Tag Archives: Citrus

Mini White Cakes + Citrus Curd + Mousseline Buttercream

My sister is coming from Virginia with her oldest daughter in a couple of days.  They used to be California types like us, but life’s necessities took her family to the East Coast for a few years before they were able to return to the Golden State, and then, opportunities not available here saw them back in Virginia.  Forever.  We stay in touch on Facebook, with occasional emails, and like a few mornings, ago phone calls from the grocery store while she was looking for cake flour.   My lovely, svelte sister is not a baker.  Lucky woman.

I miss her quite a bit these days, wondering if I’m suffering from the realization of not having taken advantage of her being closer when she was here.  There were quite a few years when she and I were each raising a house full of children and like most families, found time to get together for barbeques on birthdays and holidays, but we both had careers, so life was quite busy then.  I have three boys, and she, three girls.  She wanted a boy, and I a girl, but that wasn’t what happened, so I always thought I might get my fix of girls from spending time with hers — as in have sleep overs.  Tea parties.  Dressing up and painting toenails lots of crazy colors.  I guess one of my biggest flaws is idealism.  Silly me.  One can’t exactly have a tea party unless one invites a few tea party goers, can one?

Her youngest daughter– the last of our six boys and girls — is just finishing high school and so both my sister and I are facing very different times in our lives.  Mine has been focused on learning to live in a very quiet house newly void of boys since seeing my youngest off to college this past fall.  She is preparing for a wedding — her oldest daughter is to be married this coming summer.

As much as I missed many chances to get to know her daughters better than I have over the years, I was pleasantly surprised — humbled actually — to have my bride-to-be niece call late last year and ask if I might consider making her wedding cake.

Really?

Sure, I’ve made cakes.  Lots of them. But I’ve never made a wedding cake.

Ever.

I’ve never made anything with fondant, either, choosing instead to watch from afar as others work wonders with it.

The cake is to be round, not square.  Three-tiers of lemon with vanilla buttercream for 100 guests.  White fondant with varied shades of  yellow teardrops cascading down the sides.  Clean, sleek, simple.

And I have to figure out how to get it to L.A. where the wedding will be held.

Thankfully, I have many baking friends willing to share their experiences with fondant with me, as well as other great resources I’ve been learning from.  I’ve also buried myself in my favorite cake book, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.  I enjoy it because of the way the recipes are organized including both weight and volume in the ingredients list.

Since we’ve had an amazing variety of citrus to enjoy this winter, I decided to use that to begin my first experiments in wedding cake baking.  Three types of citrus curd and buttercream filling six little square cakes covered with a reasonably edible fondant may seem a bit over zealous for a first attempt, but I have a tendency to be that way in general.  It pushes my thinking while I make an enormous mess in my kitchen.

My next practice session begins today so my niece and sister can sample the flavors when they arrive, then I’ll make necessary adjustments and practice a few more times before the real cake is baked in July.

Wish me luck, and by all means, if you’ve done this before and have any recommendations, I will be more than happy to listen.

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Red Sorrel and Arugula Salad with Avocado and Orange

Red Veined Sorrel Salad

I live in an area that is perfect for growing just about anything all year long if one can forget the pesky dilemma of drought we’ve endured for the past many years.  I’ve been a reasonably capable gardener most of my life — thanks to my mother who most likely could grow a stick in the Sahara —  so I’ve always had plants that needed tending.  Whether they were house plants, everyday geraniums, or wildflowers I grew from seed scattered over moist soil, I’ve enjoyed the peace that has come from caring for them.

Fast forward about 10 years.

I no longer have any property to speak of to plant things in;  instead, I have what I’ll call an extended patio that wraps around one and a half sides of our house.  It all seemed so wonderful when we bought it, not to have to worry about fixing a leaky roof or painting it, and for the most part, I still agree.  But there are days when I long for a yard — or at least a yard that is more than eight feet wide.  On other days, I’m thankful that I don’t have to take care of that dream yard.  I used to have one and know that as much as it provides a sense of accomplishment and overall beauty to a home, it can be overwhelming to care for.

Last spring, I finally decided to purchase an herb box.  Of course, I’ll be the first to admit that an herb box (dimensions roughly 8″ x 36″) isn’t quite the replacement for a dream yard, but I can deal with the delusion when the Pacific is a short 10 minutes from my door.  My rosemary bushes grow like weeds in my planters, so they were the least of my concerns.  It was more the need to have parsley, or oregano, and maybe marjoram, or salad greens.  Now that would be a luxury!  A year has gone by, and I’ve been so busy I haven’t spent much time on my patio.  The herb box hasn’t gotten much attention.  Thyme has disappeared in more ways than one, and the purple basil never really flourished to begin with.  What I’m surprised to find is red sorrel bursting with life and all but wearing an advertisement for snails and worms to have lunch.  It never really died down over winter, and now, after our recent rainy weather, it’s flourishing along with the parsley and marjoram.  Granted, the level of soil in the box is about 50% of what it once was, but still.  Surprisingly, the arugula is sending out tender shoots as well.  Go figure.

I decided that it was the perfect reason to make a spring salad, even though the vernal equinox is still a week away.  Anything surviving the neglect my herb box has had to withstand deserves to be celebrated.  And I suppose it’s proof that one only needs a strip of space with bright light most of the day to lull her into the notion of being an urban gardener warrior.

Nice.

