Monday, March 22, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

Life has been giving me quite a few lemons lately - figuratively and literally. But when life gives me lemons, I put that energy into baking lemon treats and sharing those treats. Spring is here and it's giving me Meyer Lemons; they are my favorite because they are wonderfully fragrant and there's a sweet kick to its intense citrus flavor.

I tried three recipes from three different cookbooks. Recipes are included below; don't be afraid to try your hand at baking with lemons. Plus, it will fill your home with the refreshing smell of lemon yumminess. Enjoy!

Meyer Lemon Tart with Chocolate
Suzanne Goin's recipe for this tart crust is great; it'll give you a flaky, rich crust. The lemon curd is easy to make as long as you keep it on low heat and stir continuously to avoid burning. Extra lemon curd can be enjoyed on toast, English muffin...whatever pleases you.

Fresh-grated Meyer lemon zest. Funny how the zest looks orange. That's probably because Meyer lemons are a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin/sweet orange.

Lemon Loaf Cake
This loaf cake is in the vein of a pound cake. I used a lot of Meyer lemon zest for this but I was surprised that the lemon flavor wasn't more intense. I kind of predicted that so I finished off the cake with a simple lemon glaze before serving. Next time, I'll add more zest and maybe a splash of lemon juice and also watch the baking time more carefully because this loaf was slightly over-baked by about 5 minutes.

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
According to Molly Wizenberg, this is a classic old-fashioned cake in France. Wizenberg has an amazing story about this recipe too; she blogged about it in 2004 and that's how she met her current husband who was looking for this recipe! I made the simple version of this cake and there's a delicious lemon glaze that goes on top too but I forgot to take a picture before I took it to my dinner party.

So, here you go. I baked away all nine of my Meyer lemons. By extension, I hope I've exorcised some of the "lemons" life has given me lately too.

And yes, I know. I need to take better pictures of my food but it's really difficult to handle a camera when my hands are full of flour and butter and I'm trying to keep delicate lemon curd from burning.

Meyer Lemon Tart with Chocolate
(from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

For the pâte sucrée
(this recipe is enough for two crusts)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 extra-large egg yolks
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter

1. Whisk the cream and egg yolks together in a small bowl.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter on medium speed until you have a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream and yolks and mix until just combined. Do not overwork the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to a large work surface and bring it together with your hands to incorporate completely. Divide the dough in half, shape into 1-inch-thick discs, and wrap one of them to freeze to use later (wrap well to protect from freezer burn).

4. If remaining half of the dough is too soft and sticky, put in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up a little. If the dough is manageable, place it on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle a little flour over the dough, and roll it out into a 1-inch-thick circle, flouring as necessary. Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over a 10-inch tart pan. Gently fit the dough loosely into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. To remove the excess dough, roll the rolling pin lightly over the top of the tart pan for a nice clean edge, or work your way around the edge pinching off any excess dough with your fingers. Chill for 1 hour.

For the Meyer lemon tart

1 recipe pâte sucrée
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I use semi-sweet too)
4 extra-large eggs
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prick the bottom of the pâte sucrée with a fork and line it with a few opened and fanned-out coffee filters or a piece of parchment paper. Fill the lined tart shell with beans, nuts or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully lift out the paper and beans. Return the tart to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside on a rack to cool completely.

2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat. Spread the chocolate evenly on the crust and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, until the chocolate has solidified completely.

3. While the crust is chilling, make the curd. Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, and lemon juice together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, alternating between a whisk and rubber spatula, until the lemon curd has thickened to the consistency of pastry cream and coats the back of the spatula. (The lemon curd burns easily to be diligent about the heat and stirring.)

4. Remove the lemon curd from the heat. Add the butter a little at a time, stirring to incorporate completely. Season with the salt. Let the curd cool about 8 minutes, and then strain it into the prepared tart shell. Chill the tart in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

5. Just before serving, whip the cream in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or by hand) until it holds soft peaks and serve with the tart. (I omitted this step with my tart.)

Lemon Loaf Cake
(from Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia)

4 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/3 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 3 large lemons
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1. Center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter a 9x5 loaf pan and dust with flour, shake off excess flour.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and salt for a minute until foamy and blended - it should not be thick. Whisk in grated zest.

3. Spoon flour and baking powder into a sifter and sift 1/3 of it over the egg mixture and whisk lightly (no need to beat). Repeat in two additions with the rest of the flour until everything is incorporated.

4. Whisk the heavy cream into the mixture. Then switch to a rubber spatula and gently & quickly fold in the melted butter.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center; it's done if it comes out clean. After removing the cake from the oven, let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding and cooling to room temperature.

6. If you want to add a lemon glaze to this, see the recipe below - you won't need that much icing so you can cut the icing in half by halving the recipe.

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
(from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life)


1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt (not low-fat or non-fat)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola

1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice


1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, and grease it too.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon zest, and whisk to mix thoroughly.

3. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

5. Cool cake on a wire rack for about 15 minutes; then turn cake shiny side-up out of the pan to continue cooling.

6. Whisk syrup ingredients together and spoon atop the warm cake and let the cake soak in the syrup. Syrup will run down the cake but that's okay. Best to place a large pan or parchment paper under the rack so clean-up is easier for you.

6. When the cake is thoroughly cooled, make the icing and spoon gently over the cake. The icing will be thin and you can firm it up by chilling it in the refrigerator for an hour before putting it on the cake.

7. This cake is best if served immediately on the day it is made. And you can vary the recipe by using Meyer lemons, oranges or tangerines.

**Wizenberg said feel free to use just syrup or icing if you're short on time. I only used icing because I was afraid it would be too sweet with syrup too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the awesome recipes. One question about the yogurt cake - did you feel it was sweet enough with the syrup only?

Hungry Kat said...

The icing itself was sweet enough. If you want a more moist cake, they syrup will help but also add extra sweetness.