Archives for posts with tag: Meyer lemons

So, you know I’ve been on a “Work With What You Got” kick for October at The Kale Chronicles. You know that I have been eating rye flakes, rolled oats and granola cooked with dried apples and milk, and then with Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil and peanut butter: when we ran out of peanut butter I substituted cashew butter and somehow breakfast keeps rolling along. So does dinner: Mom bought some black cod at Trader Joe’s on Wednesday and with Johnny coming over for dinner on Friday night (Yay!) I prepared the fish by baking it in a foil packet (similar to the baked salmon I made here) with roasted red bell peppers and kalamata olives from jars, fresh basil from the basil plant on the breakfast room table and a squeeze of Meyer lemon from our front yard tree. I made another round of my version of Shira’s Brussels sprout salad with toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries, put some red potatoes in the oven to bake with the fish and spent some time in the kitchen with my mother concocting a family favorite dessert, a baked lemon pudding.

Original watercolor painting shows baked lemon pudding and ingredients.

Lemon Pudding. 8″ x 8″ Gouache and Watercolor Pencil on Paper, Sharyn Dimmick.

The lemon pudding began, as things often do at our house, with substitutions: the classic recipe, culled from an index card in one of my mother’s recipe files calls for Wheaties (“Breakfast of Champions”) cereal in the topping. Mom’s search of our high storage cupboards revealed that the orange boxes she thought contained Wheaties were in fact Bran Flakes. Oh. She decided to combine Bran Flakes and Corn Flakes to approximate the missing Wheaties.

I went out to the yard to gather lemons from the tree, bringing in four of the ripest ones I could reach. I asked Mom about quantity. She said, “The recipe calls for the juice of two lemons, but these are bland — maybe add an extra one.”

I zested and juiced three lemons, squeezing each half through my hand. This resulted in just a quarter-cup of juice.

“That’s only a quarter-cup,” I said.

“Maybe do the other one,” she replied.

I juiced the fourth lemon, but did not zest it, mainly because I had absentmindedly cut it in half to squeeze instead of picking up the microplane. Life is imperfect and I one of its imperfect creatures.

I reminded Mom that the topping for this pudding is usually tooth-ache-ingly sweet. I was working on the lemon filling while she worked on the topping and we agreed to scant the sugar in our respective parts. She reduced the brown sugar in the recipe that doubles for crust and topping and I scanted the 3/4 cup white sugar in the filling. The result of the combined sugar reduction was a more delicious pudding than usual, which we ate with the leftover sweetened mascarpone from last week’s strawberry shortcake. I present to you the modified recipe with additional observations in the Food Notes.

Homey Lemon Pudding

For lemon filling:

Juice and zest 2 ordinary Eureka lemons or 4 Meyer lemons. Set aside.

Place in saucepan:

Scant 3/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1/8 tsp kosher salt

Stir in gradually:

1 cup very hot water

Bring sugar-flour-water mixture to boil over direct heat, stirring constantly for ten minutes.

Remove from heat.

Beat 2 eggs until smooth.

Temper the eggs by drizzling a little of the liquid into the eggs and whisking with a fork. Drizzle a little more liquid and whisk again. Repeat two or three more times until the eggs are perceptively warm before adding the eggs to the filling and whisking to combine. Tempering the eggs prevents having bits of cooked eggs in your lemon filling.

Add reserved lemon juice and zest to filling and stir to combine. Let filling cool while you make the topping (which also serves as the pudding’s base). At this time, also preheat your oven to 325.

In a mixing bowl combine:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt (unless using salted butter)

Cut in 1/3 cup shortening (Mom uses part margarine and part unsalted butter)

Add:

3/4 cup lightly crushed Corn Flakes

3/4 cup lightly crushed Bran Flakes (OR 1 cup Wheaties*)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

Press 2/3 of brown sugar mixture into the bottom of a square pan.

