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Posts tagged ‘Lemon’

Lemon Polenta Pistachio Buttons

My blog doesn’t have much of at “theme;” I pretty much do whatever I want.  The majority of my posts are about baking, but this is not exclusively a baking blog.  I’m someone who generally watches what she eats and makes exercise a priority in her life, but this is most definitely not a healthy eating blog (see recently these, or these, or even these).  Butter, flour, sugar, chocolate – these are the things that make life worth living.  But everything in moderation, right?

That’s why I love new book Baking with Less Sugar, by Joanne Chang, the pastry chef–owner of Flour Bakery + Café in Boston.  For her book, Joanne developed recipes using natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and fruit juice.  She also includes recipes that simply use (much) less refined sugar, which allows the other flavors in the recipe to shine.  These Lemon Polenta Pistachio Buttons are one of those recipes.  They are a lemony, just-sweet-enough cookie with a lovely crunchy texture from a healthy dose cornmeal in the dough.  Topped with a little sweetened crushed pistachios, they are a treat perfect for any occasion.

Overall, they are easy to make (no mixer or fancy equipment required!) and taste fantastic, while being summer wardrobe-friendly.  Thanks for the great book, Joanne – can’t wait to try more recipes!

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Lemon Polenta Pistachio Buttons

Baking with Less Sugar by Joanne Chang of The Flour Bakery + Café

Makes 10-12 cookies

Total active time: 45 minutes


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sugar dipping mix

2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped, roasted and salted pistachios
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1. Pour butter into medium bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and egg; stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt, stir to combine. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until well-combined. Cover and chill the dough in the fridge until firm, about 1 hour (or up to overnight).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven.

4. Make the sugar dipping mixture: combine sugar, pistachios, and lemon zest in a small bowl.

5. Roll the cookie dough into balls the size of a large walnut; I ended up with 11 cookies. Roll the dough balls in the dipping mix – press firmly to allow the mix to adhere to the dough. Place cookies on a lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Press them flat with the palm of your hand, they will not spread much when the bake. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown on edges and pale in the center. Let them cool on the sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Meyer Lemon Cornmeal Cake

A week ago I found something at the market (or FreshDirect, which is often “the market” in New York City) I had never bought before: Meyer lemons.  Over the years I’ve had a few desserts flavored with Meyer lemons but have never used them myself.  For those of you who don’t know, Meyer lemons are a cousin of the lemons we use every day; they are a little smaller, a little rounder, with a slightly more orange color, making them a beautiful canary yellow.  And the taste?  Sort of a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin orange.  Yet while the taste is similar to a lemon, Meyer lemons are not as tart or acidic as lemons.  You can see how Meyers measure up next to a typical large lemon below:

Meyer Lemon Recipes

The Meyer lemons sat in my fridge for a week before I decided what to do with them – make a cake!  I saw a beautiful lemon cake on the lovely blog Lemons and Anchovies, and used it as my inspiration.  As much of a chocoholic as I am, I love lemon desserts.  Even my last birthday cake was a Lemon and Blueberry Layer Cake.  This cake turned out lovely – super moist and not too sweet, with a strong lemony flavor that was also mellowed by the use of the Meyers.  The cornmeal adds a little bit of texture, but this definitely doesn’t taste like cornbread; the cake has a light and delicate crumb.  It’s still citrus season, so I say take advantage and whip up this cake, especially if you have a special occasion coming up.

I tried to lighten up the recipe a bit, but who are we kidding?  This isn’t the most diet-friendly of desserts.  Serve up in small slices and you’ll be fine!

One year ago: Lemon Chicken + Roasted Asparagus

Meyer Lemon Cornmeal Cake

Recipe by Pâte à Chew; inspired by Lemon and Anchovies

If you use regular lemons in this recipe, up the sugar in the cake to 2 cups, from 1 3/4 cups, as the regular lemons will make the cake more tart.

You can omit the ground almonds and add an extra 1/2 cup all-purpose flour to the recipe instead.

