Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When Lemon Met Almond

Here is one of the many reasons knives are one of the best things around:

With a knife, you can cut a cake open.

An open cake means a world of possibilities.

The equation is quite simple: take a cake you really enjoy. It's got the perfect flavor, you've got the recipe down, and just imagining it makes you happy. You know you've got that cake in your repertoire. Hey, even if you don't even step foot in a kitchen, you've got that cake somewhere in your taste memory.

Now, use the power of your mind (or simply get the cake and grab a knife). Imagine sawing off the top half of the cake. If you've arranged things right, the cake won't fall apart into a million pieces. If it does, rejoice: you've got a reason to eat all the crumbs up before anyone notices and you can bake a new cake. Hoorah! "Free cake!" I like that reasoning.

Now take a look at those cake halves, and open up the valve of ideas. What would you like to slather on today?

Some would say peanut butter. Others go for Nutella. The really cool people go for PB and Nutella. You've also got the ones who say they need a little fraîcheur, so fruit compote is the way to go.

What if you want it all? The fresh fruit and the richness? Look no further than lemon curd. Especially if the cake is a lemon-almond visitandine, I repeat: look no further than lemon curd.

This association is like Summer in a mouthful, if Summer were to decide she got a little tired of eating salad and drinking water all day long. This is the part when Summer gets fun.

When Lemon Met Almond
serves 8 to 10

1 visitandine (recipe here)
1/2 batch lemon curd (recipe follows)

Piece of cake: slice visitandine in half horizontally.

Spread lemon curd on bottom half, close up the cake by placing the top half back on.


Lemon Curd
makes 2 1/2 cups
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
3/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
8g lemon zest (approx. 1 TB)
145g (10 TB) cold butter, cut into pieces

Rub zest and sugar together.

Mix lemon juice, sugar/zest, and eggs together in a heatproof bowl. Place it over a pan of simmering water.

Cook, whisking constantly, until a thermometer reads 75°C.

Remove from heat; when temperature comes back down to 60°C, incorporate butter and mix for 5 minutes.

Cover surface with plastic wrap and set aside to let cool.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I scream for Ice Cream (Sandwiches)

Well hello, blog!

Times have been rough, and by rough I mean that I've been spending too much time basking in the last of the day's sunlight at cafés after work. Therefore, my baking has gone down exponentially and sadly, so has my blog updating. I have a list of things I really want to try just piling up, but right now I'm in a pancake mood and seem to be cooking up buttermilk pancakes by the millions. Not really. But you know.

Anyway, I was thrown back into food mode this morning and became a spastic little girl wearing yellow shoes, surrounded by men in suits walking to work with a sad look on their face.

Why's that?

Alright. I'll give in to being publicly happy about it. I got an article published in Fricote magazine! Well, that's not even the best part. Best of all is that the article is about ice cream sandwiches, with which I share a love story of epic proportions (like with most sweet things, granted, but still). The chocolate cookie sticking to your fingers, the half-melted vanilla ice cream... you got it. I would marry an ice cream sandwich if I could get a huge ice cream sandwich edible engagement ring. Uh oh, I hear someone saying that's not possible. I'll settle for someone who hides an engagement ring in an ice cream sandwich, then. (Guys like that do exist, right? Other than in movies? Maybe?)

Researching ice cream sandwiches has to be the best activity ever, and meeting everyone in the big ice cream sandwich community was even more fun. I'll get back to the geniuses over at Melt Bakery in my next post.

If you're anywhere near France right now, get your hands on Fricote. Issue #3 has a large section about street food, and other interesting interviews, articles, photos and drawings that will make you smile. And hungry.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

As you may have understood by now, I'm all about Easter chocolate.

However, like I tend to be sad when I see a stuffed animal on the ground, I also get kind of sad when I abandon all other types of dessert in favor of chocolate.

Seriously, how sad is this?

The only issue I have regarding desserts during the Easter season is that I already have a perpetual I-ate-too-much-chocolate stomach ache. Is there a dessert that could actually make you forget all that?

Are you thinking of a layered carrot cake with clouds of cream cheese frosting?

I'm not.

To counter all that sweetness in the chocolate, I actually think Easter might just be the time to break out that tangy, only slightly sweet dessert. Something fresh, bright, almost palate-cleansing (to get ready for the next round of chocolate, although I won't put it that way).

In comes lemon ricotta cheesecake.

Although real cream cheese has finally landed this side of the Ocean and the prospect of a "true" cheesecake is finally something we can bounce off the walls over, cheesecake sometimes proves to be a little heavy after all that Easter chocolate feasting.

Now ricotta cheesecake, on the other hand, is an altogether different story... For those of you used to putting ricotta in dishes involving tomatoes or eggplants only, read on!

Ricotta cheesecake is an interesting thing; it looks pretty dense when you glance at it. But when you have a bite, it's definitely not. Very creamy, sure, but also light and tangy. Adding a hint of cinnamon gives it a little depth, and the lemon makes it nearly refreshing.

The lovers of super-sweet desserts might not love this one as much, but if you're afraid of something like that, here's a solution. Add a layer of salted butter caramel. Yeah, you can thank me later.

Ricotta Cheesecake
serves 6 to 8

3 TB crushed cookies, like French petit beurre
2 lb. ricotta, room temperature
6 eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 TB grated lemon zest
juice of one medium lemon
1/2 TS salt
1 TS vanilla extract
1/2 TS cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C, placing rack in the lower third of the oven.

Butter a springform pan and dust with cookie crumbs on the bottom and sides of the pan.

Mix all remaining ingredients together until batter is smooth. Pour into pan and bake 1 hour and 45 minutes, until cheesecake is golden but center is still wobbly.

Cool in pan and keep at room temperature until serving.