My business travels wreak havoc on my blogging activities but they also give me interesting new exposure to elements that very often turn into inspirational fodder for my blog.... provided if I find time to tap into those inspirations before they fade away in my memory....
I was back in the Big Apple region for almost 3 weeks, working on business plans. Between the cold rainy weathter, the floods in New Jersey and the first transfixing images of the engulfing tsunami in Japan, I was still fortunate enough to be blessed with 2 sunny, fair weathered weekends to roam the streets of New York.
I saw these Meyer Lemons at Dean & Deluca on my first weekend in town. Fascinated by the collection of cross-bred citrus varieties available, I made a mental note to bring home some blood orange, meyer lemons and mandarinos... Unfortunately by the time I returned again on the weekend just before my departure, the stock has already dwindled to a haggard looking bundle, stripped of the barrels of sunshine I had seen a week earlier. I picked out half a dozen of the best looking Meyer Lemons I could find and hand carried them on my flight home.
Just a little bit of background on the Meyer Lemons for those who are interested - this citrus is a cross bred between a lemon and a mandarin orange. Believed to have been first bred in China for ornamental purposes, US started to consume this in the early 1900. However, I believe I have only become aware of this after I have seen this featured in gourmet magazines and Martha Stewart's recipes over the last 2 years.
Rounder than the ordinary lemon with a deeper orangey hue, the fruit smelt gorgeous like a sweet grapefruit with a mild hint of the lemony zest. Taste wise, it is less tart than an ordinary lemon but with alot more tang than a sweet orange. I would think that the juice of the Meyer Lemon would be perfect as it is for a lemonade drink without the need for additional sugar.
I deliberated over what to do with the Meyer Lemons when I got back. Now, on hind sight, I have to admit that I had been too narrow minded and was too boxed in by my own pre-conception that to test a lemon,I would need to make a lemon curd. I played safe and fell back on Tish Boyle's Lemon Curd Bites from her The Good Cookie cookbook. 'The miniature tarts made with a tender cream cheese dough was filled with tangy lemon curd. Very posh, very sophisticated.' - I was sold.
These turned out to be pretty little things and yes, I could imagine them looking posh and sophisticated among a tea party spread but I have to admit that the Meyer Lemons did not quite give the right taste to the tarts. Lemon curd, I have come to conclude, should be smooth and tart. One expects the lemon curd to be bright and zesty. However, the subdued tartness of the Meyer Lemons was not enough to deliver the kick. With this recipe, I found that the curd was a little lost in its flavour. At one point, I think my disappointment even wryly hallucinated me into thinking that I was tasting Benadryl... now I am really lost...
I have not lost heart. I still have 4 lemons in my fridge. I will think of something.....
After thought : I probably should have cut the sugar for the lemon curd by half and that would give me a more tart finish...
Lemon Curd Bites (from Tish Boyles's The Good Cookie)
Cream Cheese Dough
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confection sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into tablespoons
3 oz Cream chees,cut into 1/2 inch chunks and frozen for 30mins
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter cut into tablespoons
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, baking powder, and salt and process for a few seconds, until blended. Sprinkle the butter and cream cheese pieces over the mixture and pulse about 18 times until the butter pieces are the size of peas and the mixtures resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla with a fork. Add the mixture to hte processor and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.
2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gently press it into a disk. Wrap the dough with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until firm.
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F (205C). Coat 2 12 cup miniature muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray. Cut out twenty-four 2-inch squares of aluminum foil.
4. Remove the dough from the fridg and divide it in half. Divide each half into 12 portions. Shape each piece of dough into a ball. Place one ball in each muffin cup and press down into the center of the ball with the knuckle of your index finger to form an indentation, then press the dough up the sides of the cup to its rim. The cups should be completely lined with dough. Prick the bottom of each crust with a fork. Line each crust with a alumninum foil and fill with a few pie weights, dried beans or rice.
5. Bake the crusts for 10mins. Transfer the muffin pans to a wire rack and reduce the oven temperature to 350F (175C). Remove the foil and weights from the crusts and bake the crusts for another 7 to 9 mins until golden brown around the edges. Cool down the muffin pans completely before removing tart cases from the pan.
1. Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium sized heavy nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the egg, yolks and sugar until blended. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, salt and butter and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, 7-10mins. (do not let the mixture boil, or it will curdle). Immediately strain the mixture through the sieve, pressing it through with a rubber spatula. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the curd until chilled, about 1 hour.
1. Placing the chilled lemon curd in a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip, pipe a generous rosette of lemon curd into each crust.