Tag Archives: lemon

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

21 Jan

A long time fan of ispahan and admirer of French pastries, I had to take advantage of being in Paris a few months ago and try one of Pierre Hermé’s famous ispahan macarons!

Ispahan Macaron

Ispahan Macaron

Here are a couple more fun snaps from our time in Paris.  Italy photos to come soon!  The Palace of Versailles was one of our favorite stops on this trip.

Jardin de Versailles

Jardin de Versailles

We’re standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe below, on the outside of what Kevin and I coined the “Frogger Roundabout”.  A lot of tourists didn’t realize there was a tunnel that led you from where we are standing underneath the roundabout and right under the gorgeous monument.  People were nuts and played frogger, dodging cars to get to the Arc!

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

And of course – Le Tour Eiffel!

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Shirley gave me the Baking: From My Home to Yours cookbook for Christmas this past year, and feeling inspired from our trip, the first recipe (of many) that caught my eye was of course Pierre Hermé’s lemon cream.  The “Most Exquisite” in the title was enough of a sell to pique my interest! This is way different from lemon curd, though they both use the same ingredients. With lemon curd, you cook everything together til it thickens and then strain it.  With this lemon cream recipe, you cook everything but the butter til it thickens and then whip the butter into it until it’s fluffy.  Even though the only dairy in it is butter, it really does feel more like a cream. Truly remarkable!

Here’s the recipe as adapted from the book.  I recommend reading through the entire recipe first before starting, as paying attention to the details are important for this one.

INGREDIENTS:

DIRECTIONS:

Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor by your side. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

  1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work 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.

    Zest and Sugar

    Zest and Sugar

  2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels slightly warm to the touch. Cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk, you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling. The cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. At this point, the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop 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.  [NOTE: I whisked for exactly 10 minutes on the dot before the temp hit 180 degrees.  Also, if you happen to take your eyes off of the cream for just enough time to let the cream get a few traces of scrambled eggs in it, fear not. You’ll strain the cream later anyway.]

    Whisk Cream Mixture Over Double Boiler

    Whisk Cream Mixture Over Double Boiler

  3. As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

    Strain the Lemon Cream

    Strain the Lemon Cream

  4. Turn the blender to high or turn the processor and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going – to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
  5. Pour the 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. [NOTE: The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 day or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.]

    Pre-Plastic Wrap

    Pre-Plastic Wrap

  6. When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.  Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

    The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

    The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

I brought this to a holiday potluck at Leslie and Tri’s so that Shirley and Spencer could try it as well.  In hindsight when I make this again, I’ll definitely make some whipped cream to go with it.  The lemon cream is SO silky and delicate, but very tart.  I think a dollop of whipped cream would have been perfect complement.

A Tart Little Slice of Heaven

A Tart Little Slice of Heaven

Thanks again, Shirley!  Looking forward to seeing what other goodies will come from this amazing book!

Pink Lemonade Bars (Raspberry Lemon Bars)

21 Sep

As a fruity compliment to the decadent Chocolate Cake with Espresso Buttercream that I made for our extended family potluck last month, I made a batch of Pink Lemonade Bars (a.k.a. Raspberry Lemon Bars) just to make sure I had all my bases covered.  And yes, this bar is the more fibrous sister of the Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde Bars I made a couple of years ago.Pink Lemonade Bars (Raspberry Lemon Bars)

Here is the recipe as adapted from Smitten Kitchen:

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 C all-purpose flour

For the pink lemonade layer:

  • 1 C raspberries
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons’ worth)
  • 1/3 C all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan or Pyrex with parchment, letting it extend up two sides. Butter or coat the bottom and sides with a nonstick spray and set the pan aside.
  2. Make the base: In a food processor, pulse together the sugar, zest and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it is evenly dispersed in the dough. Add the flour and pulse the machine until it’s just combined and the mixture is crumbly. Press the dough into the prepared pan and about 1/2-inch up the sides. Don’t worry about making this perfect – no one can tell once the filling is in it.  Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at edges. Let cool on a rack while you prepare the filling. Leave the oven on.
  3. Make the pink lemonade layer: Puree the raspberries in a food processor until they’re as liquefied as they’ll get. You don’t have to wash the food processor in between steps, but just make sure there aren’t any huge chunks of dough in there before adding the raspberries. Run the puree through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing out all the raspberry puree that you can.  Leave the seeds behind. You’ll net about 1/3 cup strained puree, but don’t worry if you have a little less than that.

    Strain Raspberry Puree

    Strain Raspberry Puree

  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of raspberry puree. Stir in flour. Pour into cooling crust and return pan to the oven, baking the bars until they’re set (they’ll barely jiggle) and slightly golden at the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into rectangles. (You can speed this up in the fridge.)

    Filling Mixture

    Filling Mixture

  5. I cut these into 16 2×2-inch squares and each one fit snugly in a standard cupcake liner.  Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. You can store these in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

I didn’t get to try these because they were eaten up by our family potluck attendees, but I typically assume running out quickly is a good sign!

My Favorite Simple Kale Salad

1 Jan

To all of the New Year’s Resolution-ers out there who have healthy eating on their list of to-do’s for 2015, here is an EASY recipe for kale that you’ll actually like!

