It’s a race to pick the cherries before the birds feast!
For close to a year now, I’ve been promising E a celebratory cocktail – to celebrate spring, to celebrate going sailing, and mostly to celebrate the completion of Sugar & Salt: The Orange Book. A year has almost passed since the idea’s first inception. However, the reasons to create something special became current again with the launch of the Kickstarter campaign. It seems that a salutatory cocktail is in order. Lucky us! Check out our Kickstarter progress and updates.
Kumquat Mint Mojito
15 mint leaves (plus extra for garnish)
7 kumquats, quartered (plus extra for garnish)
1 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces Mount Gay rum
ice cubes for shaking and serving
2 ounces club soda
Muddle mint leaves and kumquats in a cocktail shaker. Add lime juice, simple syrup, and rum. Add ice cubes and shake until well-chilled, about 10 seconds. Add club soda to a ball jar filled with ice. Strain the shaker mix into the ball. Garnish with a mint leaf and a kumquat slice.
Makes 1 cocktail
These little tartlets came about when working on a catering job for a winter dinner. The whole affair was a cocktail party, so finger food was the name of the game, including the desserts. Once topped with a berry – raspberry or blueberry – these beauties were perfect for a small bite confection.
Another favorite way to use lemon curd is in the Blizzard Bluberry Lemon Curd Roulade, which, as you might guess, was made on a snowy day last winter when the winds were slapping at the windows and doors. Indoors was the only place fit for humans, except the occasional forays into the wild for a snow shoe or ski and then back inside for a warm cup around which to wrap the cold hands.
If I were to find myself with some leftover lemon curd, I might have several thoughts on what to do with it other than eat it straight from the spoon. One, this is a perfect combination for my Nana’s Lemon Prune Cake. Two, if you find yourself wishing for something elegant, layered in a wine glass with sliced strawberries and vanilla whipped cream would hook me right quick and in a hurry. Three, I’ve been known to have it with some yogurt. Hey, if Liberte brand yogurt can do it, so can I.
This recipe is inspired by “The New York Times Cookbook.”
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; juice from about 2 lemons
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind; rind from about 2 lemons
Cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar. Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, then add the lemon juice and grated rind.
Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking continuously until mixture thickens and deepens in color. This must be cooked over low heat and stirred constantly to keep it from curdling. If desired, use a double boiler.
Press through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Makes about 2 cups
This crust is extremely versatile and is one of my go-to recipes when creating tartlets or tarts that require a fairly structured crust. It is inspired by Alice Medrich, author and pastry chef extraordinaire.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Press 1 tablespoon of dough into the bottom of two 12-hole muffin tins. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the tartlet shells release from the tins easily. Transfer to a grate to cool. Fill with lemon curd when the shells are fully cooled.
Feeling tart and sunny
My mom sent me a recipe for my Nana’s Lemon Sauce via email, which was a little odd. Normally, when I ask for a recipe, it comes by mail – photocopied recipe card complete with my Nana’s handwriting. Even though I bless the convenience of computers every day, there is something a little sad inside of me that misses the recipe written in her own hand, stained with drops of milk and string of egg white.
I remembered the sauce well from my childhood when my Nana would don a ruffled gingham apron and create a tiny bit of magic in her small kitchen. I loved that space, not much bigger than my own kitchen now, with really tall cabinets, an old-fashioned oven complete with warmer and a small aluminum-edged table in the middle of it all where everyone gathered. For the big meals, we ate in the dinning room, but the real heart and action happened in that small kitchen.
The sauce itself was silky, tart, lip-smacking… but I didn’t remember how she served it. After questioning my mom, the reason became clear. My Nana served it with fruit cake – never my favorite on the best of days. I went to bed that night thinking about what would go well with my Nana’s Lemon Sauce and how I could reinvent fruit cake into something not only palatable, but actually yummy. That is how this recipe was born.
My Nana always called it Butter Sauce, but I always remember calling it Lemon Sauce. When I think of butter sauce now, it brings to mind a Creme Anglaise, and this sauce is much like that, only less smooth vanilla and more punch of lemon.
Lemon Prune Cake with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
Zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from about 1 lemon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 cup diced prunes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Make a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until just well mixed. Pour into prepared cake pan using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Bake until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan before serving either warm or room temperature with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce.
Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped
In a medium double boiler heat egg yolks until they lighten in color, whisking fairly consistently. Gradually add sugar, continuing to heat and whisk. Remove from heat and add butter, lemon rind, juice, and salt. Fold in whipped cream. Chill and serve on top of warm cake.
Makes enough to serve with cake plus extra — have a spoon ready.
Easy, elegant desserts are my favorite. Mix a few ingredients together, add heat, and presto, something beautiful and delicious is born. Plus anything made in a tart pan has to be elegant, right?
Initially I intended this to become a holiday dessert slated for company, but when it came out of the oven, it smelled so good that Jon and I had it on a rainy afternoon with Earl Grey tea. He came home early from a blustery day working down at the boat and let me tell you, didn’t we feel decadent!
The classic combination of sweet, slightly tangy pears combines perfectly with the robust, nutty layers of almond flavors in this recipe. Apples and hazelnuts would also make good partners.
1 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
In a food processor, grind the almonds to a fine mixture. Add the butter and sugar and pulse until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolk one at a time and then the dark rum.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 puff pastry sheet or enough puff pastry to line an 11-inch tart pan
1 1/2 cups almond frangipane
4 1/2 pears peeled, halved and cored (the 1/2 a pear is a little off, I know. This is what worked for me, but if you’d rather squeeze the other half into the tart, go ahead.)