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Upside Down Cutie Cake

With nearly two years writing here, it’s only been recently that I’ve begun to discover other foodies in and around the San Diego area.  Although I’ve found several, it still amazes me when a new one pops up and I add it to my mental list of, I should create a section just for us in my sidebar.  Now, I’m sure there are lots of reasons we add a new link to our sidebars — or in some cases, a special page for links, but for me, it’s more about keeping it where I can see it.  Then it’s easier for me to visit.

You’re laughing, right?  Because I know lots of people use readers, and I have a few myself.  But for some reason, I’ve never gotten into the routine of actually using it and so I find myself flitting from one place to another without a care in the world.

It’s shameful, this gadabout lack of organization, but lovely things do come from it.  I’ll call it serendipitous that I happened onto Food Blogga’s recipe for Clementine Upside Down Cake the other day.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it since I’ve had a box of “Cuties” for longer than I’d like to admit, thinking they’d end up in marmalade.

Sure, like I’d make marmalade. Well, I thought I might, tempted by all the amazing citrus in the markets right now and a bundle of fresh vanilla beans I purchased not too long ago.

My grandmother used to make pineapple upside down cake in her black cast iron skillet, and it’s been years since I had a taste of that.  But I’ve always been more fond of tangerines than pineapple — especially canned pineapple, so the idea of sweet tangerine flavor soaked into a light cake sounded perfect.

Looks like the marmalade will have to wait a bit longer, because I just had to make this cake.


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Sugared Lemon Sandwich Cookies

Day Seven of our 12 Days of Cookies Extravaganza brings a bit of sunshine on a day that surprisingly absent of it, which makes it a very pleasant day to be baking.  I’d like to say that Bing is crooning holiday songs on the Bose and there’s a fire crackling in the family room, but I’ll have to wait at least a week for that.

My 16-year-old chose these delicately lemon-flavored “glittering” cookies from the stack I’d bookmarked because he thought they’d be a nice change from the others I’ve been making. At first, I wasn’t thrilled because citrus-flavored baked goods make me think of Spring or Summer, but I’m glad I listened to him, because these are quite the lovely treat.

One of Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies from December of 2008, I’d say this is the best recipe I’ve tried so far.  They aren’t fussy to make even though they appear to be headed for a bridal shower or elegant afternoon tea.  In one or two bites, you’re treated to an exterior crunch of sugar, a flaky cookie, and a light butter cream that only hints of lemon.

Absolutely perfect.

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Orange Rosemary Muffins with Pinenuts


I already wrote this once today.  You know, when you sit down and immerse yourself in a post, wallowing in the moment of getting everything just right, choosing the perfect photos, and salivating all over again over what you made.  No, not on it.  About it.

And then your browser shuts down.  The post is lost, and your motivation to begin again is just not there.

That would be me, now.  And the feeling overshadows the fun I had this morning making these lovely muffins.  So I’m trying to suck it up and get rolling once more.

You’ve already looked at the photo and are wondering where I could have come up with this one.  Or maybe you’re not wondering and you just want me to stop blathering and get on with it.  I don’t blame you.

So here’s the short version:  We’re going to Italy this summer.  Although some of the time will be spent near Florence, the bulk of our time will be spent in Rome and Sorrento near the Amalfi coast where lemons are everywhere.  So I’ve had citrus on my mind and when Helene of Tartelette chose citrus as the featured flavor of Sugar High Friday #43, well, I surprised myself by choosing not lemons as I’d been planning, but oranges.

And I just happened to have these cute little Italian terra cotta pots…

 

Notes:

*** Someone brought it to my attention that I left out an ingredient quantity — 1 tsp. baking soda.  Thanks!

  • The terra cotta pots hold exactly 8oz. or 1 cup.  Comparatively, large muffin cups also hold 8 oz. and the more standard 12-muffin pans hold 4 oz. or 1/2 cup.
  • I used a convection setting at 375 degrees F and checked the muffins at 10 minutes, then in 3 minute intervals until they were nicely golden brown, no longer wet-looking on the top, and a wooden skewer inserted in the center came out clean.  I am still not buying the often described 20 percent reduction on heat and time for convection ovens.  I think it depends on what I’m cooking.  At most, I keep an eye on the food, and reduce the temp if things begin to get brown too fast, but rarely by more than 5 or 10 degrees.  Not very scientific, but I’ve been experimenting with my oven for 3-1/2 years, and nothing’s completely conclusive, just with any other oven you have to get to know.
  • I’m thinking you could add 50 percent more rosemary to this and pine nuts that are more coarsely chopped so there’s more of a crunch in every bite.  The flavors are very nice together.
  • The muffins are excellent without the glaze that we just drizzled on after removing them from the pots, and I had the juice from the orange, so why not?The crema fresca natural is a very thick, but pourable table cream that has the slightest bit of sourness, but nothing near to our sour cream or even creme fraiche, which would work fine in this recipe.  It can be located in the deli case at your grocery store along with other Mexican creams and cheeses if you’re lucky.
  • The texture of these muffins is fine, and extremely moist.  The top and sides have a nice crunch which presents a great contrast.  The fragrance is lovely.
  • I wish I could take credit for the terra cotta pots, but I saw the idea in a Jamie Oliver cookbook in a cheese bread recipe and actually bought them for that.  They worked so well, expect to see more later.  I’ve got requests from family about what comes next.
  • And I’m already wondering whether some extra virgin olive oil instead of all the butter would work with these muffins.  A little less saturated fat never hurt anyone.  And it’s more…Italian.  Ciao!