Makes 12-16 servings

Total time: 2 hours


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons grated Meyer lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)

For the syrup

1/2 cup Meyer lemon or lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

For the glaze

2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4-1/3 cup Meyer lemon or lemon juice

1.  Heat oven to 325°F.  Prepare a 10-cup decorative tube pan or a 12-cup Bundt pan by coated with baking spray (I always use Pam for Baking).  In a food processor, grind the almonds until very fine, about 30 seconds, and set aside.  Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Combine buttermilk and lemon juice in another bowl and set aside.

2.  In a separate bowl beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest with a standing mixer or hand mixer set at medium speed until the batter is light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.  Add lemon extract (if using), then beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated into the batter after each addition.  Put the mixer to low, and mix in the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture in 3 additions until the batter is smooth, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.  Scrap down the bowl with a spatula at least once during the addition of the dry ingredients and wet ingredients.  Gently fold in ground almonds.  Scrape into prepared pan; level top with spatula.

3.  Bake 55 to 65 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on wire rack 5 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup: Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  When the cake is done, allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Spoon syrup all over hot cake until absorbed.  It helps to take a toothpick or knife and make small holes in the cake before adding the syrup.  Cool completely.

5.  Make the glaze:  Stir confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth.  Start with 1/4 cup lemon juice, adding a little more if you think the icing is too thick.  Remove the cake from the pan and transfer cake to a serving plate and cover. Pour glaze over top of cake; it will slowly make its way down to the bottom of the cake.  Let cake rest several hours, or overnight, before serving.  Store cake covered at room temperature up to 4 days.  Cut into thin slices to serve.

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake

I realize it has been far too long since my last post.  I’ve been out of the kitchen traveling – Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sonoma.  It was an amazing 11 days away, that included  a very special birthday dinner at the French Laundry.  It was by far the most expensive and extravagant meal I’ve ever treated myself to, and I’m happy to say it was worth every penny.  We even got a tour of the kitchen and a picture with the Chef de Cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth!  I was in foodie heaven.

Now I’m back in NYC, where it is a typical hot and sticky July day.  Why oh why can’t I live in Sonoma, where the weather was perfect every day we were there?  Because I was away for my birthday, I decided to have some people over after my return from the West for a belated birthday soiree.  On the menu: a lemon blueberry layer cake, courtesy of Gesine Bullock-Prado.  You won’t find many cakes on this blog because I don’t make them often.  I need an occasion that warrants a cake (particularly a layer cake in need of decorating) for me to actually want to get out the cake tins and decorating set complete with pastry bags and frosting tips.  Despite the work that goes into a layer cake, I was reminded last week that process can be quite fun.

As much as I love chocolate, I wanted a lighter, summery cake, and this definitely delivered.  It had been on my list of things to try for quite some time.  This is also a great dessert for people who don’t love overly-sweet desserts; the cake is sweet but tangy, a little buttery but still refreshing.  And despite being warned once in the past that store-bought lemon curd is just as good as homemade (so then, why bother making your own), I opted to try making my own lemon curd.  You can certainly buy lemon curd, but since I had never made it before and wanted to give it a try.  It was actually surprisingly easy – the only trick is not over-cooking it, and I put some helpful tips below to help make sure that doesn’t happen.

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake

All recipes adapted slightly from Gesine Bullock-Prado

8 ounces (2 sticks) room temperature unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
5 room temperature eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/4 cup non-fat buttermilk
1 cup blueberries

1.  Spray three 8 or 9 inch cake rounds with non-stick spray.  Cut parchment into rounds to cover the bottom of each pan.  Spray the top of the parchment round with non-stick spray once it’s in place.  Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside in a bowl or onto a sheet of parchment paper.

2.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes on high speed.  This is important; it if takes longer, it takes longer.  Scrape sides of bowl every few minutes using a rubber spatula.  As Gesine says, “This is crucial. Otherwise you’re going to be left with errant chunks of butter in your finished batter.  You’ll get little pockets of butter and sugar in the finished cake, crunchy divots in an otherwise beautifully moist cake.  Patience!”  Add eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is perfectly incorporated before you add another.  Scrape down sides of bowl after every few eggs.  Add the lemon extract and lemon zest, and mix until incorporated.  With the mixer on slow speed, add flour and buttermilk in alternative pours, starting and ending with the flour.  Scrape down the bowl during the process.

