Gloom and chill got you down? Slice a lemon, drop it into a cup of steamy tea with a spoonful of local honey, and savor the flavors of sunshine.
Isn’t it funny that something that is all about transforming sunlight into deliciousness, citrus fruit that is, comes to us when cold gray weather darkens our days? Now I can’t complain that much about deep winter, I live in Northern California and sunlight is pretty much a year-round staple, but even here we snuggle into our jackets and shiver when temperatures drop and the clouds crowd in from the bay.
On the upside, cooler weather signals the debut of my favorite green, yellow, and orange tanginess. Growing up in Florida I pretty much thought I was acquainted with the full array of citrus fruit. Ha! Wrong! My world now includes the ombre-toned blood orange, the spicy Meyer lemon, and others.
Smelling and sampling a Meyer lemon was a paradigm-shifting citrus experience for me. Yeah, excessive prose, I know, but that first flirtation with its juice provoked that intellectualization that accompanies tasting a full-bodied wine and falling into those “hints of chocolate and blackberries” rhapsodies. The juice of a Meyer lemon juice is robust, rounded, spicy, warm, and intoxicating. Whether the essence comes in a soap, lotion, or food, I’m on it.
One of my favorite holiday gifts to make and share is lemon curd. If I make it with Meyer lemons, though, I’ve got a treat that is even more special. My version is an adaptation of the lemon curd recipe developed by Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Pie and Pastry Bible, but I have found that very recipe conveniently embedded in a lemon bar recipe on Epicurious. If you’re a foodie and you don’t know her, do try her recipes because she’s fantastic with flavors and pretty much failsafe with her instructions. A great attribute of the pie book recipe is the abundant details she supplies for making curds with other citrus types.
Like any recipe that you adapt for your own use, there are tweaks that add a personal stamp to the taste. Mine is to up the citrus content with the juice and grated rind. I may even double the rind content, but I’m more judicious with the juice because I want the chemical reaction that binds the curd to happen–too much juice and it’ll be runny.
After the holidays I went a little crazy making a Lemon Poppy Seed Cake—three times in three weeks—because I had masses of Meyer lemons to use. Chances are you had at least one slice if you live near or work with me! That recipe came from the latest Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Make It Ahead, but I found another version from R.L.B. again on Epicurious. Garten’s cake recipe is fantastic, especially with a dollop of sunny yellow Meyer Lemon Curd.
So, in the effort to be both entertaining and informative, here’s a little more on this lemony theme:
♥ Through SHWS I got to know a very creative quilter/designer named Sandra Bruce who turned me on to East of Eden Cooking, a food blog written Deborah Ryan. Do take a look, Deb’s got a literary bent and the photography is so pretty. This lemon-infused cake recipe was a stellar offering–I can vouch for its success because a friend of mine made and loved it. Imagine how wonderful it would be scented with Meyer lemons?!?
♥ Making lemon curd inevitably provokes the question: what do you do with it? Yes, an English tea with scones, clotted cream, and lemon curd is a natural choice, but tarts and lemon bars figure into it as well. If you want a tasty, yet tiny lemon-curd indulgence, consider rolling out dough left over from pie making and cutting it into small pastry rounds. Blind bake them (mini muffin pans are great for shaping and holding the dough), cool, and then freeze them for later use. Defrost when needed and fill each with a dollop of curd. Garnish with meringue or embellish with fruit or candied flowers.
♥ I got a lowdown on curd essentials from family friend Tina Piccolomini, a sous chef in the Washington, D.C. area. When asked how to up the curd’s lemony notes she advocates additional lemon zest at the end of preparation, even if you’ve already added some during the cooking phase. A tiny drop of lemon oil is another option, but be sparing with the amount. If you look at R.L.B.’s recipe, Tina thinks an additional ounce of juice is probably okay, while upping the lemon zest to 1 or 1.5 tablespoons is a tactic for increasing flavor intensity. Glass or plastic for storage? Glass is better, but plastic for freezing. The shelf life for refrigerated lemon curd is measured in weeks, and 6-8 months for frozen. Once it’s thawed out and refrigerated–7 days only.
♥ Yummy lemon curd ideas from Tina’s kitchen: enjoy lemon-curd-filled donuts topped in raspberry icing; swirl the curd into a favorite cheesecake recipe; layer an angel cake, adorn each with a thin smear of raspberry jam topped with lemon curd, and ice the cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream; this idea is deliciously sinful–exchange the traditional tiramisu ingredients with lemon curd, mascarpone, limoncello, white chocolate, and raspberries!
It makes me so sad to realize my last jar of lemon curd in the fridge is probably expired and I can’t make any of her suggestions today–that donut one is fantastic, not to mention the tiramisu! Let me know if you indulge–at least I’ll get a vicarious thrill from someone’s culinary and gustatory adventure!