2 tablespoons melted salted butter
2 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Press the puff pastry into the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides. Spread the frangipane over the dough and then place the pear halves on top, arranging so that the wider part of the pear is toward the outside edge of the pan. Reserve the odd 1/2 pear and slice it into three wedges for the center.
Combine the melted butter and sugar and brush over the tops of the pears. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the pears have cooked through. Remove from oven to cool and then remove from pan and slice. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream flavored with almond extract and sugar.
Serves 12 to 16
Inspired by a guest who posted about making apple crisp from my first cookbook, now affectionately called “The Red Book,” it didn’t take long for me to decide to do the same. We do, however, need to back up a bit to start from super scratch.
Step one, plant the apple trees. Step two, wait five years. Step three, make apple crisp. That’s all. No worries, right? No one will think worse of you if you buy your apples at the store like most normal people.
As it was cooling on the counter, Ella came into the house after school with the phrase of the day, “Okay! What is it. Where is it. And can I have some.”
12 tart apples
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (2 1/4 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch wedges. Toss them with the rest of the filling ingredients in a large bowl and transfer to an ungreased 9 x 13-inch pan. In the same bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Cut the butter in with a pastry knife until the mixture is coarsely blended; mixture should be crumbly. Transfer the topping over the apple mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until lightly browned and the liquid in the apples is dark and bubbly.
Makes 12 servings
Houses that smell like baked apples and cinnamon are the best!
On a sunny day in March (they are happening more and more frequently), Elizabeth and I left the office for a cocktail adventure. Sometimes work is so HARD! As we entered the back door of In Good Company, one of my favorite restaurants in Rockland; well… in Maine; well… anywhere, we were greeted by Melody Wolfertz, owner and chef, and an unusual sound found in restaurants – quiet.
As she led us to the patina-ed walnut bar, she started right in, filling the quiet with the sounds of a restaurant – the click of ice falling into bar glasses, the dull chime of spirit bottles bumping up next to each other as they are pulled from shelves and amidst it all, the chatter of engaged creativity on my favorite subjects – food and cocktails. We spent a good deal of time talking about flavor profiles, the wonderful freshness and ingenuity that has literally and figuratively infused the cocktail world over the past decade, and what she thinks about when she’s making a well-balanced cocktail.
The full recipe and article will be out in the May issue of Maine Spirits, but in the meantime, here’s a look at our fun afternoon together.
Sometimes a girls gotta work REEAL hard
Elizabeth’s favorite flavors are chocolate and orange and so for her birthday in late March, can you guess what sort of cake she asked for? Knowing that Easter was on it’s way, and also knowing that while SHE got her cake, WE didn’t get our cake, I decided to make it again and this time for our Easter dinner crowd.
This cake is lovely for a couple of reasons. The oil and sour cream make it a forgiving batter that once baked into a cake, stays forever moist. The clementine zest, orange extract and Grand Marnier ensure that the cake is infused with orange flavor at several different levels. Lastly, the bright orange garnish of the clementine lends an eye-catching splash of happy color and tang.
Clementine and Grand Marnier Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons clementine zest; about 3 clementines
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 teaspoons orange extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
8 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 clementines, sliced thinly and halved for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.
Using the paddle attachment and a large mixing bowl combine sugar, zest, eggs and canola oil on low speed. Measure out the rest of the wet ingredients in one liquid measuring container and measure all of the dry ingredients into a sifter. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the mixing bowl ending with wet.
Divide batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the edges of the cake have pulled away from the sides of the pan a little and a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and let the chocolate continue to melt. When the chocolate is fully melted, add the sour cream and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
To assemble the cake, remove the cooled cakes from their pans and transfer one to a serving platter. Spread 1/2 of the glaze onto the top of the cake and rim with clementines so that you will be able to see the rinds. Repeat the process with the second cake. The glaze is a little easier to deal with if it has cooled somewhat, but don’t wait until it has cooled completely as it will set up. Garnish with clementine halves and serve.
Serves 12 to 16
Gonna get me that last slice…
For our family, the winter is a time of much needed hibernation. Our summers are busy, intense, focused (and lets not forget FUN), however, every second has a name from the middle of May to the middle of October. This sort of intensity requires an equal and opposite energy, which is what winters in Maine are designed for in our house.
As you may have heard, our New England winter has had more than it’s fair share of snow this year, which fits perfectly into our hibernation mode. Those years where it doesn’t snow much are just a little bit harder to sink into. We CAN go out all the time. There are very few snow days, the phone rings more, the possibilities for a day are endless.
Not true when it’s blowing 30 knots from the North East and the snow has been falling for hours with no end in sight. Those days are p.j. days, cozy days, baking days, writing days. They are slow because the choices are limited, meetings are cancelled and the urge to knit increases 10-fold. The permission to have a meandering freedom about the day is exactly what a family needs when their summers are as packed as ours are.
Our days are on somewhat of a repeat. Snow, shovel, bake, knit, write, snow, shovel, cook, knit, write. Repeat. I find myself in the minority, where the continual wildness followed by a hoary, sunny calm is energizing. Interspersed with a snow shoe and a horse ride, the dormancy is like a cozy sweater with a long, soft scarf wrapped around my neck. Comforting, calm, creative and cozy.
This cake, Blizzard Roulade with Lemon Curd, Blueberries and Cream, is named after the first blizzard that blew through our winter, but certainly not the last. As I write, another 8 to 12 inches is falling on our world. Maybe I’ll go bake another cake.
Cozy and calm