Kale is among the most nutrient-dense vegetables that is considered commonly eaten. One cup provides 1327% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, 192% of DV for vitamin A, and 88% for vitamin C.  It’s not something I recommend eating huge amounts of every single day because the K and A vitamin content is way more than you need.  Still, it’s a great green to add to your vegetable repertoire.  Sauteed with some garlic, it’s absolutely amazing.  Most people find eating it raw difficult due to its bitter and brussels sprouts-like texture.  I had this salad once at True Food Kitchen and absolutely fell in love, especially after realizing how easy it was to make.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-6 cups kale, loosely packed, sliced leaves of Italian black (Lacinato, “dinosaur,” cavolo nero); midribs removed if you prefer (I don’t mind them!)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • Salt & pepper (optional)
  • Pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2/3 C grated flavorful cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan
  • 1/2 C freshly made bread crumbs from lightly toasted bread (or from the deli counter, just don’t use the canned stuff off the shelf if you can avoid it)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a pinch (or more to taste) of hot red pepper flakes. I like to make the dressing first and let the garlic permeate the liquids, while I prep the kale leaves.

    Simple Ingredients!

    Simple Ingredients!

  2. Pour over kale in a large serving bowl and toss well.

    Let the Dressing Marinate

    Let the Dressing Marinate

  3. Let kale sit for at least 15 minutes. Remove chunks of garlic.  Add bread crumbs and 2/3 of the cheese, toss again, and top with remaining cheese.

Truth be told, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product when I made it, but it’ll look like this.

The great thing about this recipe is you can make it ahead (tossed with the dressing), and the longer you let the kale sit, the better it gets.  The acidity in the dressing breaks down the tough, cabbage-like texture of the kale a bit. As far as the bread crumbs go, I bought a container of fresh bread crumbs from the deli counter at Sprouts, used what I needed, and put the rest in the freezer until the next use.  I’ve made this salad several times and can tell you that the bread crumbs keep really well as long as there’s no moisture in the container they’re stored in!

If you need protein with your salads, almost any grilled meat (shrimp, chicken, beef, salmon, etc.) would go great on top of the salad.  So would chickpeas, quinoa, boiled egg, or other non-meat high-protein items.  It’s a really versatile salad. It’s the only dressed salad that gets better the next day too.  If you know you’ll have leftovers, just don’t toss in the cheese and breadcrumbs til you’re ready to eat it.  I do recommend consuming within 2 days of making it.

Enjoy and happy new year!

Earl Grey Lemon Bars

28 Feb

I know I recently complained about the New Year Resolutioners that crowd my gym every January, and I’m glad to finally be able to say it’s become a little more normal.  Now that I can finally work out relatively in peace, I’ve been trying to figure out some ways to mix up my routine because it’s becoming… well… routine.  One can only do weights and cardio on a treadmill or elliptical so many times in one week.

I like to intersperse my regular workouts with group exercise classes and have tried almost every single one 24 Hour Fitness has to offer.  I’ve tried Zumba and kick-boxing, but all of the stomping around was really hard on my knees.  I am also terrible at Zumba.  I’m not a quitter when it comes to exercise, but I tried spin once with a coworker, got through 20 minutes of class, mouthed “I can’t feel my crotch!” to each other, and walked out together. Who the hell does spin class?  I mean, are your lady parts made out of leather? How do you deal with that?  Should I have lined the seat of my pants with bubble wrap?  Now I understand why men don’t do spin.

Pilates and yoga are fine, as is this Nike-sponsored “athletic training” class that my gym offers.  But still over a year later, nothing beats The Bar Method in my book despite my self-induced embarassing first experience.  It really is my favorite workout class, but I can’t justify the steep per-class pricepoint for something I’d want to do at least 4 times a week.  However, I just bought the complete set of DVDs, so we’ll see how that goes.

On the topic of breaking routines, I’ve been writing way too many updates about cookies lately, which basically means I’ve been making too many cookies.  Sadly I have a few more cookie posts backlogged on top of a couple more holiday posts!  Yikes!  So, in the spirit of mixing things up, here’s an update on an Earl Grey Lemon Bar I made last month.  I came across the recipe in the June 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine, and have been saving it for an occasion such as… nothing.  I guess I made these just for fun.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Earl Grey tea bags, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  To prepare crust, line an 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil that extends 2 inches beyond sides; coat foil with cooking spray. Weigh or lightly spoon 1 1/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon tea leaves from 1 tea bag (discard remaining tea in bag), and salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until lightly browned.

Flour, Earl Grey Tea Leaves, Powdered Sugar, Salt

Flour, Earl Grey Tea Leaves, Powdered Sugar, Salt

2.  To prepare filling, place juice in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds. Add remaining 1 tea bag to juice; cover and steep 10 minutes. Squeeze juice from tea bag into bowl; discard tea bag. Combine granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and baking powder in a bowl. Add rind and eggs to juice; stir with a whisk until combined. Add sugar mixture to juice mixture; stir with a whisk until well combined.