3.  Once everything is well incorporated, use a plastic spatula to fold the batter a few more times to make sure you’ve got everything will mixed.  Divide the batter between your cake pans.  Take about 1/3 cup blueberries and push them into the batter.  If you use frozen blueberries, make sure you don’t mix around the batter in the pan after placing the blueberries in the batter (otherwise it will dye the batter blue).  Repeat with the other two cake pans.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 40 minutes.  Begin checking after 20 minutes; check for doneness by pressing gently on the cake.  If you leave an indent, the cake is not done.  If it bounces back gently without leaving a mark, it’s done.  If the cake doesn’t budge when you poke it, it’s over done.  Put the pans on a cooling rack, and let the cake cool completely in the pans before removing and filling.

4.  To assemble the cake: place first layer on a cake stand.  Spread a layer of lemon curd (about 1/2 cup of curd), then a generous amount of whipped cream.  Place second layer on top of the first, and repeat with lemon curd and whipped cream.  Place the third layer of cake on the second, and top with whipped cream.  If you want to decorate the top like I did with a basketweave frosting design, hit up You Tube for a quick lesson on how to do it (I promise, it’s easier than you think)!

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 cup sugar
7 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin*
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

* You don’t have to use the gelatin; it is used here because it gels the curd so that it will not ooze out the sides of the cake.  If you want to leave it out, feel free to do so.

1. In a heatproof metal bowl add 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 cup sugar and 7 egg yolks.  In a separate bowl, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of gelatin on top of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice until it’s “bloomed” and looks soggy.  Set aside.

2.  Place the bowl with lemon juice, sugar and yolks on top of a simmering pot of water and whisk until the lemon mixture has thickened.  Once the lemon curd has become nice and thick, like hollandaise, remove it from the heat.  Curd takes a long time to thicken – first, it will start to get foamy and lightens in color from an egg-yolk yellow to a lighter, buttery yellow.  When the foam starts to dissipate and it starts to thicken, stop whisking ad remove from heat.   Immediately add the gelatin mixture and whisk until it’s completely melted. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and whisk until fully incorporated.

3.  Transfer the curd to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic touches the entire surface of the exposed curd, otherwise it will form a skin. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Whipped Cream

2 cups very cold heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 heaping tablespoon lemon curd
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Place all ingredients in a standing mixer with a whisk attachment.  Whip on high until soft peaks form.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

This past weekend, Summer arrived.  It’s a bit unfortunate, since Spring usually arrives before Summer.  Last weekend was cold; this weekend was hot, and yesterday (Memorial Day) was hot and muggy.  What happened to Spring, did we really have to completely skip it this year?

Because I started blogging last November – at the start of winter – there have been several ingredients that have been off-limits to me.  Now, however, there is an abundance of new fruits and vegetables for me to play with.  Rhubarb is in season now, and it’s an ingredient I’ve never cooked used.  It’s often paired with strawberry (strawberry rhubarb pie or cobbler), where the sourness of the rhubarb cuts the sweetness of the strawberries.  You rarely see rhubarb on its own, and last week the New York Times printed a recipe for rhubarb upside-down cake.  Intrigued, I took on the challenge of using a new ingredient, and thought a seasonal rhubarb dessert would be a good addition to the Memorial Day barbecue I attended.

I was really happy with the way this cake came out.  It was not difficult to make, although there are several steps to making it.  The rhubarb was really easy to work with – I bought it at the Union Square Greenmarket, kept it in a plastic bag in my fridge, then washed and chopped it a few days later when I made the cake.  The green and red parts of rhubarb are both edible, but the red stalks tend to be sweeter, so I bought rhubarb that was as red as I could find.

Rhubarb is naturally sour, but when macerated with sugar and baked on top of a mixture of butter and brown sugar, it tastes sweet but still retains a little tartness.  The cake was also nice, a little lemony but not a lemon cake, with a light, delicate and tender crumb.  The dessert is perfect for summer, as it’s not overly sweet and incorporates a fruit (well, technically a vegetable) that is only in season through July.

