2010/02/08

Lemons forced me down the path of insanity. Yes, Lemons...

First things first...  Union won both Friday & Saturday and regained their 1st place ECAC ranking (three-way tie for first, but we'll take it).



Disclaimer:  Although the story you are about to read is true, it could be said that some "artistic license" may have been used for effect.  Just clearing the air on that one...

It started innocently enough.  This journey down the path of insanity that I took yesterday.  Somehow, several worlds collided and I was way down the path before I even knew what hit me.  I have been trying to sort it all out and frankly, it had to be the lemons fault.  I can think of no other logical explanation.  So take a deep breath before going any further - you're going to need it.   

This story has multiple starting points...  One of my recent cookbook acquisitions is Rose Levy Berenbaum's Roses Heavenly Cakes.  I have been dying to try something from this collection & have been "patiently" waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting for the right opportunity.

Flash forward a few weeks....  I was reading Soup Addict's Blog and developed a bad case of pan envy, which unleashed my latent desire to enter into the world of tart making...  From that point on, I knew that a trip to Williams Sonoma was inevitable.  (By the way, the inevitable did happen.  I will spare you the gory details, but they got me...  hook, line and & sinker.  Oh, it felt soooo good.)

Flash forward a few days....  It was Sunday morning & I knew I "kneaded" to make some sandwich bread. 

Flash forward one more time...  During my Sunday grocery shopping the citrus section attacked me.  I swear I never saw it coming.  Those lemons kept jumping off the case and right into my cart.  By the legions, I say.  Uno, dos, tres, quatro, sinco, seis, seite, ocho.  I don't remember inviting them into my cart, but when I got home there they were in all their lemony glory.  Such beautiful little babies just waiting to be turned into something un-chocolately (I must be in the middle of my post-holiday chocolate revolt). 

Now it is 2:30 on Sunday afternoon and I have "Ideas"B-I-G ideas.  (I think there was some football game or something on that was occupying most of the rest of the world - I guess I was still under my rock).  I will have you know that I used my special brand of Cher logic to justify every insane decision made from this point on.  But in retrospect, I blame the lemons - pure & simple. 

It kind of went like this.  As I mentioned, I "kneaded" sandwich bread, so started on making KAF Classic White Bread Recipe.  No big deal - a few minutes to get this going then it is basically all rising & baking time from that point on.  I am 'da pro.  I can do this in my sleep.  Snooze, snooze, yawn, yawn.  Bread is rising, I need a real challenge.  Besides, it's only 2:45ish at this point, I have tons of time...

OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHH!!!  I know!  I have shiny new tart pans (both the long skinny one that resulted from bad case of pan-envy and some itty bitty baby tartlet pans that were just so cute I couldn't leave them sitting there on the shelf - it would have been criminal).  Oops, sideroad again - sorry.  The tart pans were just begging to be tried out, so I dragged out my handy, dandy cookbooks and started making some dough (pastry dough, that is).  One thing should be noted at this point.  All my past attempts at pie crusts have flopped miserably, so I am not sure where this new-found courage to make the crust came from.  But it was there and I was fearless

I found this recipe for Sweet Pastry Dough on Gourmet.com and forged ahead.  I must say that food processors have done many wonderful things to help pastry-challenged chicks like myself.  At this point, I was thinking I can do this!!!  I perservered, got the crust going (double recipe nonetheless) and into the refrigerator.  HMMM.  I started to think about what could go in the pastry.  But I had plenty of time to worry about that later...  Easy, peasy. 

Up until this point, I had everything under control and if I could have left well enough alone, my story would be waaayyy shorter.  But alas - leaving well enough alone is not something I do.  So I had another bright idea!  LEMONS.  I could make a lemon cake.  It was only 3:30ish.  My dough was rising; my crusts were in the fridge.  How difficult could it be to slip in a cake?  And I was really having a hankering for Woody's Luxury Lemon Cake from RLB's Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  At this point, my sub-conscious was fully aware of what I was getting into, but was so bound by denial that there was no saving me. 

For those of you who have never had the pleasure, please let me "learn you" something...  As wonderful as this cookbook is, it is not for the faint at heart or the commitment-phobe.  Anytime that a recipe spans four pages and there are four recipes within a recipe - be afraid.  Be very afraid.  But I was brave!  I was bold!  I melted, I stirred, I chopped, I zested.  Into the oven they went.  Another task down.  Man, I am 'da bomb!

