Tag Archives: lemon

Madeleines Turned Petit Almond Citrus Gateau

10 Mar

In a stroke of genius the other week, I remembered that I had not yet used my gifted Madeleine pan.  Chris and I were going to the store anyway, so I found this beautiful recipe at food52.com: Citrus Madeleines.  Instead of a grapefruit, I grabbed an orange and paired it with the lemons already in our fridge.  The first step required lots and lots of zesting.  Towards the end my arms grew tired and I zested my finger a bit – Ouch!

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One of my favorite parts came next: mixing the zest with sugar.  The sugar coated the zest perfectly and it just looked beautiful.

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The rest is your basic baked good recipe.  Mix the dry and the wet separately, and then combine them until just barely mixed.  I really attribute this step as a make or break moment in any baking project.  It’s the difference between dry and dense or moist and fluffy.  The latter of course being the preference.

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A little more…

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Stop!

Here’s where my Madeleines turned gateau.  While I was mixing the perfect batter, I asked Chris to pull out the Madeleine pan and prep it for baking.  Just as the batter reached the barely mixed goal, Chris exclaimed that he couldn’t find the pan.  I too searched high and low, but came up empty-handed.  Thinking fast on our feet, we looked through the cabinet and chose a mini cake pan as a stand in.  I was slightly disappointed, but still hopeful that they would taste delicious.  Chris buttered the pan (with Smart Balance) and I lightly dusted it with flour.  We then evenly divided the batter into each rectangle.

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I topped them off with a few sliced almonds and popped them into the oven.  They turned out a beautiful golden brown, although slightly sunken in from the weight of the almonds.

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Taking a look at my final product, I dubbed the tiny cakes Petit Almond Citrus Gateau.  I cut one in half and sampled the fruits of my labor.  It was light, fluffy, and balanced.  Chris had 2 cakes exclaiming that they were, “the best things we ever made.”

The next week Chris asked me to make the cakes again for his friends dessert and wine birthday party.  We decided to bake them in a mini cupcake pan this time around.

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These small cupcakes turned out a bit dry.  I think they were just a bit overcooked.  Next time I’ll adjust the baking time a bit more to accommodate for the smaller size – OR I’ll just get a Madeleine pan so I can do the batter justice in that playful shell shape.

 

Poached Chicken Provencale

6 Sep

This recipe is found in the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook.

1. Poach Chicken in Chicken Broth

*Cook’s notes: If you can’t cover the chicken, do the next best thing and flip them half way through.

2. Set chicken aside and cook potatoes.

*Cook’s note:  I was afraid that there wasn’t enough liquid to cover the potatoes, so I added another cup of water and bullion in a deeper pan.  In retrospect, the potatoes were a bit mushy and this might not have been necessary.

3. Drain potatoes, mix with tomatoes, tapenade, lemon juice, olive oil, and fresh pepper.

*Cook’s notes: Fresh lemons and good olive oil are staples in my kitchen.  If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, the diced can version will do (but you’ll sacrifice some freshness).  You can use a store-bought tapenade OR you can make your own.  Tapenade is fairly easy if you have olives, fresh herbs, garlic, oil, spices, capers, and a food processor.  I made my tapenade with canned olives and artichoke hearts (instead of capers), but I’m sure the fresher version is superior.

    

4. Plate your chicken, top with potatoes, and add a green of your choice.

*Chef’s notes: This is where I like to ask Chris to make a fresh salad.  This evening he took bibb lettuce and tossed it with fresh cucumber, fresh red pepper, olive oil, and vinegar.

There you have it!  A delicious healthy dish.  A few points: 1) Poaching the chicken adds moistness and flavor without oil.  2) While there’s oil in the tapenade and potatoes, it’s a good oil (monounsaturated).  3) You can limit your starch intake (with the potatoes) by first filling up on a fresh, light green salad (again some oil but it’s monounsaturated and better than cream).  Chris loved the lemon and garlic on the potatoes.  Vinegar and citrus are his weaknesses.

Another surprising note.  You can complete this dish in the same time that it takes to assemble a brand new coffee table.

    

   I was hoping I’d beat Chris, but it was rather lucky to have a table to eat from while watching the Daily Show tonight.

A Wicked, Twisted Road: My First Attempt At French Macarons

31 Aug

The title, besides a strong sign that I’ve listened to Reckless Kelly far too much, is fitting for my week-long journey of researching and making macarons.

Not too long ago, Chris and I had the fortune of spending a lunch hour together.  Chris threw out the usual fare for ideas – sushi, Panera, but nothing sounded right.  I was in the mood for a small café setting.  I turned to my trusty pal Yelp and found a french café with just the right ambiance: RocQ in Lake Forest, CA.

We had a wonderful lunch at the café, but I was completely distracted by the macarons in the display case.  They looked delicious, and it took everything in my power to save myself the calories and walk away without buying a few.  Macarons filled my dreams that night, and I woke up with a strong desire to make my own.  I mean how hard can those tiny cookie things be, right???