Pour cooled lemon filling over topping

Top with remaining 1/3 topping.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Serve with barely sweetened whipped cream (creme chantilly) or sweetened whipped mascarpone. If you use Cool Whip or whipped nonfat dried milk I don’t want to hear about it, although I am not in your kitchens to supervise what you do.

Food Notes: If you have Wheaties on hand you only need a cup of them: they are thicker and crunchier than the other cereals we substituted here. On the other hand, the recipe was formulated for “old Wheaties,” which had less sugar than the current product, so substituting Corn Flakes and Bran Flakes may more closely resemble the original recipe. Bran Flakes on their own lack the necessary crunch, which is why Mom opted to mix them with Corn Flakes here. If you use salted butter in the topping you can skip the pinch of salt — it will provide all of the salt you need. Mom uses commercial sweetened shredded coconut — you can use unsweetened if you like: the topping ingredients provide plenty of sugar! We like tart lemon fillings — if you like yours sweeter either don’t scant the sugar in the filling or use one fewer lemon than we did.

Johnny and I liked the pudding so much that we had another square apiece after breakfasting on scrambled eggs with roasted peppers and cheddar cheese and sourdough toast on Saturday morning…

Painting shows lemon bars.

Lemon Bars. 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Two of my mother’s favorite flavors are brown sugar and coconut: when she was a child she mixed up a big jar of coconut and brown sugar, planning to eat it. Not only did her mother punish her for “wasting food,” she also threw out the mixture. Now, I ask you, who wasted that particular food?

Anyway, I arrived home yesterday from several days in the foothills of Amador County. In my absence, Mom had made a pot pie and roasted a pork loin and some vegetables. As we ate the pot pie for lunch, Mom said, a little sadly, that there were no sweets except chocolate and that she might have to just eat oranges.

My Mom is a hard worker and she has a sweet tooth. Plus, she had been given some Meyer lemons by our next door neighbor. I offered to make something since it was blogging day. I had just seen a recipe for lemon bars from Sawsan at Chef in Disguise this morning, which had sent me running to my Alice Medrich Pure Dessert cookbook and my binder of recipes to compare ratios for lemon bar base ingredients. I like lemon bars and will eat anything that even looks like one, but Mom and I agree that the crust on lemon bars is often too thick, too rich and too sweet. I asked if there was pie crust left from the pot pie. Negative. That meant I would be starting from scratch. Mom asked if I would want to make a lemon pudding instead. I naturally thought she meant our favorite lemon pudding which has lemon filling trapped between two layers of a rich mixture of Wheaties, butter, coconut and brown sugar. And then I thought, “Why not combine them? What if I made a base of butter, brown sugar, crushed Wheaties, flour and coconut and then put lemon filling on top of that?”

Down to the kitchen I went, taking the Medrich cookbook with me: I would use her recipe as a guideline for my lemon filling because she likes a tart lemon bar. I dug out the recipe for lemon pudding from a file box in the cabinet and studied the crust ratios for three recipes. I decided I would use 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/3 cup crushed Wheaties and 1/3 cup flaked coconut, plus 1/4 cup brown sugar for the pastry base, which I combined with a pastry blender and baked for twenty minutes in a 350 degree oven. I then turned the oven down to 300.

I meant to use Medrich’s measurements for the lemon filling, but I couldn’t bear the thought of 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of white sugar, so I decided to use 1 scant cup instead. I was aiming for her 1/2 cup of lemon juice, but after I zested and squeezed five small Meyer lemons and one stray tangerine that some cat had batted under the sideboard (it resurfaced last week and had seen better days, looking a little battered), I had 1/3 cup juice plus a little and decided to go with that. I used 1 Tbsp of whole wheat pastry flour and 2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour, whisked that with the 1 cup sugar, whisked in three eggs, added the lemon juice and zest, and poured the result onto the hot crust.