And probably most importantly, people seemed to like it, as most of it was gone by the end of the party!

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Adapted from the New York Times

I made a few adjustments to the recipe, notably cutting a quarter of the fat by removing 1 stick of butter from the batter and adding a quarter-cup of vegetable oil, which also lowers the saturated fat content of the cake.  I upped the sour cream to make up for the lost wet ingredients (half a cup of fat), and the cake still tasted great.

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups cake flour*
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice

* To make your own, 1 cup of cake flour = 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tablespoons cornstarch; double that for the 2 cups of cake flour called for in this recipe.

1. In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan or regular cake pan with parchment paper.  Butter the paper and sides of the pan – or use Pam for Baking, like I always do.  If you are using a springform pan, wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a baking sheet also lined with foil.

3. Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes (this took me longer, at least 5 to 10 minutes).  In a bowl, mix together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

4. Whip 1 stick butter and 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes, then scrap down the bowl. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (The original recipe notes here that it’s fine if the mixture looks curdled, but mine did not look curdled.) With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined, but try not to overmix. Scrape down the mixer bowl every so often between the additions.

5. Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.

6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.  My cake took 5 minutes longer, but start checking the cake at the 1 hour 10 minute mark.  Do not open the oven before then, as no one likes a fallen cake!

7. Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.

Lemon Chicken Breasts + Roasted Asparagus

I have been asked several times why I don’t have more chicken recipes on this blog.  I realized that this is true; besides a few soups, I haven’t posted about an actual chicken dish.  The truth is this: as easy as people (including me) think chicken is to make, it’s actually not.  Chicken often turns out bland, overcooked, and generally boring – three things I don’t want my food (or this blog) to be.

So I turned to a reliable source for a good, easy, and fast chicken recipe: Ina.  And Ina came through for me.  I made this on a weeknight, and it came together in just under an hour.  The recipe calls for boneless, skin-on breasts, but I couldn’t find that combination, so I went bone-in, skin-on.  I never eat  the skin, but roasting with the skin on makes for one moist and juicy chicken.  I paired it with roasted asparagus, which is even easier to make: wash and trim asparagus, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast on a sheet pan in the same oven as the chicken.  When the chicken has 15 minutes left, place the asparagus in the oven on the rack below the chicken, and you’re done.  As Ina likes to say these days, “How easy is that?”  (Yes, this line – and the title of her new cookbook – is so cheesy … but I still love her.)

Lemon Chicken Breasts

This recipe comes together fast, but if you plan ahead, prepare the sauce and assemble with the chicken in the roasting pan that morning or the night before you want to make it.  Place the prepared dish in the fridge until you want to roast it.  Allowing the chicken to marinate for several hours or overnight will result in even better flavor.

Adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 4, adjust recipe for any number of servings

Total time: 45 minutes


1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (1-2 lemons, depending on the size)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6 to 8 ounces each)
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

1.  Make sauce/marinade: Heat the olive oil on medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Once hot, remove the pan from heat and immediately add the garlic and stir. After one minute, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt. As a side note, Ina rubs the dried oregano between her hands while she sprinkles the oregano in the pan, because this releases the oils in the spice. Pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish.  If you are only making 2 breasts, you can use an 8 by 8-inch baking dish.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pat the chicken breasts dry and put them skin side up over the sauce in the baking dish. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Tuck the lemon wedges among the pieces of chicken.  If preparing dish for later, cover baking dish with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you want to bake it.

3.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (this will depend on the size of your chicken breasts) until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned.  If the chicken isn’t browned enough, you can put it under the broiler for 2 minutes.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and serve with the pan juices.

Roasted Asparagus

Serves 4

Total time: 30 minutes


1 pound asparagus
A few tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash asparagus, break off the tough ends, and place the asparagus on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, then toss with your hands to coat the asparagus completely.   Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast the asparagus for 15 to 20  minutes (depending on how thick the asparagus are), until tender but still a little crisp.


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