Tag Archives: Gourmet

meyer lemon pound cake with lemon cream

My in-laws are serious eaters. At all the gatherings I’ve attended, the quantities of food would make the Two Fat Ladies blush, and we always come home with several containers of leftovers. This Christmas was no exception! My mother in law hosted Christmas Eve, as is getting to be the tradition. She veered away from the usual Puerto Rican fare this year (roast pork, arroz con gandules) and went Mexican, making posole, ceviche and nopales (cactus) salad. One of his cousins brought an interesting new (to me) PR dish of chicken gizzards cooked with green bananas and a few green olives (something like this except it was served warm instead of like a salad). The dish is an unglamorous greyish color, but the flavor was great and the gizzards were much more tender than when I’ve made them. It re-inspired me to try making gizzards again after an unsuccessful attempt last summer.

With all this great food in such abundance, it’s always hard to know what to bring. My MIL never wants to assign me a dish; she always demurs, saying that there will be enough food, or to just bring “whatever I want”.  I know this is because she doesn’t want to impose, but I have somewhat mixed feelings about it… she knows I like to cook; I’m part of the family now; shouldn’t that warrant a side dish assignment? To be fair, for all I know she does the same with all the other relatives and they just bring whatever they feel like. But a small part of me would be flattered to be entrusted with something specific.

In the end, I just decided to make a dessert… you can never have too many, especially with his family’s sweet tooth! I didn’t feel like leaving the house for groceries, so I “shopped my pantry” and made a Meyer lemon pound cake with a lemon cream (lemon curd + whipped cream) to go on top. Although I’m not the biggest dessert/ cake person, I do love citrus (see these posts) and almost always have lemons in the house! I wasn’t sure if its simplicity would be appreciated, but to my delight it was almost gone by the end of the night, when richer and sweeter offerings remained.

This recipe is from The Gourmet Cookbook, one I turn to often when I’m looking for a recipe that’s traditional yet updated. The method is simple, and you can certainly serve the cake as-is with the lemon glaze rather than making the lemon cream (although you need to zest all those lemons anyway, so you may as well use them). I did an easy curd where you mix everything and cook it together rather than tempering the eggs; it seemed to work about the same. You’ll want to strain it for textural reasons, but that’s about the fussiest part of the recipe. And I know a heavy cake recipe is probably the last thing you’re looking for right now, but you never know when you might decide to have people over for tea, or when you might need an easy recipe for your next get-together with your in-laws.

(Meyer) lemon pound cake (adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl)
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I made this cake with fragrant Meyer lemons, but regular lemons will do just fine. However, you will likely need more lemons for the curd if you don’t use Meyers, which tend to be much juicier.

for the cake:
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
zest of 5 lemons (about ¼ cup)
2 sticks (½ lb) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup whole milk

for the glaze:
1 cup plus 1 Tbs powdered sugar
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Lightly grease and flour a 2-quart kugelhopf pan or bundt pan (a neutral-flavored cooking spray works well to get in the nooks & crannies). Knock out excess flour. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325°.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and zest. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; then add vanilla. Reduce mix speed to low and beat in ⅓ of the flour, the milk, another ⅓ of the flour, the lemon juice, and the remaining flour, beating until just combined and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (place on a baking sheet for easier transport in and out of the oven) and bake until top is browned and a skewer or knife inserted into the center comes out clean (original recipe specified 45-55 minutes but mine took about an hour and 10 minutes). Meanwhile, make glaze by combining powdered sugar and lemon juice until sugar is fully dissolved.

Cool cake in the pan for 15 minutes (see photo- a wine bottle works well for this). Invert on a rack and allow to cool completely before glazing. Put cake on a serving plate and pour glaze over top, allowing it to drip down the sides. If storing for later use, allow glaze to set before covering. This cake keeps well for several days if wrapped and refrigerated; allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Lemon Curd/ Lemon Cream (adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
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Note: in Dorie’s book, she uses the term “lemon cream” to refer to a variation on lemon curd containing a higher ratio of butter.

1 ¼ cups sugar
1 egg
6 egg yolks
6 Tbs butter, cut into 6 pieces
freshly squeezed juice of 4 lemons (use 5 or even 6 if lemons are dry)
optional: 1 pint heavy whipping cream

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium heavy saucepan. Place over medium low heat and cook, stirring vigorously and constantly, until butter melts and mixture starts to thicken (original recipe says 4-6 minutes but I’ve never had mine cook that fast). The curd is done when you can make a track with your finger on a spoon or spatula and the curd doesn’t run into the track. It will look thin, but thicken as it cools. If desired, for a smoother texture, strain curd while still warm through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Press plastic wrap over the top so a skin doesn’t form, and cool in the refrigerator.

