Sunday, April 18, 2010

When Life (or friends) Gives You Lemons

Make Lemon Polenta Pound Cake with Lemon Curd.
This time of year, everybody is looking to get rid of their citrus. (See the Resources In The Valley page if you need to rid yourself of some)
Our friend Charlie recently brought us some lemons from his tree. Lemons are one of my all-time favorite ingredients for desserts and savory cooking. We have just one little Meyer lemon tree in a pot which was, again, prolific with blossoms this year, but only time will tell if it produces lemons. To my disappointment, last year, it produced none.
Usually I prefer to bake and prepare desserts with Meyer, and cook with Eureka or Lisbon, but since Charlie brought us Eureka's and I needed lemon zest, I used them with some delicious results. Meyer Lemons, in comparison to Eureka and Lisbon, are very thin skinned, are juicier, and sweeter and less acidic. Sometimes, you would swear they are oranges because of their color. Eureka and Lisbon are much more tart and their zest can't be beat when you need essence of lemon. Use a micro-plane to get the wonderful, aromatic lemon zest with all the fresh oil and none of the bitter white rind.
With these lemons, I decided to make an old favorite pound cake recipe; Lemon Polenta Pound Cake with Lemon Curd.
This is a dense, flavorful poundcake, with the surprising crunchy mouth-feel thanks to the Polenta. Paired with the silky sweet-tart lemon curd, it is lemon heaven. The poundcake isn't too sweet, which is a good thing, because the lemon curd packs a sweet-tart wallup.

3 Eggs, separated
1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Evaporated Milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray the ends of a medium-size loaf pan with nonstick spray, then line the sides and bottom with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking soda; Stir to blend. Set aside.
Cream the butter with the lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix well.
Add the lemon juice and milk alternately with the dry ingredients and mix until just until moistened.
Carefully fold in the egg whites.
Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool 15 minutes in the pan, then invert on a cooling rack, remove parchment paper and cool completely.
Serves 12
Lemon Curd
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together lemon juice, zest, sugar and eggs.
cook over medium-low heat whisking vigorously and continuously until the curd is thick enough to hold a ripple mark when the whisk is lifted from the curd and the first bubbles appear on the surface (this should take about 6-7 minutes)
Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter until melted and glossy. Cover the curd using plastic wrap spread directly over the surface of curd to prevent a skin from forming.
Chill for a minimum of 2 hours before using or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Makes approx. 1-1/2 cups

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