Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Limoncello, a Refreshing Italian Liquor

When life gives you lemons you make tarts, cakes, lemonades and if you are feeling adventurous, you make limoncello! 

I recently got my hands on a lot of organic lemons, and they were more than I needed. However, when you get your hands on good quality organic lemons, you can use them in so many ways. I used most of them to make refreshing pitchers of lemonade to cope with the heat of sunny Spain. 
With the remaining lemons, I wanted to try something that I had never dared to make before and that is liquor. I cannot remember when I first tried limoncello, but I remember that it I loved it instantly. No surprises there, I think I love everything that has lemon in it.  Ever since I was young, I loved eating lemons slices sprinkled with some sea salt, or even eating the pulp of squeezed lemons! 

Naturally, I was excited to try this Southern Italian spirit that was first concocted at the beginning of the previous century. I had always thought that it was complicated to make, but when I read about the process of making it, it seemed pretty straightforward and simple. It only requires four ingredients and some time. 

To make one liter bottle you need:
  • The peels of 10 organic lemons (you need only the yellow outer skin and none of the white part)
  • 1 bottle of vodka (about 700 ml; use the brand that you prefer)
  • simple syrup using 200 g sugar and 220 water

In a jar, combine the peels with the vodka, tightly close the jar and leave it in a dark and dry place for at least 10 days.

All you need to do during the steeping period is to shake the jar once a day. After 10 days, the color of the vodka will take on the beautiful bright yellow color of the peels.

You can prolong the steeping period for up to four weeks, but after ten to fifteen days, the result will be pretty good.

To make the simple syrup, just combine the sugar and with the water and heat for about 10 minutes. You will get around 400 grams of syrup. This will give the liquor the needed sweetness. You can add more if you want, but I don't like it any sweeter.

Now that the vodka has all the flavor and color of the lemons, you need to strain it into a big pitcher, and mix it with the simple syrup. You need to stir well to make sure the syrup is mixed thoroughly. Transfer to a bottle and let it rest in the fridge
for few hours or a day. The recipe will yield a bit more than one liter of limoncello, so you can use a larger bottle if you want or put the rest in cute small bottles.

Limoncello makes a wonderful aperitif or digestif before or after heavy meals. It's also great on its own, mixed in drinks, added to cakes or baked goods. It's such a useful drink to make at home.

Finally, don't discard the lemon peels! You can dry and grind them to make a wonderful spice to add flavor to meringue, cakes, cheesecakes, tarts and just about anything that requires a hit of lemon flavor.

For other lemon recipes click on the following links: ricotta lemon cakelemon and shortbread cookiesblueberry and lemon popsiclesblueberry lemon and coconut cakelemon and coconut madeleinesmum's lemonade

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Matcha and Raspberry Financiers

There are so many recipes that require you to use eggs whites or eggs yolks only. This can be troubling to some, as you will be left with more yolks or whites than you would have liked. In the latest recipe that I shared, I used egg yolks and was left with the whites. I normally freeze the whites if I won't use them within 24 hours. However, I had a recipe in mind that called for egg whites and I was quite excited to try it.

The French Vistandine order of nuns developed a perfect recipe to deal with the extra egg white they had: financiers. My recipe is a take on this simple, yet ingenious, cake recipe.

Financiers are almond based and like many almond based recipes they fell out of fashion due to the widespread fear of cyanide poisoning. It wasn't until Chef Lasne, a renowned pastry chef, brought the visitandines, as they were called, to life by the end of 19th century. His shop, next to the Paris stock market, attracted financial workers who flocked to savor his cakes, especially the financiers as they were easy to carry and did not stain. To further promote the cake, he changed the mold and gave it the shape of a gold bar! His marketing strategy worked and the financier was born.

No matter what shape of mold you use, this cake is delicious, with a soft interior, a firm exterior, and a satisfying nutty flavor.

For 12 small financiers you need:
  • 100 g egg whites
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • 70 g butter
  • 70 g almond meal
  • 35 pastry flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 g of matcha (fine green tea powder)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp of rum (optional)
  • Raspberries
First mix all the dry ingredients together: flour, almond, salt, matcha and sugar. Sift into a bowl.
Melt the butter and cook it for about 5 min. You need to hear the butter singing and smell a sweet hazelnut aroma filling your kitchen. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Add the egg whites, the lemon zest, lemon juice and rum to the flour mixture. Mix until you get a homogeneous mixture. Add the butter and mix well again.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for at least an hour or better overnight.

Heat the oven at 180C. Fill your molds. I used small ones with a capacity of about 2 tablespoons. Add a couple of raspberries and bake for about 10 min.

I opted for a shorter baking time to preserve the beautiful green given by the matcha powder. In all cases, you need to adjust the baking time depending on the mold you´re using and your oven.

Let the cakes cool for few minutes in the molds. Unmold and place over a wire rack to cool completely.

Sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar and enjoy with a cup of coffee.

These cute little cakes are soft, packed with beautiful sweet and sour flavors, and they melt in your mouth. You will enjoy each and every bite.