I got to work researching the delicate dessert, and quickly learned that macarons aren’t easy at all.  The amount of superstitious tips both amused me and frightened me.  The advice ranged from how long to age your egg whites to what weather is best on the day that you bake your shells.  I was completely overwhelmed, but determined to rise to the challenge.  I started by making my custard, which is also technically difficult.  From experience, I knew I would have to get my timing just right to make the perfect lemon custard for my soon-to-be perfect macarons.

I started out by squeezing and zesting my lemons.  I hate my zester, but this was nowhere near as bad as when I squeezed blood oranges for the lamb recipe. Still, I think that the zester/peeler will “disappear” sometime soon so Chris and I can buy a new one.  Well, easy part over.  Time to get my ingredients in a double boiler over heat and cross my fingers that I pull it off the heat in time.

So simple and yet so difficult: eggs, sugar, butter, and of course lemon.  I kept it just below a simmer and watched it closely.  I pulled it off the heat at the first signs of thickening, let it cool, and did a happy dance.

The consistency was perfect!

I was so fixated on getting my macarons just right.  Per my extensive reading, it’s best to age your egg whites for a day or two at room temperature.  I left a bowl of egg whites on the counter for aging and stored the custard in the fridge for later.  I came home from work the next day and found the bowl of egg whites tipped over.  Silly me, our cats must explore any sort of novel item or food on the counter.  Looks like they had some fun while mom and dad were working.  Frustrated, I separated a few more egg whites and aged them in the fridge instead.  After a few days, I pulled them out and whipped them in a metal bowl with sugar and vanilla.  I kept whipping until I could turn the bowl upside down without the meringue falling out.  This feat drew Chris’ attention and he snapped a few photos. Maybe he’ll post one of them later on.

Next, I made the almond mixture and gently folded it into the meringue until it was just incorporated.  We then searched for the right-sized pastry bag tip, but couldn’t find it.  Chris jumped in, improvised, and piped the batter on my new SilPats, while I tried not to bark at him for getting the size and shape all wrong.  Weary from the piping, I let the shells rest on the counter for a bit as some recipes advised.  I’m not entirely sure this was necessary, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  When ready, I popped them in the oven to bake.  In my research, I read that the holy grail of macarons are the legs or feet (I’m still a little confused about the difference).  I had no idea what these so-called legs or feet looked like, but I wanted them more than anything.  The timer sounded and they smelled great.  It’s do or die.  I was terrified that they’d be a complete mess, so I had Chris pull them out of the oven while I covered my eyes.  The suspense was killing me.  Moments later Chris chimed, “love, take a look.”  When I opened my eyes, I swear I heard music.  They were beautiful, feet (I think I prefer macarons with a foot and not a leg) and all!

After they cooled, I put them together with a sweet layer of lemon curd in the middle.  Chris and I sampled one, and then two, and then three.  My french macarons were light and sweet, with a little twist of tart.  I saved a few to take over to my friend, her husband, and his younger brothers.  One of his brothers after trying his exclaimed, “oh my goodness, are there more?!?!”  Sadly, there were not more.  I only made a small batch, and boy did they take a lot of time and effort to make.  I think I will try my hand at this dessert again – you know when I have the time and energy to spare.  Maybe I’ll make a batch with a chocolate ganache or different colored shells color.  The possibilities are endless!

I’m Obsessed With Cardamom

22 Jan

For about two weeks now, Chris has asked, begged even, for a dessert with cardamom.  Why he became obsessed with this particular spice, I have no idea.  After he treated me to a wonderful seafood dinner, I decided to indulge his obsession.  I took out our ground cardamom, opened it, and inhaled its complex aroma.  The lemon smell hit me right away, so I decided to go with a lemon cardamom cookie.  I based the dessert of this recipe: Meyer Lemon Cardamom Crinkle Cookies, but made several substitutions to work with what we had available.

For this recipe, as with any cookie, cupcake or muffin recipe, the first step involved mixing all the dry ingredients together.  This time, I thankfully remembered that I needed to save the sugar to cut the butter, and did not include it as a dry ingredient (by accident I added the sugar to the dry ingredients when baking banana cupcakes).  For the lemon flavor, the recipe suggests the zest of 4 Meyer lemons.  We don’t keep lemons on hand, and it would be rather difficult to grow a lemon tree on the patio of our apartment, so I had to make do with something else.  I looked through our fridge and pantry and found lemon juice, lemon extract, and dried lemon zest.  I surveyed Chris, and he chose the dried lemon zest.  This substitution required a bit of math:

1 lemon yields about 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon zest.  As you can imagine, dried lemon zest is smaller than fresh lemon zest, so you can’t just do a straight conversion.  I looked it up and most sites suggest that you use 1/2 the amount of dried zest.  Since 1 Tbsp equals 3 tsp, that means that you need 1/2 Tbsp or 1 and 1/2 tsp of dried zest.

