lemon, Thyme, Traybake

Thyme for some Lemon Bars

I love lemon, but I think I love lemon + _____ even more.

Raspberries? Check.
Blueberries? Double Check.
Rosemary? Yep.
Thyme? Absolutely.
Lavender? YUM.

In order to change up what is already a delicious treat, I decided to incorporate thyme and lemon zest into the crust and filling. The result is a grown-up take on a classic: Thyme Lemon Bars.

Thyme Lemon Bars

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or dried lavender…)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup butter, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, thyme, and lemon zest. Pulse for 5-10 seconds to combine. Add in the sliced butter and pulse until combined and holds its shape when pressed together, about 10 quick pulses should do the trick. Alternatively, you can rub the butter in with a fork, pastry blender, or your fingertips.

Press dough into prepared ban and bake until the edges just begin to turn brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven. While the crust is baking, make the filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried lavender)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Whisk the eggs, sugar, zest, and thyme together. Whisk in the flour and stream in the lemon juice, thinning the batter.

Pour over the still-warm crust and return to the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The center should  barely jiggle while the edges should be set.

Remove the bars from the oven and let cool in the pan for one hour. If you have the time, place them in the refrigerator to cool even further and set up completely. Run a hot knife around the pan and use the parchment paper to remove the bars. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, slice, and serve.

(Thyme Lemon left; Lavender Lemon right)

Advertisements
Apple, blueberry, Bourbon, Fruit, lemon, Pastry, Pie

In 2017 Give Pies a Chance

I am not one to bake pies, but I’ve been asked to bake some for a dear friend’s wedding in June of next year. And I do enjoy a challenge…

I’m using a pie crust recipe that uses vodka. If you haven’t used a similar recipe before, try it. The alcohol is used because ethanol doesn’t react with gluten the way water does. The result is a softer, easier-to-shape pie dough that still retains a tender, flaky consistency once baked.

You can add some flavoring ingredients to the pie dough, but it works best with small amounts of highly flavorful ingredients. When I tried a brown butter/bourbon variant, the crust worked but the flavors didn’t come through at all. I would recommend items like herbs, citrus zest, and extracts.

Pie Dough

  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 20 tbsp butter, sliced and kept chilled

Combine the water and vodka, and place the mixture in the freezer to chill.

In the bowl of a food processor, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse 3-4 times to mix the ingredients. Add the 20 tbsp of butter (it seems like a lot, I know).

img_20161020_073215

Pulse the butter for a total of about 15 – 20 seconds. The mixture should go from sandy to looking like wet sand with small clumps of dough, like below:

img_20161020_073343

Add the remaining cup of flour and pulse 5 or 6 times to evenly distribute. You may need to use a silicone spatula to break up some of the clumps of dough. Transfer dough to a large bowl. Sprinkle the vodka and water mixture over the dough and use a silicone spatula to stir and fold the dough together.

Divide the dough in two, flatten each into a disc, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for up to two days (or freeze for up to two months).

img_20161020_073056

Future Pie Filling Experiments

I will be using the pie crusts in muffin tins to be able to make miniature pies that are easy to transport. I will update posts later with specific results from some of these experiments, but for now here are some ideas.

Pecan Pie:

  • Browned Butter
  • Toasted pecans
  • Bourbon

Strawberry Kiwi:

  • Strawberry filling
  • Sliced fresh kiwi
  • Strawberry jam bottom

Lemon Blueberry:

  • Blueberry filling
  • Lemon Curd
  • Lemon zest pie crust

Apple Sage Cheddar:

  • Cheddar top crust
  • Apple Cinnamon Filling
  • Sage bottom Crust

 

Bourbon, Cocktail, lemon, Orange, Waste Not Want Not

And now for something a little different…

img_20161009_080139

Let’s talk cocktails. Now, most of my recipes on this blog are going to be sweet confections and baked goods, but I’m a sucker for a good cocktail and a well-stocked home bar. I also hate wasting ingredients which is where the idea for this post originated: throwing away herbs.

If you’re like me, you will occasionally purchase a package of herbs in order to make a recipe that will undoubtedly only use a small portion of them. My rosemary and thyme chicken is one of my favorite go-to dinners. By the time I make it again, though, the herbs have wasted away, their flavorful life force succumbing to the ravages of time and neglect.

But no more!

I have two great uses for left over herbs: My Rustic No-Knead Bread becomes savory and delicious with the addition of rosemary, thyme, chives, garlic, or any or all of the above.