I baked the bars at 300 for nearly half an hour until the filling no longer jiggled when I tapped the pan. I cooled the pan on a rack while I went to Berkeley to pick up my vegetables. It was a bad day for bus service: I returned three hours later, put the vegetables away and cut the first square from the pan. I cut it in half and brought half to Mom who was watching T.V. She approved of the strong lemon flavor, but wondered why there was no topping. I said that lemon bars usually don’t have a topping and if I had made crumb topping for the top it would have taken twice as much butter. She asked why I hadn’t dusted them with powdered sugar and I said I was afraid that they would be too sweet.

These lemon bars came out buttery and lemony with a delicious brown sugar and coconut crust. Despite the scant cup of sugar they were not too sweet. Many lemon bar recipes call for shortbread crusts that take an entire stick of butter: with 1/3 cup of butter, the flavor of butter comes through beautifully.

Food notes: To get a generous 1/3 cup of juice I used five small Meyer lemons and one small battered tangerine. If you use Eureka lemons, you may not need more than two. Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than ordinary lemons, so you may need to increase the sugar to a generous cup and add a dusting of powdered sugar. If you have access to Meyer lemons, you can follow my measurements exactly, if that is your style. I was afraid to use all whole wheat pastry flour in the filling, but it worked fine in the crust. If you do not have Wheaties, you can substitute ground oatmeal (put rolled oats or quick oats in a blender for a few seconds), crushed wheatmeal biscuits, or a dry cereal of your choice.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
Henry David Thoreau

and if that means 15 kinds of citrus meals, so be it.
Suzanne Edminster at Saltworkstudio
http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com
Ms. Edminster is my best friend and kindly sent me the Thoreau quote this afternoon for the blog. To me the quote and her comment capture the essence of seasonal cooking: things never taste fresher or more lovely than in their true season and we are wise to eat them then and let them pass for the rest of the year as the calendar and the fields move on to new delights. We may, like Greg Brown’s grandmother, put the summer in jars, if we have the skill, and be able to taste raspberries on our toast in February (to my mind preferable to any red velvet dessert). Or we may make do with frozen berries and store-bought jam and wait for each season to come round again. And while there are delightful days for seasonal cooks when we buy our favorite things at the market or get our favorites in our CSA there are also the days when we say, “Oh, God. Another bunch of kale. Another four pounds of tangerines. What am I going to do with ten leeks and four celery roots?” A cleverer person than I called this “vegetable triage.” Most of us seasonal cooks are dedicated to this way of eating and living and will eventually grumble and take up the challenge.
Painting depicts partial Shaker Lemon Pie in front of a Meyer lemon tree.

Meyer Lemon Pie. 12″ x 12″ watercolor pencil, watercolor and gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

Debra of Three Well Beings wondered if I needed an assignment to get me going again on blogging about seasonal food. She asked if I had any more lemon recipes. Well, there is one lemon recipe I have been wanting to try ever since hearing about it: Shaker lemon pie, a pie of thinly-sliced lemons marinated in sugar overnight before being mixed with eggs, butter and flour and baked in a two-crust pie. You heard me right: two crusts. Every other lemon pie I make is a one-crust affair and even though I am temporarily out of unbleached flour I have pie crust in my refrigerator because we always make four crusts at a time. You can find my mother’s pie crust recipe here, if you need a recipe.

You can’t get any more local than going outside the front door to pick Meyer lemons off your own tree. Our tree is organic, too, meaning we give it very little: coffee grounds, tea leaves, water and a little copper now and then. Mom has been pruning it relentlessly to try to get it to bear its fruit high above the ground, hoping that snails all have fear of heights, so it is not the most prolific lemon tree on the block, but it had enough lemons for the pie (the recipe I used called for two, but that looked so pitiful in my glass bowl that I went out and picked a third to add to it).

I brought the lemons back inside, rinsed them and dried them. Before I even went to the kitchen or the yard I Googled a recommended recipe and tried to find out how to slice lemons “paper-thin.” No luck. Considering that recent tests put me in the first and fifteenth percentile for manual dexterity (that means either ninety-nine or eighty-five percent of people tested are more dextrous than I am), I recognized that thin rounds might be a problem. I have neither the patience nor the experience of Shaker women who have made this pie many times, although I share their desire to cook frugally.

