Lemon Sugar Cookies

December 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

My room at home is right next to the kitchen, which means I can roll out of bed at 6:30 a.m., still jet-legged, and set about icing holiday cookies. Red and green sugar sprinkles for the gingerbread trees and bells, a lemon glaze for the sugar cookie snowmen and teddy bears, and a thin smear of chocolate sandwiched between two brown-sugar poppy seed wafers.

Most of the year, I am all for innovation and new desserts. But come Christmastime, there are a few cookies that absolutely have to make it on the cookie plate (which, yes, we still put out for Santa). They come from cookbooks with pages falling out, stained with eggs and chocolate. Every year, you have to flip through torn pages, all out of order, past dozens of cookies you’ve never made, until you find what you’re looking for. Yesterday, I made the lemon sugar cookie dough, rolled it out and baked it into pretty shapes. Today, when I woke up to ice them, there were maybe half the number of cookies we had last night. I guess that’s what happens when you go to bed at 9 p.m. and stop keeping an eye on them.

I always like to have a balanced assortment of flavor on my cookie plate. These are the most delicately-flavored of the bunch. The cookie is soft, but with a crisp crumb. Don’t skip out on the glaze, it’s necessary to achieve the full lemony effect and it makes for a nice tart-sweet contrast with the buttery cookie.

Lemon sugar cookies
Adapted from The Christmas Cookie Book by Lou Seibert Pappas

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and lemon zest until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix to form a dough (this can be done with your hands if you like). Gather the dough into a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a floured surface less than ¼ inch thick. Use cutters of your choice to cut out cookies. Place cookies on prepared sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

To make the glaze, stir together the sugar and lemon sugar. It should be thin and transparent. Spread the glaze on the cooled cookies.

Whole Lemon Tart

May 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Between cancelled flights, an onslaught of interviews for a new article, finishing up at work last week and houseparties this past week, the downtime conducive to actually putting a coherent sentence together has been pretty much non-existent. While I haven’t been writing, I have had mouth surgery, made a trip to the emergency room with excruciating chest pain related to an antibiotic I have been taking, barely recovered from that and jet-setted across the country. But I am now back home with very little to discuss that does not have to do with beer — be it the drinking it, the after effects of it, or the new article I’m writing that is all about beer. That said, I left campus again feeling like I finally had a clean slate to start next year on, summer funding secured, a new major that I am actually excited about, and a lineup of junior paper topics that I can’t wait to start thinking about (someone studying for finals right now, feel free to punch me in the face here).

It’s disconcerting going back to campus. The lawns are still pristine, the grass cut, the walk to the Street still feels like second nature. It’s like it has stopped in time. Sure, someone may have a new boyfriend and someone else may be about to graduate, but otherwise not much has changed. It brings a new definition to the “Orange Bubble.” I took a trip in New York City one evening to meet a friend I had met in Paris of all places. As I stepped out off the escalator of Penn Station and the world screamed and pushed around me, I was reminded of how much comfort I found on my trips to the city during school (though they were not many), because the city actually feels like life. It makes even a city girl, born and raised, feel like she just left the farm for the first time.

But today is not for beer drinking, rather it is for margarita drinking and taco eating and and and it’s Cinco de Mayo!!! Okay, so this isn’t actually a margarita and it’s actually lemon, though I’m sure it would work with lime as well, but it still fits the theme because — and really listen to this — all you have to do is throw a lemon in the blender with some sugar and there you have a tart. Genius.

Whole Lemon Tart
This is a bit different than your standard lemon tart as it actually tastes like the whole lemon, rind and all. It’s a bit scary to throw the whites of the rind into a tart filling and I admit I wasn’t completely sold on first bite, but once the tart cooled and chilled, I really changed my opinion on it. I’m not sure I’m willing to leave my dearest lemon curd behind, but make this version at least once as a novelty.

1 average-sized lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces; 130 grams), rinsed and dried
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons (12 grams) cornstarch
1 stick (4 ounces; 115 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 9-inch tart shell (or use your favorite rectangular tart pan) made with Smitten Kitchen’s Sweet Tart Dough, partially baked and cooled

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Slice whole lemon in half and pull out seeds from it and the half. Then cut lemons into small pieces.