Earl Grey Tea Steeped in Lemon Juice

Earl Grey Tea Steeped in Lemon Juice

3.  Remove crust from oven; pour filling onto hot crust. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan by lifting foil. Remove foil, and cut into 16 bars. Sprinkle bars with powdered sugar.

Earl Grey Lemon Bar

Earl Grey Lemon Bar

The Earl Grey cut some of the tartness of the lemon bar, and gave it a great scent.  I think the crust was a little softer than what I personally would prefer.  If I made these again, I would probably incorporate the Earl Grey tea leaves into a firmer lemon bar crust!

Glazed Lemon Cookies

9 Jan

Society has taught men to chase women. Everywhere.

Men chase women at coffee shops, at the grocery store, in the restroom line (which I actually find to be pretty clever because the girls can’t escape), at church (“Oh hay girl, I like the way you prayyyy”), on the freeway, just everywhere. However, the one place I find really annoying where men chase women is at the gym.

Veiny-armed man in tight dri-fit shirt:  “Hey, do you need some help lifting the 45’s off that bar?
Girl in sports bra and black yoga pants:  “Ohhhh hehehehehehe, only if you don’t mind.

WHAT was that? And ladies, you are enabling this behavior. What I really don’t understand is why girls that wear booty shorts to the gym get mad that guys stare at their ass.

The gym is my sanctuary from the series of stressful or embarrassing (usually both) events that make up my everyday life – work, neurotic family members, rush hour traffic, everything. Exercise is also the yin to the sweet tooth’s yang.

Skinny probably 20-year old Asian guy waving 5 times:  “Hi there. Hey. Hello. Ahem, hi. Um,  I couldn’t help but notice you might be doing your deadlifts wrong.
Me:  “Actually, no I’m doing them right. I was waiting for you to finish with the 70lb barbell so I could use it, but you looked like you were struggling so I went with the 75. You’re going to throw out your back out if you keep letting the weight pull your shoulders forward. Maybe you should go lighter til you’re strong enough to do them properly.

Yes, I’m a bitch. Would you interrupt a meditating monk to ask if the towel service is free for all members? No.

So leave me alone when I’m in the zone and trying to get a good workout in. And I’m not even going to delve into detail about the weird old guys with Asian girl fetishes. Ok lurky 60-year old Spanish man, I really don’t care if you can speak Japanese.  I can’t.  And stop watching me in the mirror.

I’ve always been about comfort and efficiency at the gym, and never dressed girly to exercise – just the normal t-shirt and running shorts. But after being interrupted (and creeped out) enough times, I did what any girl who wanted their solitude back would do.

I started to dress like a man.

I have an endless supply of basketball shirts from the tournaments and leagues I play in, and made cut-offs out of a number of them. And I don’t mean the Carl’s Jr. commercial cutesy crop-top cut-off t-shirt, or even the cut-offs of a Never Nude. I mean a DUDE’s cut-off. And I even made them out of gray shirts so you could see my sweat. I would pair them with the baggiest of my basketball shorts and crew socks pulled up.  Oh yeahhhhh, no one’s going to bother me now.

It definitely worked for a while, but it really didn’t last long. One of the employees at my gym started to make pretty normal small talk with me regularly. “Is that a Keppel basketball sweatshirt? Shawty, you play ball for MARK KEPPEL HIGH SCHOOL? You look like you still play in high school. HAAAAA.”

It was a girl. And she was big. And aggressive. She knew my name even though I never gave it to her.

After workouts, I normally hop over to the basketball court to shoot around if it’s empty.  It was too crowded to shoot one day, so I turned around resolving to go home. Aforementioned she-brute was RIGHT behind me but played it off like she was intending to go into the employee break room. As she opened the door, she looked me up and down and said “You not gon’ BALL today gurrrrl?”  I said no, and that it was too crowded and I didn’t want to play pick-up with those boys.  She said, “Oh come on, you can BAWLL girl. I seen you on the cameras and in the hallway bawwwwllin dem foos up.”

She’s watched me. On the security cameras. And from the window in the hallway peeking into the gym. A lot.

I stopped going to that gym for a month after that and went back to delightfully find that she no longer worked there. Now, I dress for the gym with hopeless androgyny aiming to confuse people, ultimately getting bothered by neither sex. I want to be left alone.

So alone that here I am, writing about going to the gym instead of actually going.  Here’s another update from my Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012 – the lemony yang to my cross training yin.

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart. I chose these because lemon is a great compliment for tea, though there is no actual tea in these cookies themselves.  The cookies themselves were good and really easy to make, but what I really liked was the tart glaze. I’ll totally use it for something else in the future – maybe atop some scones or muffins?

Here are the directions for the glaze as taken from Martha’s website.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice until smooth.
Clever Lemon Juice Contraption for the Glaze

Clever Lemon Juice Contraption for the Glaze

After zesting the lemons for the glaze, I squeezed out the lemon juice on top of the zester to catch the seeds instead of picking them out after the fact. Those slippery things are too hard to grab sometimes. And no, not like that.

Glazed Lemon Cookies

Glazed Lemon Cookies

Overall, the cookies were really refreshing!