First I tried a thin-bladed serrated knife. I worked slowly and held the lemon firmly. I even sliced off a slab on one side so that the lemon would sit flat on the cutting board. Try as I might I could not get those tissue-thin perfect slices. Next, I got out the mandoline. The mandoline sliced through the pith and tore the lemon flesh. Not good. Finally, I took up a sharp steak knife and slowly, carefully, tried to cut see-through slices. I got a few. The closer you get to the far end of a lemon, the harder it is to hold it steady. I need a lemon vice. The only thing I didn’t try was the meat slicer.

Because I was using whole lemons, minus only the seeds, I put in the entire two cups of sugar the recipe called for: lemon pith is bitter and I did not want a bitter pie: tart, yes, bitter, no. And I followed the recipe for filling that my friend Carol uses, purloined from the online version of Joy of Cooking because I had never made this pie before.

I put the lemons to marinate in a clear glass bowl in the refrigerator, placing a china plate on top to seal the bowl (I am one of those people who feels bad when I use plastic wrap and I love finding ways around it). Then yesterday we went out and bought the flour we needed to finish the pie during our weekly grocery-shopping rounds.

First I rolled out the bottom crust and put the oven on to preheat at 425. Then I whisked 4 large eggs in a mixing bowl and added 3 Tbsp flour. Why didn’t I whisk an egg slowly into the flour and avoid lumps? Because sometimes I don’t think, that’s why, but you can do it that way. Then I melted 1/4 cup unsalted butter in the microwave and had to let it cool. Why didn’t I melt the butter first before beating the eggs? See above answer. I don’t often use mise en place, although quite often I should.

Anyway, with a lot of whisking I got a fairly smooth mixture, then added the lemon-sugar mixture and whisked again. I poured it into my prepared pie shell and rolled out a top crust, pinched the edges together and put the pie into the oven. This is one of those stay in the kitchen (or use a timer) recipes because you need to turn the oven down to 350 after 25 minutes. It might be a good idea to turn it down a little sooner or start it at 400 — my crust browned awfully fast. The filling turned a jammy, deep golden color, reminiscent of the color of the ripe Meyer lemons themselves.

Madge, the pie critic, commented that it was a little bitter. She’s right — it has a slightly bitter edge like a mild marmalade does because you use the whole lemon. I don’t mind it. It has deep lemon flavor. And her comment did not stop her from having another piece at lunch today. If you need a pie that is all sweetness and light, this is not your pie, can’t be your pie. If you love all lemon desserts all the time, make it and see what you think.

painting shows a single red shoe.

One Red Shoe. 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Okay, so what’s this about the red shoe? Not in the pie, silly. Cecilia of TheKitchensGarden kindly awarded me the Educational Shoe Award, given to blogs that teach, because I preach the gospel of seasonal cooking and because I chime in with helpful hints on other food blogs when I think something I say might be helpful. It came with a high-heeled red shoe. I am grateful to Cecilia for honoring me and my two cents worth: she lives on a farm, raising animals and bees and crops, preserving her own bounty and wishing us cheery good mornings from her Illinois homestead. She also writes and coaches us on how to take better photos. I am also grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to paint red shoes. Turns out I own and have owned several red shoes, but this is the first red shoe that came to mind, a little flat number because I can’t walk in high heels. I will pass on the award in a future post after I have had time to study some potential recipients and think on it.

Food notes: You need the sugar in this pie — all of it: you need it to transform the bitter pith. I can’t recommend experiments or substitutions because this is the first time I have made this pie, although I can confess to wondering if I could make it with thin-skinned Valencia oranges, or a mixture of oranges and lemons. The official recipe says “thin-skinned lemons” (Meyers are perfect). You need thin-skinned varieties because they have less pith.

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