Throw lemons and sugar in blender or processor and pulse, blend and scrape down sides until you have smooth consistency. Add the eggs, egg yolk, butter and cornstarch, and pulse and blend until filling is thoroughly mixed. Pour the filling into partially baked crust.

Carefully transfer baking sheet to oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake tart for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when filling starts to bubble up. Tart is baked when the filling is set, but still shaky in the center and top has a sugary crust. Don’t worry if it bubbles some, mine overflowed and the fire alarm went off.

Transfer tart pan to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

I love a good market day

April 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

This weekend I went down the hill to the Alemany Farmers’ market for the first time — ever. It’s odd that, even though we live in such close proximity to it, we always chose the market at the Ferry Building. Perhaps that market has a soft place in my heart after many mornings when I was younger spent at the old Embarcadero parking lot location eating watermelon and root beer flavored honey straws. But these days that location is madly overrun with people, so we went for a quick stop at the Hayes Valley Grill stand for the mandatory crab cake sandwich — char-grilled crusty roll, creamy, toasty fresh crab, with a hearty swipe of herb aioli, mixed lettuce and sliced cabbage, and a couple of tomato slices — and a leisurely stroll through the Alemany market. We found fresh corn tortillas, spicy smoked scallops, vibrant chard in every color of the rainbow and even long stalks of sugar cane, which I had to be convinced out of purchasing before I even knew what to do with sugar cane besides eat it raw. I think I’ll be back just for the smell of corn over the fire.

Following the eating extravaganza, in which I demolished a carton of organic strawberries in a couple of minutes right there in the parking lot, I went for an afternoon run along the Sawyer Camp Trial. The trail starts as a crowded mess of weekend walkers and children biking during the first mile and then the crowds thin out, and you’re practically on your own, winding along the twists and turns of the reservoir, until you finally cross to the other side and start climbing. The trail is marked every half-mile, which makes pacing very easy but also pushes you faster than you should be going. I topped off the last mile really pushing it only to come to the realization as I sat down on the hot pavement to stretch, that the marathon is in less than a week. Cue terrified freak-out.

While we were down on the Peninsula, my mother picked up a bag of lemons from a friend’s backyard tree. A couple of extras were thrown in the paper bag upon the news that I was on a citrus curd-making spree. Following my blood orange tart, which I made a couple of weeks ago (and you can find it at Eat the Love, alongside the other fabulous citrus desserts at 18 Reasons — my skirt matches, don’t you think?), I have started branching out from my favorite lemon and discovering the ups and downs of curd making. I’ve struggled to get a firm consistency from my blood orange curd while maintaining its bright, sing-song color and zesty flavor, and I’ve found that while lime works interchangeably with lemon in my favorite recipe, it’s flavor doesn’t sing “lime.” Rather, the lime curd pops with citrus flavor, but does not meld into a distinct lime burst until after it has sat on the tongue for awhile. Which is okay I guess, when you’re eating it straight off the spoon.

De-tartified lemon curd (except amazingly tart)

June 4, 2010 § 3 Comments

Hello from New York City. I am surrounded by highrises and about to give you a little piece of sunshine. Just look at this picture and try to pretend it doesn’t make you happy. I accidentally got one of my feet in the first picture I took of this series and decided to take the rest with both feet in.

It helps that this is positively my favorite thing to eat. I have made this recipe quite a few times, each time with the intention of making a lemon tart. Somehow, the process never really gets that far along and I end up eating this lemon curd by the spoonful. Sometimes, I manage to save some to have on top of my toast for breakfast. But that’s as far as it ever gets. Maybe next time, I should think about making the tart shell first. But you and I both know that is never going to happen.

Lemon Curd
Recipe from David Lebovitz
Makes 1 cup (240 g)

1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cubed

Place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.
Add the butter cubes and set the pan over low heat, whisking constantly until the butter is melted.
Increase the heat and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. It’s done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk.
Immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained, store the lemon curd in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week.

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