To make lemon cream, whip cream with beaters or a stand mixer until it has body, but before it becomes firm. When curd has fully cooled, stir in whipped cream to taste- less for a more pronounced lemon flavor and more for a milder, creamier flavor.

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an open letter to christopher kimball

Christopher Kimball is the publisher of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  He recently wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times which suggested that the demise of Gourmet magazine was related to the groundswell of (inferior) content on the internet.  He also just threw down a challenge on his blog that proposes pitting a recipe developed in the test kitchen to a recipe developed “Wiki-style”, with lots of contributors.  The following is my reaction and response to his comments and to the debate of what I’ll call “experience vs. access”.

Dear Mr. Kimball,

As you may know, many food bloggers and other users of the internet are indignant about your recent article on the demise of Gourmet, because of remarks you made suggesting that the general public on the web (bloggers et al.) is unqualified to be acting as any kind of “authority” on cooking or recipe publication. 

Although I am an amateur food blogger, you may be surprised to hear that I agree with you up to a point.  Certain things are better than others because people have taken time or had training to get them right.  I personally do not often search randomly on the internet for a recipe; I prefer, if at all possible, to get my recipes from cookbooks or sources with whose authors I’m familiar, to ensure a degree of success.

I also take issue with bloggers who assume a position of “instructor” when it is not warranted.  I recently read an online article on how to be a better food writer.  When I looked at the author’s own blog, the writing was completely banal, with sentences such as “The [food items] were very good”.  (Incidentally, this person was one of the folks expressing their outrage about your article… oh, the irony!) This is certainly one of the drawbacks of the free-for-all that is the internet.  On the flip side of that coin, though, the internet gives access to others’ experience that can be extremely useful.  When I wanted to make chicken sausage this summer, for example, I did a web search and came across a blog called Saucisson Mac.  I found a recipe as well as a lot of helpful information, and got a great result.  The author is not a professional charcutier, just someone who’s made lots of sausage at home and knows the ropes.

Your remarks also fail to acknowledge that many food blogs, perhaps even the majority, are written for a different reason other than to give instruction.  The primary focus of my blog, like many food blogs I read, is meant to share and chronicle my personal experiences in the kitchen.  I do know a bit more than the average person, not through formal training but through lots of cooking and reading cookbooks and recipes, so I do include “tips” when applicable (some learned from the pages of Cook’s Illustrated!).  But I don’t claim to be an expert on cooking techniques, and my posts make it very clear (I hope!) that “this is the way I prefer to do it, but it’s not the only way”. 

Another problem with your focus on professional expertise is that it implies that a home cook can’t spontaneously (i.e. without a tested recipe) create something fantastic.  I think people with training/ experience like to think they will always create a superior result, because it validates the time and hard work they’ve put into something.  But I’ve made lots of wonderful dishes just riffing on a recipe, or with no recipe at all.  It’s elitist to suggest one needs specialized training (or to follow a recipe to the tee) to produce good food.

Even if one does choose to follow recipes from prominent chefs and experts, the results are far from guaranteed.  A great illustration of this point is a blog written by Luisa Weiss, aka The Wednesday Chef.  Luisa cooks recipes culled from the New York Times and the L.A. Times, and blogs about the results.   In a recent post, she describes a disastrous coconut barley dish that was all but inedible.  This was a recipe written by a “professional”, printed in a major newspaper!  And yet, that was no guarantee of success; far from it.  This is what I love about blogs: the interaction; the feedback.  Luisa’s kitchen is a test kitchen in the truest sense, and when readers leave comments about their own experiences with the same dish, it enhances the content even further.  Lastly, I defy you to read Luisa’s latest post (about Gourmet, coincidentally) and tell me the internet lacks its share of “thoughtful, considered editorial”.

Ultimately, I wish the curmudgeons and the upstarts could all just get along.  I feel that there’s room for everyone, and that people will ultimately seek out the type of content that is most useful or meaningful to them.  I’m tired of the sniping from both sides of the debate.  Can’t we just stop brandishing our rolling pins and get back to what we all love- making and eating good food?

Respectfully,

Noelle Lothamer