But if I don’t want to take the time to make bread, I’ll turn herbs and citrus fruit into a delightful Homemade Sours Mix for my bar. The addition of herbs to a sours mix adds a certain sophistication to your cocktail: orange-basil sours makes a delicious alternative to the classic “Old Fashioned” bourbon cocktail, and lemon-thyme sours is a perfect replacement for a Tom Collins (or pretty much any gin-based cocktail). So don’t let those herbs go to waste! All this recipe takes is a little patience and a little thyme.

Homemade Herb Sours Mix

This is a ratio recipe so it can be adapted to however much citrus juice you plan to use.

  • 1 part sugar
  • 1 part water
  • 1 part citrus juice
  • Left over herbs of pretty much any reasonable quantity

Peel the citrus fruit and set the peel aside.

Juice the fruit to determine the amount of juice you have. For example, when I juiced two lemons and one orange, I had a total of 3/4 cup juice, so I also measured out 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water. Combine the sugar, water, and add the peel of the citrus fruit and all of the herbs wholesale. Just dump them all in, stems and leaves and all.

img_20161009_080323

Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is barely simmering. The herbs should brighten up a bit and the peels should just begin to become translucent. Let it cool completely before straining. Make sure to press the peel and herbs to extract all of the flavorful goodness out of them. Once the syrup is cool, combine with citrus juice. Enjoy in a cocktail of your liking (ideas to come…).

img_20161009_083445

I love this little bottle I purchased at Michaels.

Cake, Candy, Earl Grey, lemon, Tea

The London Tea Cupcake

A tender cake, flecked with Earl Grey tea leaves sits under a tart lemon frosting topped with candied lemon peel. This cupcake is as sophisticated and complex as the tea used to make it.

I have to thank my friend, Marc, for this idea. He really inspired me to work and develop a recipe for an Earl Grey Tea cupcake. And this was a recipe with many trials. Incorporating tea effectively into a cupcake was tricky: often the flavor was so delicate that it was difficult to notice. For this recipe, tea is bloomed in hot butter, infusing the fat with Earl Grey flavor. Additionally, vanilla and triple-strength Earl Grey tea are used to round out the flavor profile of the cake. My lemon frosting is finicky; occasionally, I’ve had lemons that just don’t provide a tart enough flavor and using too much lemon juice can make it break. But it’s all worth it when the flavor comes together. Finally, I add candied lemon peel because it provides a contrasting flavor and texture to the cake and frosting. Earl Grey Cupcakes are one of my earliest successes.

IMG_20160515_071404


Candied Lemon Peel yield: about 12-15 strips of candied lemon peel

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Heat over medium-low heat to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, cut the lemon in half and juice it, reserving the juice for the tart lemon frosting. Using a small spoon, scoop out the entrails of the lemon, leaving the pith and peel in tact. Slice the peel into strips, about 10-12 per lemon half. Add the lemon peel to the syrup, increase heat, and cook at a constant boil for 8 minutes over medium heat, until the peel is nearly translucent and soft. This shouldn’t take much longer than 8 minutes; just be careful not to cook it too long or you risk cooking it into a weird lemony caramel which – while it may have its uses – has no place here.*

Drain the peel and place on a wire rack. Once cool, roll in sugar. Leave the peel out over night to fully dry.

*Waste not, want not: the lemony syrup that is left over, when combined with an equal amount of lemon or lime juice (or combination thereof) makes for a very delicious, homemade sours mix to use in cocktails


Earl Grey Cupcakes yield: 12 cupcakes

  • 6 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup water

Prepare the Earl Grey butter by melting the butter gently over medium heat. Cut 3 of the Earl Grey tea bags open and pour the leaves into the melting butter. Cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl to cool. This can be made in advance; refrigerate until ready to use. However, make sure to use the butter in a melted state.

Prepare extra strength Earl Grey tea by steeping the 3 remaining tea bags in 1/2 cup of hot water. Let it sit and get extra strong.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 oz vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup earl grey butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp extra strong Earl Grey tea

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, combine the yogurt and earl grey butter with the sugar, whisking to combine. Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and extra strong tea. Mix just until homogeneous scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add all of the dry ingredients at once, mixing to combine. Divide batter between cupcake liners (about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake). Bake at 325  for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

IMG_20160515_141101


Tart Lemon Frosting yield: about 3 cups of frosting; enough to frost a dozen cupcakes generously

  • 3/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 tbsp lemon juice

Cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes at medium speed in a stand mixer. Add 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar and 3 tbsp of the lemon juice. Cream until combined, adding another 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Taste and adjust using the final tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of sugar as needed. Always finish with confectioner’s sugar to prevent breaking. Frost the cupcakes and top with chopped candied lemon peel.