courtesy of asromanov

After figuring out how much to use, I measured the zest and added it to the mixture only to find that I had enough to cover just 1 lemon.  My choices were to keep going and risk creating a rather bland cookie, or to come up with a second substitution for  the remaining 3 lemons.  I opted for dried orange zest to complete the citrus flavor.  This choice was rather lucky, as I read later on that Meyer lemons taste like a cross between oranges and lemons.  I then looked at the recipe for the salt, but hesitated before proceeding.  Sea salt!  Another item that I did not have on hand.  Besides the absence of the ingredient in my pantry, I was a bit concerned about the use of sea salt in a cookie.  Sea salt has larger granules, and while great in cooking, it isn’t often used in baking.  After some consideration, I decided to go for a 1:1 substitution with kosher salt.  The granules of kosher salt are slightly larger than table salt, but slightly smaller than sea salt, which generally makes it a better option for baking.  Last but not least, I added the cardamom with my favorite copper-colored, fish teaspoons – no substitutions needed.

Next, it was time to whip together the butter and sugar.  This usually calls for an electric hand mixer, and sometimes a paddle attachment.  I don’t have a paddle attachment, but my mixer always seems to do just fine as is.  A couple of notes here:

If you have the foresight, you can put the butter out in a bowl while you mix the dry ingredients.  That way the butter will be closer to room temperature and softer when it comes time to whip it.  Also, these cookies should have a fluffier, cake-like texture, so the recipe really emphasizes this step, explaining that the sugar cuts little holes in the butter that will expand from the baking powder when heated.

Once I whipped the butter and sugar to a creamy texture, I added the eggs and vanilla.  The last step before scooping the dough to a cookie sheet, involved mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.  This is also an extremely important step:

During this mixing process, it’s important to keep the mixer on low.  Mixing flour with the rest of the ingredients, results in the formation of gluten, the protein that holds it all together.  The faster and longer you mix the ingredients, the more gluten you get.   You want just enough gluten for a cohesive baked good, but not so much that the texture becomes tough or dry.  The key to this is to mix the ingredients together until just after you see the last bit of flour disappear.  Any more than this and you risk losing that moist, fluffy goodness.

I mixed the dry ingredients into the wet, dividing it into 3 sections, to keep lumps to a minimum and make sure that everything was evenly dispersed.  Note: You can add ingredients in this order for cookies due to the small amount of liquid in the batter, but wetter batters like cupcakes are best mixed in the opposite order to avoid lumps and prevent over mixing.  I also made sure to keep my mixer on low and to stop mixing the moment that I could no longer see the white of the flour.

Besides the cardamom and Meyer lemon, this recipe appealed to me for it’s cracked, powdered sugar covered exterior.  The recipe recommends sifting the powdered sugar to make sure that there are no lumps.  With my love for baking, you might think that I have a sifter in my cupboard, but I don’t.  Instead of sifting the powdered sugar, I used the shaking method.  I vigorously shook the powdered sugar in its container for a few minutes, and then measured out a cup.  The result was smooth, lump-free powdered sugar.

Finally, I rolled the dough in the palm of my hand (I also have no clue what a number 40 scoop is), covered each one in powdered sugar, and arranged them on 2 cookie sheets.  As with most icings, toppings, and coatings, there was a ton of powdered sugar left at the end (I really need to remember to cut these ingredients in half to start).  I took some of the leftover powdered sugar, sprinkled it over the balls of dough, and put the sheets in my 350 degree preheated oven.

For those of you that think that I spoil Chris, you should see the mess that I leave for him to clean up after.  That’s the deal.  I bake him goodness, he cleans up.  The mess I made with the powdered sugar in this recipe made our kitchen look like it was hit by a snowstorm.  Once the cookies were in the oven, I called Chris over with my sticky, sugar covered hands.  He kept a safe distance while taking a picture to document the moment.

Twelve minutes later, we pulled the cookies out of the oven.  They smelled fantastic, but they didn’t look quite ready.  We decided to put them back in the oven for an extra 2 minutes.  We pulled them out, and then put them on a couple of cutting boards to cool (I also do not own cooling racks).  The recipe mentions that they will not brown, and this is absolutely true.  Trust your nose, not your eyes on this one.

We sampled the cookies a bit later, and we both loved them.  Chris even went back for seconds.  They turned out light and fluffy, and the cardamom citrus flavor really came through.  The substitutions, save the salt, were great successes.  In hindsight, due to the size of the granules, we should have cut the amount down a bit when using kosher salt instead of sea salt.  The salt flavor, while a bit strong, still balanced out the flavors well.  Besides the slight salt error, the color of the cookies was also a bit pale and unappealing.  Perhaps a bit of yellow dye would liven them up.  All in all we count this as another yummy baking adventure.  If one or both of us ever becomes obsessed with cardamom again, this cookie could certainly sate the craving.

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