Monday, May 28, 2012

A lemon named curd

For Mother's Day I made a Pink Lemonade Cake from Better Homes and Gardens. Everyone loved it. I'm sure I've said it before, but I'll say it again--I don't really like cake. As cakes go, however, this one was pretty good. It had a sharp lemon flavour and a hearty dose of sweetness. I'll be honest though. Mostly I wanted to make it because it's just so pretty.

Look how lovely and pink it is. And the layers are subtly different shades. I fell in love as soon as I saw the picture of it here. Theirs is a little nicer looking than mine, but they have food stylists, and I do not. So there.

Anyway, I wanted to talk less about the cake and more about the lemon curd I used in the middle. As per usual I deviated from the original recipe when it came to icing and filling. I used my Italian buttercream recipe from this post, adding a teaspoon of lemon extract along with the vanilla.

And for the middle layer I used Anna Olson's lemon curd recipe. I folded in a cup of whipped cream (holding stiff peaks) to turn it into a sort of impromptu mousse, but you could use it all on it's own. The curd comes from a recipe for warm lemon sponge, which I would highly recommend making in it's entirety. It's exactly how it sounds. And the curd provides a beautiful contrast of texture nestled in the middle of the individual cakes.

'Curd' is a very unfortunate word, I think. Probably because the mind immediately jumps to 'curdled' and there's not much that's more disgusting than curdled dairy. Please don't let this deter you. Think of it as lemon custard if you must. Because that is actually all it is. 

The Anna Olson recipe is my standby whenever I need lemon curd. As I'm sure you've already guessed, it's extraordinarily easy. And it's always worked out for me, which is more than I can say for just about every other recipe I've ever made. I think it's safe to say it's pretty fool proof. The trick is to whisk it the entire time so as to avoid any lumps. The butter will remain in chunks until it's heated up enough to melt, but don't worry, it will be fine.

When you chill it, just be sure you place a piece of saran wrap directly on the surface to prevent it from forming a skin. 

The lemon flavour you get out of this is divine, with just the right balance of tangy and sweet. It's bright and refreshing and so smooth and creamy. I don't even mind the bits of zest in it. That's a big deal. Just ask my mom.

So keep it in your recipe book. Use it to fill cakes, fruit tarts, cream puffs. Dip strawberries in it, spread it on toast. Or eat it right out of the bowl with a spoon. Just as long as you try it. However you might feel about the word 'curd'.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monthly Moonshine: Belated Martini

So I missed April's Monthly Moonshine. Sadly, I'm sure no one's surprised. Oh well. I will try my best to have another one for you at the end of this month. On time, preferably. In any case, I recently fell prey to Pinterest, and all the recipes that I'll test will likely end up here if they prove worthy of sharing.

For now, I bring you the martini. 

The martini is one of those cocktails that everyone seems to know. Made famous by James Bond who preferred his shaken, it is steeped in history, romanticism, and a certain amount of swagger. Sadly, in recent times, it also seems to be made primarily with vodka. For those who enjoy vodka, I'm sure that's seen as rather an improvement, but I'm a gin girl, and I like mine better that way.

Now, you should know, there are more ways to make a martini than I can count. As I just established, the first major division is vodka or gin. Then of course dryness. 'Dry' refers to how much vermouth is used in making it. I like mine very dry, so the most I do is swirl the vermouth around the glass enough to coat it, and then dump it. Some prefer olives, and some prefer a twist of lemon. Sometimes I'll even have it dirty, which involves the addition of olive brine.

The internet is rife with different martini recipes, but I'm here to tell you how I make mine.

First, as I mentioned, swirl some vermouth around the glass to coat it and discard the excess. Then shake two ounces of gin (I prefer Bombay Sapphire) with ice in a cocktail shaker. Some people don't like shaking because they claim it 'bruises' the gin. I'm not sure what this means and I've never noticed any difference. That may be because of my unrefined palette, but if your palette can't detect minute differences, you probably won't notice this either. 

Also, I like using my cocktail shaker. It's fun. 

Strain your chilled gin into your glass and add a few olives. It's as easy as that. Of course it's best when it's cold, so you have to drink it fairly quickly. I wouldn't recommend a lot of them, and they aren't for everyone. If you prefer vodka, definitely use it instead. 

And if you ever want to order one at a bar, just ask for a gin martini, very dry, with olives.