What's next, you may say?  You see, in order to be a LUXURY lemon cake, you gotta have some "LUX".  This "lux" came in the form of lemon curd -- from scratch.  Yes, siree.  SCRATCH.  I juiced, I zested, I stirred.  (Ok, I had some help with the stirring...).  What is this you say?  Child labor...  Hey, take advantage when you can get it.  Now the curd is in the refrigerator for its 3(ish)-hour nap.  Oh man, time to shape the bread.  Oh man, time to get the tart shells shaped and ready for the oven because those cakes aren't staying in there forever.  I shaped (and weighted).  I pricked.  I baked.  I cooled.  Oh man, time to make the filling.  HMMM, what shall it be.  DUH, of course!  LEMON.  I knew those lemons jumped me in the store for a reason.  It was destiny.  I already had a lemon cake going; so why change themes mid-stream?

Where did my child labor ahem, I mean stirrer go???  Time to make more lemon base for the tart.  Hey, she's getting good at this.  Filling cooked & cooling.  Check.  Egg whites beaten.  Check.  Meringue beaten into filling.  Check.  Tarts filled & back into oven.  Check. 

"Uh, mom...  What's for dinner?" says the child laborer stirrer.  "Dinner, what do you mean?  It's only... Oh, it's 7:15.  My bad."  What is a busy mom to do...  Oh, I am so all over this one.  What beautiful, healthful meal can I whip up in no time flat... HMMM.  Let me ponder.  Oh, please tell me you didn't see those boxes?  Oh, you already saw them?  Um, yeah, they are "health pizzas".  "Health pizzas". Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket...

So where are we??  Cakes are cooling.  Tarts are out of the oven.  The long forgotten bread is now in the oven.  Surely, I must be done...  Time to clean up, right?  WRONG.  What?!?  Oh, man.  The cake needs frosting.  Where is that recipe - oh, poo.  That frosting needs to set for three hours.  No, thank you.  I am sooooo over this process.  Buttercream it is!  It's quick, it's easy and I can do it in my sleep.  Which is probably a good thing at this point because it is now somewhere after 8:30 and the toothpicks are starting to break under the pressure of holidng my eyes up. 

Buttercream gets made.  Layers are sliced; lemon curd is applied; buttercream is applied.  Whew.  Cake in the fridge to set...  Are we done yet?  DISHES!!!!!!  No, say it isn't so???  Tear, tear, sob, sob, sob.  But it's 9:30 - it isn't fair!  What is a girl to do?  (Child laborer Stirrer has "long" since gone to bed).  So I washed, and washed, and washed... TICK TOCK.  TICK TOCK.  Razzle frazzle grumble grumble.  FINALLY!  Off to bed, Fred!

Are you tired yet?  I know that I am.  I suppose there is some silly morale that should be applied to this story like "don't bite off more than you can chew"; but frankly, I am enjoying the chewing to much to quit biting....  I said it once and I will say it again, I blame those gosh darn jumping lemons and that's my final answer, Alex Trebek. 

RECIPE FOR LEMON SOUFFLE TARTS (adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl). 

2 Recipes of Sweet Pastry Dough (see link)
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 + 1/4 cups sugar
Zest of 3-4 lemons
3/4 cups lemon juice (freshly squeezed preferred)
Pinch salt

2 8" tart pans 

Prepare pastry dough as per recipe, separate into two disks, wrap in plastic & refrigerate for at least 1 hr.  Twenty minutes before baking, place rack in lower 1/3 of oven and preheat to 400F.  Remove dough from refrigerator, roll and shape into pans -- prick bottoms to help mitigate rising layers.  Cover dough with foil, weigh down and bake for ~10 minutes (until edges are gold).  Remove from oven & take off foil and weights.  Return to oven & bake for another 10-12 minutes - until bottoms are golden. 

Beat together egg yolks & 1/2 cup sugar at medium-high speed until "ribbon" forms when paddle is lifted from mixture (5 mins or so).  Beat in zest/ lemon juice.  Transfer to medium sauce pan and cook (stir constantly) over medium-low heat until mixture thickens (almost like a pudding).  Remove from heat, place in a large bowl, cover with buttered wax paper and let cool to luke warm. 

Beat egg whites w/ pinch of salt until soft peaks form.  Beat in sugar slowly until stiff peaks form and mixture is "shiny".  Fold 1/4 of the meringue into the lemon mixture to lighten it.  Then fold in the remaining meringue into the mixture.  Gently scoop into prepared shells, mounding in the middle.  Transfer pans to a baking sheet.  Bake on a middle rack of the 400F oven for ~10-12 minutes until the tart appears puffy & the tops are lightly golden. 

Cool completely before sampling.   

Like my day yesterday, this post was far too ambitious. I need a nap (or my bed now).  I'm outta here. 

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