Lemonpalooza

DSC01932I have a lot of lemons.  Beautiful Meyer lemons.  My tree is extraordinarily fecund (that always sounds a bit off color…) this year.  Truly an embarrassment of riches.  I have heard you can keep ripe citrus on the tree for 10 weeks, and the quality will not be affected (my tree is in a sheltered spot, so frost is not an issue).  That said, I do feel quite a lot of pressure to put all my fruit to use.  In the December issue of Food & Wine magazine, there is a recipe for a lemon Bundt cake.  I made it today. It was quite a project–zesting all those lemons takes a fair amount of time!  But it was well worth it, as the cake is delicious. DSC01936Actually, I didn’t have to zest all 10 lemons–I mean, look at the size of these!  The lemon on the right is the usual size of a Meyer lemon, and I have just a few that size.  Most of the ones on my tree, however, are the size of the one on the left!  Why this is is anybody’s guess.  Radiation from Japan?  Are they Three Mile Island lemons?  No, I don’t think so.  Just a happy confluence of growing conditions that led to this crop.  I was worried that the size would mean a thick skin, more like a Eureka lemon, but no.  Thin skinned and juicy as always. There would have been an even bigger crop, but we had some crazy wind in early fall that knocked a lot of the baby lemons off (which, upon further reflection, may have led to the bigger lemons).  Perhaps just as well! DSC01939Above are some of the ingredients for the Bundt cake–see how much zest there is?  DSC01940The batter is thick and creamy–can you see the little flecks of peel in there? DSC01944

See the finished product?  It’s pretty!  I pasted the recipe in here from the Food & Wine  website, just so you know.  Read to the end of the recipe–I made a few small changes.

Lemon Bundt Cake

Food & Wine Magazine, December 2012

cake

  1. Nonstick cooking spray
  2. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  3. 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  4. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 2 3/4 cups sugar
  7. 1/3 cup lightly packed finely grated lemon zest (from 10 lemons)
  8. 1/2 cup canola oil
  9. 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  10. 3 large eggs
  11. 3 large egg yolks
  12. 3 tablespoons dark rum
  13. 2 tablespoons pure lemon extract
  14. 3/4 cup heavy cream

lemon syrup

  1. 1/4 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  3. 1 tablespoon dark rum

glaze and topping

  1. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  2. 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  3. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  4. 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted (optional)
  1. MAKE THE CAKE Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously coat a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust the pan with all-purpose flour. Sift the 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and cake flour into a medium bowl, along with the baking powder and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, use your fingers to rub the sugar with the lemon zest until the sugar resembles pale yellow wet sand. Add the canola oil and cooled butter and beat at medium speed until blended, about 1 minute. Beat in the whole eggs, egg yolks, rum and lemon extract until just incorporated, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the heavy cream and the dry ingredients in 3 alternating batches, starting and ending with the dry ingredients; be sure not to overbeat. Scrape down the side of the bowl and fold the batter until it is blended.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth the surface. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a rack for 30 minutes.
  4. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE LEMON SYRUP In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the lemon juice and rum and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Let the lemon syrup cool slightly.
  5. Invert the cake onto a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Using a wooden skewer, poke holes evenly all over the cake and brush with the lemon syrup. Let the cake cool completely.
  6. MAKE THE GLAZE AND TOPPING In a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with the lemon juice and almond extract until smooth. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Sprinkle the almonds on top and let the glaze set, about 20 minutes. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.
I put 3 Tbl. of lemon extract in the cake, instead of 2 Tbl.  The Meyer lemons are so sweet, you can lose a bit of the lemony sharpness.  In the syrup I added a 1/2 tsp. of lemon extract, again for the same reason.  As far as the glaze goes, you can see it was a bit too thin.  Next time I’d add a bit more powdered sugar, so so much didn’t end up puddling underneath. And finally, it said to bake for 1 hour, which I did.  Next time, however, I’d check it at 50 minutes, and I bet that 55 minutes would be perfect. Now, go make some tea.  This cake begs to be eaten with a cup of tea!
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Bread and Lemon Zest

What about bread and lemon zest?  Well, I’ve been baking bread lately from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  And the zest is a little tip I got from Bon Appetit magazine.

Look! It's pretty!

First of all, I got Artisan Bread from the library to test it out.  I was very impressed, so I bought it. I found that it really is just a few minutes that you spend before putting a loaf of fresh bread on the table.  You don’t have to make bread every day.  Rather, you mix up a very easy dough and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Then you tear off a hunk of dough, smooth it out, pop it in the oven and voila! Fresh bread with dinner tonight!  The dough will keep in the fridge for weeks, so if you only feel like doing this on the weekend you can. This is a photo of my third loaf (and only my first boule–the others were baguettes), so I know my technique will improve.  I’m not a fan of gimmicks, such as, just say, claiming to make bread in five minutes, but this isn’t a gimmick!  It really works. This bread cookbook is well worth the money.

Now on to the zest:  I have sooo many lemons right now, and my second little tip is one I found in Bon Appetit magazine at some point, but I’d never tried it out.  Here’s what Dana Sturgis, test kitchen director, says in the magazine: “When a recipe calls for lemon juice, don’t waste all that great zest!  Before I squeeze a lemon, I use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove thin strips of zest.  I let the strips air-dry for a day or two, then store them in a jar at room temp until I want to crumble them into rices, stews, or cooked fruit.

Denuded lemons and their zest

Zest after aging

When I need ‘fresh’ zest, I just soak the strips in cold water for an hour, and they’re as perky as the day I peeled them off.”  Due to the plethora of lemons and the plethora of guilt I feel for not using every last one, I was thrilled to find this little tip.

Ready for storage

And I have to say, it works well!  I used a sharp chef’s knife to very finely mince the shards of peel, and it was easy, quick, and guilt free!

Homemade bread and preserved lemon zest…we’re just so thrifty!

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