Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Sugar Cookies

Does any flavor say spring more than lemon? I think not. And it seems like I've been seeing lemon poppy seed combinations popping up everywhere in blogland. So I decided to try one of these recipes out.

Mel's Kitchen Cafe is one of the new blogs I've found. I saw her lemon poppy seed sugar cookies and just had to try them out. It's a cake-like cookie that is not too sweet. The lemon flavor wasn't very pronounced since she only uses the zest, so I added in a 1/2 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice to up the flavor. It was really easy to make, and I think it would make a perfect complement to some herbal tea.

Lemon Poppy Seed Sugar Cookies
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combined the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and poppy seeds. Whisk together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest and mix well. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.

Scoop 1 tablespoon of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are set. The cookies should be puffy and fairly light in color when they are finished baking. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes on the baking sheet. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Crème Caramel

I bought the cookbook of all cookbooks last week. 1,000 pages of pure happiness.
To break it in, I wanted to make the recipe on the cover. Being from out west where there is a heavy Mexican influence, I thought that the picture on the cover was flan. So I searched the index, but it wasn't to be found. My awesome husband suggested that I look at the beginning of the book for a reference, and I quickly found that the cover recipe was crème caramel. Ooh, fancy.

Apparently this is the French version of flan. It was extremely light and delicate. The texture was very smooth, and it honestly melted in my mouth when I took that first bite.

On a side note, whoever figured out that the caramel would liquify like that when custard is baked on top of it is a genius. I mean, when you pour it into the ramekin the caramel turns rock hard. But when you invert the custard onto a plate after baking, the caramel pours out into liquidy (is that a word?) deliciousness. Genius.

Classic Crème Caramel
from the editors of Cook's Illustrated

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp juice from 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups light cream
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (4 2/3 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. For the caramel: In a medium nonreactive saucepan, bring the sugar, water, corn syrup, and lemon juice to a simmer, without stirring, over medium-high heat, wiping the sides of the pan with a wet cloth to remove any sugar crystals that might cause the syrup to turn grainy. Continue to cook until the syrup turns from clear to golden, swirling the pan gently to ensure even browning, about 8 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling the pan gently and constantly, until large, slow bubbles on the mixture's surface turn honey-caramel in color, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Remove the pan immediately from the heat and, working quickly but carefully (the caramel is above 300 degrees and will burn if it touches your skin), pour a portion of the caramel into each of 8 ungreased 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Allow the caramel to cool and harden, about 15 minutes. (The caramel-coated ramekins can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days; return to room temperature before adding the custard.)

2. For the custard: Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears and/or an instant-read thermometer held in the liquid registers 160 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes; remove from the heat. Meanwhile, gently whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a large bowl until just combined. Off the heat, gently whisk the warm milk mixture, vanilla, and salt into the eggs until just combined but not at all foamy. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or container with a pouring spout; set aside.

3. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a kettle. Meanwhile, fold a dish towel to fit the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and position it in the pan. Divide the reserved custard mixture among the ramekins; place the filled ramekins on the towel in the pan (making sure they do not touch) and set the pan on the oven rack. Fill the pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins; cover the entire pan loosely with aluminum foil so steam can escape. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge of the custards comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the custards to a wire rack; cool to room temperature (The custards can be covered with plastic warp and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

4. To unmold, slide a paring knife around the perimeter of each ramekin, pressing the knife against the side of the dish. Hold a serving plate over the top of the ramekin and invert; set the plate on the work surface and shake the ramekin gently to release the custard. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Meringue Roulade

My parents went to Ireland last week to visit my sister who just had a baby. They were killing some time at Blarney Woollen Mills when they decided to stop in at the restaurant. They tried something they had never had before - meringue roulade. They instantly fell in love.

On their way back to the States, they were going to have an overnight layover close to my house. So my mom asked me to make a meringue roulade while they were here. We made it and it was fairly easy (my trusty stand mixer making this possible).

So what is a meringue roulade? It's kind of like a sponge cake made out of a soft meringue (think lemon meringue pie topping, crispy on the outside with a soft, chewy center), filled with whipped cream and berries or lemon curd. It's a common dessert in Europe, but we American folk apparently aren't in the know.

It only takes 20 minutes to bake, and while it's baking you can do the prep work making the cream and cutting up the berries. If you make lemon curd it'll obviously add a bit of time. But it's a light, quick dessert, delicious, and it's sure to impress those you serve it to!

Meringue Roulade

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar (in Ireland they use caster sugar, which is very fine sugar)

2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tbsp powdered sugar
pinch of salt

1 1/4 cups berries, using some for garnish
1/2 cup lemon curd

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet with parchment paper, extending 2 inches over ends of pan.

Beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups sugar, beating until meringue is stiff and shiny. Tip: to test the meringue, rub a small bit of it between your fingers. If you can feel the grit, keep beating. My grit never actually went all the way away, but it was noticeably less gritty when I decided to just bake it as is.

Spread meringue evenly in prepared baking sheet. Bake until pale golden, about 8 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Bake until meringue is slightly firm to touch on top but soft inside, about 8 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and turn the meringue out onto a tea towel dusted with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off parchment paper and cool for 20 minutes. Tip: when turning the meringue over onto the tea towel, do it quickly or your meringue will fall apart. It may be crumbly, but that's ok.

Whip cream, vanilla, powdered sugar, and salt in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Slice strawberries, if using.

For strawberry meringue roulade: spread whipped cream over meringue, leaving 2 inch border on one end. Sprinkle strawberries over the whipped cream. Starting at 1 long side, gently roll up meringue jelly-roll style, enclosing filling. Place roulade, seam side down, on platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with strawberries. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

For lemon meringue roulade: spread lemon curd over meringue, leaving 2 inch border on one end. Then spread whipped cream over the lemon curd, leaving 2 inch border on the same end. Starting at 1 long side, gently roll up meringue jelly-roll style, enclosing filling. Place roulade, seam side down, on platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with strawberries. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.