Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lemon Curd

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I have a new, favorite lemon curd recipe.

This may not be groundbreaking news, but it is exciting when I find something that improves upon a steadfast recipe in my repertoire.

Lemon curd is extraordinary. Though nothing more than a combination of eggs, butter, lemon juice and sugar, patient stirring and gentle heat transforms the combination into something ethereal and quintessentially spring.

The recipe included below comes to you by way of NotWithout Salt, a wonderful blog with beautiful photography. I think it improves greatly upon my old recipe which was always a touch too tart for my taste. If you would like to see that recipe, along with instructions for a great pavlova, just click on the image of the bowl of lemon curd below.

When served with berries (or berries and whipped cream as Not Without Salt suggests) lemon curd sings. However, I find a spoon, for dipping into the jar of curd, to be a perfectly sufficient eating companion.

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Lemon Curd
Adapted from Not Without Salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
¼ t kosher salt
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Whisk the sugar, lemon juice, eggs and egg yolks in a medium metal bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the simmering water – in other words use a bain-marie.

Stir constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes, removing the bowl from the pan as needed to bring down the temperature and prevent the eggs from overcooking.

Remove the bowl from the heat and add the butter, salt and vanilla. Stir until combined. If desired, strain the curd to remove any bits of cooked eggs. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and chill.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weights and Measures Banana Bread

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A few years back, there was suddenly a lot of talk about weighing out ingredients when baking. A cup of flour can vary considerably in weight depending on how densely the flour is packed in the cup. Too much extra flour and the recipe can be altered significantly from what the recipe developer originally intended.
So, a culinary school-trained chef and staunch rule-follower such as myself must have immediately switched to weighing all of her ingredients when baking, no? No. Days I turn to baking usually fall on a weekend when I am relaxed and much more interested in enjoying my time in the kitchen than in flawless measuring in pursuit of perfect results.

With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the event that got me to finally put my kitchen scale to use was spurred by laziness a relaxed day in the kitchen when I found myself with a mountain of past-their-prime bananas and no desire to scoop everything into measuring cup after measuring cup to determine how much overripe banana pulp was in my possession. Plop it all on the kitchen scale and call it a day.
Since I now had my banana pulp available in pounds and ounces, I went on the hunt for a banana bread recipe that provided ingredient quantities in weights for ease of scaling.
The Culinary Institute of America’s banana bread recipe is one I have used before and one that handily, comes with ingredients listed in weights. Am I a convert to the kitchen scale after this recipe? Probably not, as I love the ease of scooping flour into a measuring cup without pulling out the scale, but for recipes that call for large quantities, it certainly makes sense. And nothing really beats the confidence that comes with placing a baked good in the oven, knowing it will come out as close as possible to what the recipe developer intended.

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Banana Nut Bread
Adapted (recipe cut in half) from the Culinary Institute of America

2 lb 2 oz overripe bananas
1/4 oz lemon juice
1 lb 6.5 oz ap flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 oz baking soda
1 t salt
1 lb 6.5 oz sugar
3 eggs
7 fl oz oil
4 oz chopped pecans
Butter or cooking spray to coat the loaf pans

Preheat oven to 350
Coat three loaf pans with butter or cooking spray. Mash the bananas with the lemon juice. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Place the banana puree in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the sugar, eggs and oil. Mix on medium until well-combined.

Add the flour mixture to the banana puree in three additions, mixing just until combined after each addition. Stir in the pecans.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes until the bread springs back when touched. Cool in pans on wire racks for five minutes, remove the bread from the pans and cool completely on wire racks. Serve with your best preserves.