soft peaks form.
Whisk the dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture, and fold in the egg whites gently, a third at a time. Ladle the batter into prepared ramekins, filling almost to the top. Place the puddings in a roasting pan, and pour warm water around them until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with lightly greased foil, and bake for 18 minutes or until puddings begin to rise slightly. Remove the foil, rotate the pan front-to-back, and bake another 20 to 25 minutes, until pudding is golden and springs back when touched. I served this with Blackberry Sorbet. Recipe: Karen Demasco of Craft.
And in case you were wondering, that's not a bat propped on the steamed pudding, but a butterfly I cut out from homemade blackberry leather, using a cookie cutter.



Have any lemons left? How about making Deviled Eggs, for dessert?

You could try a Sour Cream Pound Cake or the Whole Lemon Poppy Seed Cake recipe, above. Bake them in a greased and floured egg-shaped pan. Ice them with simple confectioner's glaze (substituting a little lemon juice for the water), and topping them with Pierre Hermé's delightful Lemon Cream, piped from a 4B pastry tip, or any large star tip.
Serve with a side of (cherry) ants. You'll need 3 cherries for each ant. Just run a toothpick through the cherries for the body. Then, save all the curved cherry stems you can find for the legs, and insert into the body, as shown. You'll also need stems for the "feelers." That's it. Kids, like me, love this stuff.



Lemon Cream

1 cup sugar
zest of 3 lemons, removed with a zester and finely chopped
4 large eggs
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 ½ oz) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, softened

Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk—you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience—depending on how much heat you're giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180°F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine running, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed. Once all the butter added, keep the machine going, for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving it a little rest between beats.

Pour the lemon cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days and, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)



Oops. J'ai oublié. Mesdames et Messieurs, would you care for caviar, oui? But something happens to me whenever I think of Pierre Hermé. I'm gonna marry that man someday. Restraining order be dammed! Forgive my French!

The "caviar" was piped from tinted Piping Gel, and allowed to dry up (uncovered), for several days. The caviar may take longer to set up, if it's hot and humid where you live.



...so, in conclusion, when life gives you lemons, rejoice! Or, send them to me.


I'd like to take one quick second to thank Monique, Joey, Carol, and Canarybird, for allowing me a little time away. And to all of you guys (you know who you are) who kept an eye on me, with the patience of angels. Thank you all!